Thursday, January 29, 2009

Montreal Candlelight Vigil for Gaza

In remembrance of those killed in the Gaza conflict

Time and Place
Saturday, January 31, 2009
7:00pm - 8:30pm
Place Jacques-Cartier, Old Montreal
Place Jacques-Cartier
Montreal, QC
Contact Info

If Hamas did not exist

Israel Has No Intention of Granting a Palestinian State

Israel, with the unconditional and approving support of the United States, has made it dramatically clear to the entire world over and over again, repeating in action after action that it will accept no viable Palestinian state next to its borders. What will it take for the rest of us to hear? What will it take to end the criminal and complicit silence of the international community?

Let us get one thing perfectly straight. If the wholesale mutilation and degradation of the Gaza Strip is going to continue; if Israel’s will is at one with that of the United States; if the European Union, Russia, the United Nations and all the international legal agencies and organizations spread across the globe are going to continue to sit by like hollow mannequins doing nothing but making repeated “calls” for a “ceasefire” on “both sides”; if the cowardly, obsequious and supine Arab States are going to stand by watching their brethren get slaughtered by the hour while the world’s bullying Superpower eyes them threateningly from Washington lest they say something a little to their disliking; then let us at least tell the truth why this hell on earth is taking place.

The state terror unleashed from the skies and on the ground against the Gaza Strip as we speak has nothing to do with Hamas. It has nothing to do with “Terror”. It has nothing to do with the long-term “security” of the Jewish State or with Hizbullah or Syria or Iran except insofar as it is aggravating the conditions that have led up to this crisis today. It has nothing to do with some conjured-up “war” – a cynical and overused euphemism that amounts to little more the wholesale enslavement of any nation that dares claim its sovereign rights; that dares assert that its resources are its own; that doesn’t want one of the Empire’s obscene military bases sitting on its cherished land.

This crisis has nothing to do with freedom, democracy, justice or peace. It is not about Mahmoud Zahhar or Khalid Mash’al or Ismail Haniyeh. It is not about Hassan Nasrallah or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. These are all circumstantial players who have gained a role in the current tempest only now that the situation has been allowed for 61 years to develop into the catastrophe that it is today. The Islamist factor has colored and will continue to color the atmosphere of the crisis; it has enlisted the current leaders and mobilized wide sectors of the world’s population. The primary symbols today are Islamic – the mosques, the Qur’an, the references to the Prophet Muhammad and to Jihad. But these symbols could disappear and the impasse would continue.

There was a time when Fatah and the PFLP held the day; when few Palestinians wanted anything to do with Islamist policies and politics. Such politics have nothing to do with primitive rockets being fired over the border, or smuggling tunnels and black-market weapons; just as Arafat’s Fatah had little to do with stones and suicide bombings. The associations are coincidental; the creations of a given political environment. They are the result of something entirely different than what the lying politicians and their analysts are telling you. They have become part of the landscape of human events in the modern Middle East today; but incidentals wholly as lethal, or as recalcitrant, deadly, angry or incorrigible could just as soon have been in their places.

Strip away the clichés and the vacuous newspeak blaring out across the servile media and its pathetic corps of voluntary state servants in the Western world and what you will find is the naked desire for hegemony; for power over the weak and dominion over the world’s wealth. Worse yet you will find that the selfishness, the hatred and indifference, the racism and bigotry, the egotism and hedonism that we try so hard to cover up with our sophisticated jargon, our refined academic theories and models actually help to guide our basest and ugliest desires. The callousness with which we in indulge in them all are endemic to our very culture; thriving here like flies on a corpse.

Strip away the current symbols and language of the victims of our selfish and devastating whims and you will find the simple, impassioned and unaffected cries of the downtrodden; of the ‘wretched of the earth’ begging you to cease your cold aggression against their children and their homes; their families and their villages; begging you to leave them alone to have their fish and their bread, their oranges, their olives and their thyme; asking you first politely and then with increasing disbelief why you cannot let them live undisturbed on the land of their ancestors; unexploited, free of the fear of expulsion; of ravishment and devastation; free of permits and roadblocks and checkpoints and crossings; of monstrous concrete walls, guard towers, concrete bunkers, and barbed wire; of tanks and prisons and torture and death. Why is life without these policies and instruments of hell impossible?

The answer is because Israel has no intention of allowing a viable, sovereign Palestinian state on its borders. It had no intention of allowing it in 1948 when it grabbed 24 per cent more land than what it was allotted legally, if unfairly, by UN Resolution 181. It had no intention of allowing it throughout the massacres and ploys of the 1950s. It had no intention of allowing two states when it conquered the remaining 22 per cent of historic Palestine in 1967 and reinterpreted UN Security Council Resolution 248 to its own liking despite the overwhelming international consensus stating that Israel would receive full international recognition within secure and recognized borders if it withdrew from the lands it had only recently occupied.

It had no intention of acknowledging Palestinian national rights at the United Nations in 1974, when –alone with the United States—it voted against a two-state solution. It had no intention of allowing a comprehensive peace settlement when Egypt stood ready to deliver but received, and obediently accepted, a separate peace exclusive of the rights of Palestinians and the remaining peoples of the region. It had no intention of working toward a just two-state solution in 1978 or 1982 when it invaded, fire-bombed, blasted and bulldozed Beirut so that it might annex the West Bank without hassle. It had no intention of granting a Palestinian state in 1987 when the first Intifada spread across occupied Palestine, into the Diaspora and the into the spirits of the global dispossessed, or when Israel deliberately aided the newly formed Hamas movement so that it might undermine the strength of the more secular-nationalist factions.

Israel had no intention of granting a Palestinian state at Madrid or at Oslo where the PLO was superseded by the quivering, quisling Palestinian Authority, too many of whose cronies grasped at the wealth and prestige it gave them at the expense of their own kin. As Israel beamed into the world’s satellites and microphones its desire for peace and a two-state solution, it more than doubled the number of illegal Jewish settlements on the ground in the West Bank and around East Jerusalem, annexing them as it built and continues to build a superstructure of bypass roads and highways over the remaining, severed cities and villages of earthly Palestine. It has annexed the Jordan valley, the international border of Jordan, expelling any ‘locals’ inhabiting that land. It speaks with a viper’s tongue over the multiple amputee of Palestine whose head shall soon be severed from its body in the name of justice, peace and security.

Through the home demolitions, the assaults on civil society that attempted to cast Palestinian history and culture into a chasm of oblivion; through the unspeakable destruction of the refugee camp sieges and infrastructure bombardments of the second Intifada, through assassinations and summary executions, past the grandiose farce of disengagement and up to the nullification of free, fair and democratic Palestinian elections Israel has made its view known again and again in the strongest possible language, the language of military might, of threats, intimidation, harassment, defamation and degradation.

Israel, with the unconditional and approving support of the United States, has made it dramatically clear to the entire world over and over and over again, repeating in action after action that it will accept no viable Palestinian state next to its borders. What will it take for the rest of us to hear? What will it take to end the criminal silence of the ‘international community’? What will it take to see past the lies and indoctrination to what is taking place before us day after day in full view of the eyes of the world? The more horrific the actions on the ground, the more insistent are the words of peace. To listen and watch without hearing or seeing allows the indifference, the ignorance and complicity to continue and deepens with each grave our collective shame.

The destruction of Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas. Israel will accept no authority in the Palestinian territories that it does not ultimately control. Any individual, leader, faction or movement that fails to accede to Israel’s demands or that seeks genuine sovereignty and the equality of all nations in the region; any government or popular movement that demands the applicability of international humanitarian law and of the universal declaration of human rights for its own people will be unacceptable for the Jewish State. Those dreaming of one state must be forced to ask themselves what Israel would do to a population of 4 million Palestinians within its borders when it commits on a daily, if not hourly basis, crimes against their collective humanity while they live alongside its borders? What will suddenly make the raison d’etre, the self-proclaimed purpose of Israel’s reason for being change if the Palestinian territories are annexed to it outright?

The lifeblood of the Palestinian National Movement flows through the streets of Gaza today. Every drop that falls waters the soil of vengeance, bitterness and hatred not only in Palestine but across the Middle East and much of the world. We do have a choice over whether or not this should continue. Now is the time to make it.

 Jennifer Loewenstein

Journalist. Rafah-Madison Sister City Project founder.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

BBCs Eyeless Gaze

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, The Electronic Intifada, 6 January 2009

On 29 February last year the BBC's website reported deputy defense minister Matan Vilnai threatening a "holocaust" on Gaza. Headlined "Israel warns of Gaza 'holocaust'" the story would undergo nine revisions in the next twelve hours. Before the day was over the headline would read "Gaza militants 'risking disaster.'" (The story has since been revised again with an exculpatory note added soft-pedaling Vilnai's comments). An Israeli official threatening "holocaust" may be unpalatable to those who routinely invoke its specter to deflect criticism from the state's criminal behavior. With the "holocaust" reference redacted, the new headline shifted culpability neatly into the hands of "Gaza militants" instead.

One could argue that the BBC's radical alteration of the story reflects its susceptibility to the kind of inordinate pressure the Israel lobby's well-oiled flak machine is notorious for. However, as will be demonstrated in subsequent examples, this story is exceptional only insofar as it reported accurately in the first place something that could bear negatively on Israel's image. The norm is reflexive self-censorship.

To establish evidence of the BBC's journalistic malpractice one often has to do no more than pick a random sample of news related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict currently on its website. In a time of conflict BBC's coverage invariably tends to the Israeli perspective, and nowhere is this reflected more than in the semantics and framing of its reportage. More so than the quantitative bias -- which was meticulously established by the Glasgow University Media Group in their study "Bad News from Israel" -- it is the qualitative tilt that obscures the reality of the situation. This is often achieved by engendering a false parity by stretching the notion of journalistic balance to encompass power, culpability, and legitimacy as well. The present conflict is no exception.

"Hamas leader killed in air strike," reads last Thursday's headline on the BBC website. Notwithstanding the propriety of extrajudicial murder, there are 14 paragraphs and the obligatory mention of the four dead Israelis before it is revealed that "at least nine other people," including the assassinated leader's family, were killed in the bombing of his home in the Jabaliya refugee camp. The actual number is 16 dead, 11 of them children; 12 more wounded, including five children; 10 houses destroyed, another 12 damaged -- a veritable slaughter. Had a Hamas bombing killed or wounded 28 Israeli citizens including 16 children you'd be sure to see endless coverage -- of the kind the BBC lavished on the disconsolate illegal settlers in 2005 as they were made to relinquish stolen land in Gaza. The BBC's Mike Sergeant, sitting in Jerusalem, would not concern himself with such sentimentality. There is no further mention of Palestinian civilian deaths. Their tragedy was no more than a sanguine message which Sergeant tells us will "be seen as an indication that the Israeli military can target key members of the Hamas leadership."

"Israel braced for Hamas response," blared the ominous headline on next day's front page. With all references to Hamas in its coverage prefixed with "militant" and invariably accompanied by images of blood and debris, the average viewer is very likely to assume the worst. It transpires what the world's fourth most powerful military is bracing itself for is merely a citizen's protest called by Hamas in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Further on we learn that Israel has been bombing such "targets" as a mosque and a sleeping family. The BBC's next headline on the same day -- "Gaza facing 'critical emergency'" -- is an improvement. It quotes Maxwell Gaylard, the UN's chief aid coordinator for the territory, highlighting the magnitude of the humanitarian crisis. Following this is a warning from Oxfam that the situation is getting worse by the day: clean water, fuel and food in short supply, hospitals overwhelmed with casualties, raw sewage pouring into the streets.

And then we get "balance."

Israel, we learn, has claimed Gaza has "sufficient food and medicines." It of course ought to be easy to verify which of the competing claims is valid, but that presumably would violate the "usual BBC standards of impartiality." There is also a more mundane reason why the BBC won't present its own findings, but it is tucked away in the very last paragraph of the article. Israel, we learn, "is refusing to let international journalists into Gaza" including no doubt those of the BBC. Ethics of reporting would require that the BBC preface each of its reports with the disclaimer that it has no way of knowing what is going on in Gaza other than through the propaganda handouts of the Israeli military.

The final act of chicanery comes in the shape of a sidebar which lists the number of rockets fired by Palestinians for each day of the conflict. This is particularly odd in an article ostensibly about the consequences of the Israeli blockade and bombing, especially since no similar figures are produced for the number of bombs, missiles and artillery shells rained on Gaza. The source the BBC uses is the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center based in Israel. What it does not mention however is that the "private" think tank is a conveyor belt for Israeli military propaganda which, according to The Washington Post, "has close ties with the country's military leadership and maintains an office at the Defense Ministry." Any Palestinian claim on the other hand would not appear unless enclosed in quotation marks, even if independently verifiable.

The quotation marks are a useful distancing device deployed to show that the characterization may not be one shared by the BBC. This would be understandable if their application were consistent. It isn't. To take one telling example, after the Lebanon war when both Israel and Hizballah were accused by Amnesty International of war crimes only in the case of Israel did the BBC enclose the accusation in quotation marks.

It is through these subtle -- and not so subtle -- manipulations of language that the BBC has shielded its audience from the ugly realities of occupied Palestine. In the BBC's reportage lexicon, Palestinians "die" but Israelis are "killed" (the latter implies agency, the former could have happened of natural causes); Palestinians "provoke," and Israelis "retaliate;" Palestinians make "claims," and Israelis "declare." Moreover, schools, mosques, universities and police stations are part of the "Hamas infrastructure;" militants "clash" with F-16s and Apache helicopters. "Terrorism" is inextricably linked to Palestinians but Israelis merely "defend" themselves -- invariably outside their borders. All debates, irrespective of fact or circumstance, are framed around Israel's "security" -- Palestinian security is irrelevant. If Israel's wall annexing land in the West Bank is mentioned, it is in terms of its "effectiveness." In the odd event that an articulate Palestinian voice represented, the debate is rigged with a set-up video that is meant to put them on the defensive. When all else fails, there is the reliable "both sides" argument -- if reality won't accommodate the image of an even conflict, the BBC figures, language will.

Then there's the framing: Israel's violence is always analyzed in terms of its "objectives;" and Palestinian violence is of necessity "senseless." This is no doubt how it must appear to the average reader since the word "occupation" rarely appears in the BBC's coverage. It hasn't appeared once in the last 20 stories on Gaza on its website. And if occupation is mentioned rarely, then the UN resolutions almost never. The picture is even worse on television, where the Israeli point of view predominates.

While Matan Vilnai's threat of a holocaust is consigned to the memory hole, the statement invented and attributed to the Iranian president about wiping Israel off the map is still in play. It is this double standard which also allowed the BBC to cover the story of a British Jew joining the Israeli military as a human interest story -- which may not be entirely surprising considering the BBC's man in Jerusalem, Tim Franks, is himself a graduate of Habonim Dror, a Zionist youth movement. It is this inhuman devaluation of Palestinian life that allowed the BBC at the peak of the criminal blockade in July 2007 to have two stories up on its website related to the occupied territories, both about animals -- "Israeli paratroopers swoop on pet shop to rescue rare eagles" and "Kidnapped lioness is reunited with her brother in Gaza Zoo."

While the BBC's refusal to by-line its online reports makes it hard to trace stories back to individual journalists, a revealing glimpse of the editorial context in which they work was offered by an article in The Observer by the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen -- a man whose modest analytical skills are matched only by his historical illiteracy. With the BBC workhorse -- "both sides" -- weaved into the very headline, Bowen piles inanity upon cliche. Throughout there is no mention of an occupation. Bowen has been conveniently transported to Sderot -- an Israeli public relations ploy to "embed" journalists within range of Hamas rockets in order to make them report with empathy -- and he is happy to oblige. On the other hand there is no mention of those at the receiving end of Israel's lethal ordinance. He mentions civilian casualties only in the context of the "lot of bad publicity" they get for Israel. On the basis of this evidence, he then concludes "it is probably fair to say that [Israel] does not hit every target it wants, otherwise many more would have died." We then end with speculation on Israel's possible objectives. Despite "both sides," there is no similar scrutiny of Hamas's objectives.

At a conference in London in 2004, a BBC journalist based in the Occupied Palestinian Territories told me that when it comes to Israel the editorial parameters are so narrow that journalists soon learn to adapt their stories in order not to upset the editors. Similarly, editors likewise know not to upset their government-appointed managers. Since the days of Lord Reith, the BBC-founder who assured the establishment to "trust [the BBC] not to be really impartial," on foreign policy the corporation has acted as little more than the propaganda arm of the state (whatever independence it had once enjoyed evaporated with the purge carried out by Tony Blair in the wake of the Hutton Inquiry). Contrary to the prevailing view in the US, where progressives don't tire of comparing it favorably against US media, the BBC's record of coverage in the Middle East is dismal. As media scholar David Miller revealed, during the Iraq war the representation of antiwar voices on the BBC was even lower than on its US counterparts. A Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung study found the corporation to have the lowest tolerance for dissent of the media in the five countries it analyzed. Just as its correspondents in Iraq celebrated the fall of Baghdad as a "vindication" of Blair, its man in Washington Matt Frei threw all caution to the wind to exult: "There is no doubt that the desire to bring good, to bring American values to the rest of the world, and especially now in the Middle East, is especially tied up with American military power."

The BBC's partiality in the case of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a mere reflection of the close affinity of successive British governments with Israel. Both Blair and his successor Gordon Brown have been members of the Israel Lobby group Labour Friends of Israel. The Foreign Minister David Miliband has kin who are settlers in the West Bank. All three major influence-peddling scandals in the past five years that engulfed the leadership of the ruling New Labour party involved money from wealthy Zionist Jews (all linked to the Labour Friends of Israel). If the BBC is not impartial, then the UK government most certainly is not. The BBC, as is its wont, merely reflects the latter's tilt. This is blatant enough that despite pressure from the Israel lobby, the BBC's own Independent Panel concluded that its coverage of the Palestinian struggle was not "full and fair" and that it presented an "incomplete and in that sense misleading picture."

But the gap between the alternate reality that the BBC inhabits and the reality on the ground witnessed and relayed by independent media is so great today that it has compelled John Pilger to write: "For every BBC voice that strains to equate occupier with occupied, thief with victim, for every swarm of emails from the fanatics of Zion to those who invert the lies and describe the Israeli state's commitment to the destruction of Palestine, the truth is more powerful now than ever."

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad is a member of He blogs at

Full Article

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Gaza faces "economic siege" over re-building

By Patrick Cockburn

Rebuilding will take place in a 360sq km enclave that is packed with 1.5 million Palestinians, of whom 70 per cent are from refugee families expelled from Israel during the creation of the state. More than a million are already receiving UN food supplies.

The initial assessment is that 20,000 homes lived in by 120,000 people have been somewhat damaged and can be patched up so they are habitable again. The 4000 homes that have been destroyed cannot be rebuilt because Israel is refusing to let construction materials cross the border into Gaza.

Israel, the US and their European allies are eager to prevent Hamas taking charge of reconstruction because this might add to its political standing among Palestinians. They recall that after the Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006, many Lebanese at first blamed Hizbollah for provoking the assault.

But Hizbollah took charge of rebuilding and Iran reportedly gave US$14,000 to every family which had lost its home, money that was channelled to recipients through Hizbollah.

The major potential donors for Gaza will try to get aid distributed through the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas. But he is, if anything, more discredited in the eyes of Palestinians and the Arab world than he was before war in Gaza. Hamas, which won the heavily-monitored Palestinian election of 2006, will not want to dilute its power but there will be international pressure on Palestinians to form a government that is acceptable to donors.

If Gaza is to be restored even to the miserable condition it was in before December 27, then the economic siege has to be lifted. But Israeli leaders like the Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, and the Defence Minister, Ehud Barak, have claimed success in the war.

If the blockade is raised, then Hamas will say it won, and the election of Benjamin Netanyahu as the next Prime Minister of Israel on February 10 will become more certain.


Original Post

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How Israel brought Gaza to the brink of humanitarian catastrophe

Oxford professor of international relations Avi Shlaim served in the Israeli army and has never questioned the state's legitimacy. But its merciless assault on Gaza has led him to devastating conclusions

The Guardian, Wednesday 7 January 2009

A wounded Palestinian policeman gestures

A wounded Palestinian policeman gestures while lying on the ground outside Hamas police headquarters following an Israeli air strike in Gaza City. Photograph: Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images

The only way to make sense of Israel's senseless war in Gaza is through understanding the historical context. Establishing the state of Israel in May 1948 involved a monumental injustice to the Palestinians. British officials bitterly resented American partisanship on behalf of the infant state. On 2 June 1948, Sir John Troutbeck wrote to the foreign secretary, Ernest Bevin, that the Americans were responsible for the creation of a gangster state headed by "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". I used to think that this judgment was too harsh but Israel's vicious assault on the people of Gaza, and the Bush administration's complicity in this assault, have reopened the question.

I write as someone who served loyally in the Israeli army in the mid-1960s and who has never questioned the legitimacy of the state of Israel within its pre-1967 borders. What I utterly reject is the Zionist colonial project beyond the Green Line. The Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of the June 1967 war had very little to do with security and everything to do with territorial expansionism. The aim was to establish Greater Israel through permanent political, economic and military control over the Palestinian territories. And the result has been one of the most prolonged and brutal military occupations of modern times.

Four decades of Israeli control did incalculable damage to the economy of the Gaza Strip. With a large population of 1948 refugees crammed into a tiny strip of land, with no infrastructure or natural resources, Gaza's prospects were never bright. Gaza, however, is not simply a case of economic under-development but a uniquely cruel case of deliberate de-development. To use the Biblical phrase, Israel turned the people of Gaza into the hewers of wood and the drawers of water, into a source of cheap labour and a captive market for Israeli goods. The development of local industry was actively impeded so as to make it impossible for the Palestinians to end their subordination to Israel and to establish the economic underpinnings essential for real political independence.

Gaza is a classic case of colonial exploitation in the post-colonial era. Jewish settlements in occupied territories are immoral, illegal and an insurmountable obstacle to peace. They are at once the instrument of exploitation and the symbol of the hated occupation. In Gaza, the Jewish settlers numbered only 8,000 in 2005 compared with 1.4 million local residents. Yet the settlers controlled 25% of the territory, 40% of the arable land and the lion's share of the scarce water resources. Cheek by jowl with these foreign intruders, the majority of the local population lived in abject poverty and unimaginable misery. Eighty per cent of them still subsist on less than $2 a day. The living conditions in the strip remain an affront to civilised values, a powerful precipitant to resistance and a fertile breeding ground for political extremism.

In August 2005 a Likud government headed by Ariel Sharon staged a unilateral Israeli pullout from Gaza, withdrawing all 8,000 settlers and destroying the houses and farms they had left behind. Hamas, the Islamic resistance movement, conducted an effective campaign to drive the Israelis out of Gaza. The withdrawal was a humiliation for the Israeli Defence Forces. To the world, Sharon presented the withdrawal from Gaza as a contribution to peace based on a two-state solution. But in the year after, another 12,000 Israelis settled on the West Bank, further reducing the scope for an independent Palestinian state. Land-grabbing and peace-making are simply incompatible. Israel had a choice and it chose land over peace.

The real purpose behind the move was to redraw unilaterally the borders of Greater Israel by incorporating the main settlement blocs on the West Bank to the state of Israel. Withdrawal from Gaza was thus not a prelude to a peace deal with the Palestinian Authority but a prelude to further Zionist expansion on the West Bank. It was a unilateral Israeli move undertaken in what was seen, mistakenly in my view, as an Israeli national interest. Anchored in a fundamental rejection of the Palestinian national identity, the withdrawal from Gaza was part of a long-term effort to deny the Palestinian people any independent political existence on their land.

Israel's settlers were withdrawn but Israeli soldiers continued to control all access to the Gaza Strip by land, sea and air. Gaza was converted overnight into an open-air prison. From this point on, the Israeli air force enjoyed unrestricted freedom to drop bombs, to make sonic booms by flying low and breaking the sound barrier, and to terrorise the hapless inhabitants of this prison.

Israel likes to portray itself as an island of democracy in a sea of authoritarianism. Yet Israel has never in its entire history done anything to promote democracy on the Arab side and has done a great deal to undermine it. Israel has a long history of secret collaboration with reactionary Arab regimes to suppress Palestinian nationalism. Despite all the handicaps, the Palestinian people succeeded in building the only genuine democracy in the Arab world with the possible exception of Lebanon. In January 2006, free and fair elections for the Legislative Council of the Palestinian Authority brought to power a Hamas-led government. Israel, however, refused to recognise the democratically elected government, claiming that Hamas is purely and simply a terrorist organisation.

America and the EU shamelessly joined Israel in ostracising and demonising the Hamas government and in trying to bring it down by withholding tax revenues and foreign aid. A surreal situation thus developed with a significant part of the international community imposing economic sanctions not against the occupier but against the occupied, not against the oppressor but against the oppressed.

As so often in the tragic history of Palestine, the victims were blamed for their own misfortunes. Israel's propaganda machine persistently purveyed the notion that the Palestinians are terrorists, that they reject coexistence with the Jewish state, that their nationalism is little more than antisemitism, that Hamas is just a bunch of religious fanatics and that Islam is incompatible with democracy. But the simple truth is that the Palestinian people are a normal people with normal aspirations. They are no better but they are no worse than any other national group. What they aspire to, above all, is a piece of land to call their own on which to live in freedom and dignity.

Like other radical movements, Hamas began to moderate its political programme following its rise to power. From the ideological rejectionism of its charter, it began to move towards pragmatic accommodation of a two-state solution. In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a national unity government that was ready to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with Israel. Israel, however, refused to negotiate with a government that included Hamas.

It continued to play the old game of divide and rule between rival Palestinian factions. In the late 1980s, Israel had supported the nascent Hamas in order to weaken Fatah, the secular nationalist movement led by Yasser Arafat. Now Israel began to encourage the corrupt and pliant Fatah leaders to overthrow their religious political rivals and recapture power. Aggressive American neoconservatives participated in the sinister plot to instigate a Palestinian civil war. Their meddling was a major factor in the collapse of the national unity government and in driving Hamas to seize power in Gaza in June 2007 to pre-empt a Fatah coup.

The war unleashed by Israel on Gaza on 27 December was the culmination of a series of clashes and confrontations with the Hamas government. In a broader sense, however, it is a war between Israel and the Palestinian people, because the people had elected the party to power. The declared aim of the war is to weaken Hamas and to intensify the pressure until its leaders agree to a new ceasefire on Israel's terms. The undeclared aim is to ensure that the Palestinians in Gaza are seen by the world simply as a humanitarian problem and thus to derail their struggle for independence and statehood.

The timing of the war was determined by political expediency. A general election is scheduled for 10 February and, in the lead-up to the election, all the main contenders are looking for an opportunity to prove their toughness. The army top brass had been champing at the bit to deliver a crushing blow to Hamas in order to remove the stain left on their reputation by the failure of the war against Hezbollah in Lebanon in July 2006. Israel's cynical leaders could also count on apathy and impotence of the pro-western Arab regimes and on blind support from President Bush in the twilight of his term in the White House. Bush readily obliged by putting all the blame for the crisis on Hamas, vetoing proposals at the UN Security Council for an immediate ceasefire and issuing Israel with a free pass to mount a ground invasion of Gaza.

As always, mighty Israel claims to be the victim of Palestinian aggression but the sheer asymmetry of power between the two sides leaves little room for doubt as to who is the real victim. This is indeed a conflict between David and Goliath but the Biblical image has been inverted - a small and defenceless Palestinian David faces a heavily armed, merciless and overbearing Israeli Goliath. The resort to brute military force is accompanied, as always, by the shrill rhetoric of victimhood and a farrago of self-pity overlaid with self-righteousness. In Hebrew this is known as the syndrome of bokhim ve-yorim, "crying and shooting".

To be sure, Hamas is not an entirely innocent party in this conflict. Denied the fruit of its electoral victory and confronted with an unscrupulous adversary, it has resorted to the weapon of the weak - terror. Militants from Hamas and Islamic Jihad kept launching Qassam rocket attacks against Israeli settlements near the border with Gaza until Egypt brokered a six-month ceasefire last June. The damage caused by these primitive rockets is minimal but the psychological impact is immense, prompting the public to demand protection from its government. Under the circumstances, Israel had the right to act in self-defence but its response to the pinpricks of rocket attacks was totally disproportionate. The figures speak for themselves. In the three years after the withdrawal from Gaza, 11 Israelis were killed by rocket fire. On the other hand, in 2005-7 alone, the IDF killed 1,290 Palestinians in Gaza, including 222 children.

Whatever the numbers, killing civilians is wrong. This rule applies to Israel as much as it does to Hamas, but Israel's entire record is one of unbridled and unremitting brutality towards the inhabitants of Gaza. Israel also maintained the blockade of Gaza after the ceasefire came into force which, in the view of the Hamas leaders, amounted to a violation of the agreement. During the ceasefire, Israel prevented any exports from leaving the strip in clear violation of a 2005 accord, leading to a sharp drop in employment opportunities. Officially, 49.1% of the population is unemployed. At the same time, Israel restricted drastically the number of trucks carrying food, fuel, cooking-gas canisters, spare parts for water and sanitation plants, and medical supplies to Gaza. It is difficult to see how starving and freezing the civilians of Gaza could protect the people on the Israeli side of the border. But even if it did, it would still be immoral, a form of collective punishment that is strictly forbidden by international humanitarian law.

The brutality of Israel's soldiers is fully matched by the mendacity of its spokesmen. Eight months before launching the current war on Gaza, Israel established a National Information Directorate. The core messages of this directorate to the media are that Hamas broke the ceasefire agreements; that Israel's objective is the defence of its population; and that Israel's forces are taking the utmost care not to hurt innocent civilians. Israel's spin doctors have been remarkably successful in getting this message across. But, in essence, their propaganda is a pack of lies.

A wide gap separates the reality of Israel's actions from the rhetoric of its spokesmen. It was not Hamas but the IDF that broke the ceasefire. It di d so by a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas men. Israel's objective is not just the defence of its population but the eventual overthrow of the Hamas government in Gaza by turning the people against their rulers. And far from taking care to spare civilians, Israel is guilty of indiscriminate bombing and of a three-year-old blockade that has brought the inhabitants of Gaza, now 1.5 million, to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Biblical injunction of an eye for an eye is savage enough. But Israel's insane offensive against Gaza seems to follow the logic of an eye for an eyelash. After eight days of bombing, with a death toll of more than 400 Palestinians and four Israelis, the gung-ho cabinet ordered a land invasion of Gaza the consequences of which are incalculable.

No amount of military escalation can buy Israel immunity from rocket attacks from the military wing of Hamas. Despite all the death and destruction that Israel has inflicted on them, they kept up their resistance and they kept firing their rockets. This is a movement that glorifies victimhood and martyrdom. There is simply no military solution to the conflict between the two communities. The problem with Israel's concept of security is that it denies even the most elementary security to the other community. The only way for Israel to achieve security is not through shooting but through talks with Hamas, which has repeatedly declared its readiness to negotiate a long-term ceasefire with the Jewish state within its pre-1967 borders for 20, 30, or even 50 years. Israel has rejected this offer for the same reason it spurned the Arab League peace plan of 2002, which is still on the table: it involves concessions and compromises.

This brief review of Israel's record over the past four decades makes it difficult to resist the conclusion that it has become a rogue state with "an utterly unscrupulous set of leaders". A rogue state habitually violates international law, possesses weapons of mass destruction and practises terrorism - the use of violence against civilians for political purposes. Israel fulfils all of these three criteria; the cap fits and it must wear it. Israel's real aim is not peaceful coexistence with its Palestinian neighbours but military domination. It keeps compounding the mistakes of the past with new and more disastrous ones. Politicians, like everyone else, are of course free to repeat the lies and mistakes of the past. But it is not mandatory to do so.

• Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and the author of The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World and of Lion of Jordan: King Hussein's Life in War and Peace.

Full Article

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Punishing the Palestinians

by Ralph Nader

In the long sixty-year tortured history of the Palestinian expulsion from their lands, Congress has maintained that it is always the Palestinians, the Palestinian Authority, and now Hamas who are to blame for all hostilities and their consequences with the Israeli government.

The latest illustration of this Washington puppet show, backed by the most modern weapons and billions of taxpayer dollars annually sent to Israel, was the grotesquely one-sided Resolutions whisked through the Senate and the House of Representatives.

While a massive bombing and invasion of Gaza was underway, the resolution blaming Hamas for all the civilian casualties and devastation-99% of it inflicted on Palestinians-zoomed through the Senate by voice vote and through the House by a vote of 390 to 5 with 22 legislators voting present.

There is more dissent against this destruction of Gaza among the Israeli people, the Knesset, the Israeli media, and Jewish-Americans than among the dittoheads on Capitol Hill.

The reasons for such near-unanimous support for Israeli actions-no matter how often they are condemned by peace advocates such as Bishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations resolutions, the World Court and leading human rights groups inside and outside of Israel, are numerous. The pro-Israeli government lobby, and the right-wing Christian evangelicals, lubricated by campaign money of many Political Action Committees (PACs) certainly are key.

There is also more than a little bigotry in Congress against Arabs and Muslims, reinforced by the mass media yahoos who set new records for biased reporting each time this conflict erupts.

The bias is clear. It is always the Palestinians' fault. Right-wingers who would never view the U.S. government as perfect see the Israeli government as never doing anything wrong. Liberals who do not hesitate to criticize the U.S. military view all Israeli military attacks, invasions and civilian devastation as heroic manifestations of Israeli defense.

The inversion of history and the scope of amnesia know no limits. What about the fact that the Israeli government drove Palestinians from their lands in 1947-48 with tens of thousands pushed into the Gaza strip. No problem to Congress.

Then the fact that the Israeli government cruelly occupied, in violation of UN resolutions, the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 and only removed its soldiers and colonists from Gaza (1.5 million people in a tiny area twice the size of the District of Columbia) in 2005. To Congress, the Palestinians deserved it.

Then when Hamas was freely elected to run Gaza, the Israeli authorities cut off the tax revenues on imports that belonged to the Gaza government. This threw the Gazans into a fiscal crisis-they were unable to pay their civil servants and police.

In 2006, the Israelis added to their unrelieved control of air, water and land around the open-air prison by establishing a blockade. The natives became restless. Under international law, a blockade is an act of war. Primitive rockets, called by reporters "wildly inaccurate" were fired into Israel. During this same period, Israeli soldiers and artillery and missiles would go into Gaza at will and take far more lives and cause far more injuries than those incurred by those rockets. Civilians-especially children, the infirm and elderly-died or suffered week after week for lack of medicines, medical equipment, food, electricity, fuel and water which were embargoed by the Israelis.

Then the Israeli bombing followed by the invasion during the past three weeks with what prominent Israeli writer Gideon Levy called "a brutal and violent operation...far beyond what was needed for protecting the people in its south." Mr. Levy observed what the president of the United Nations General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann called a war against "a helpless and defenseless imprisoned population."

The horror of being trapped from fleeing the torrent of the most modern weapons of war from the land, air and seas is reflected in this passage from Amira Hass, writing in the leading Israeli newspaper Haaretz:

"The earth shaking under your feet, clouds of choking smoke, explosions like a fireworks display, bombs bursting into all-consuming flames that cannot be extinguished with water, mushroom clouds of pinkish-red smoke, suffocating gas, harsh burns on the skin, extraordinary maimed live and dead bodies."

Ms. Hass is pointing to the use of new anti-civilian weapons used on the Gazan people. So far there have been over 1100 fatalities, many thousands of injuries and the destruction of homes, schools, mosques, hospitals, pharmacies, granaries, farmer's fields and many critical public facilities. The clearly marked UN headquarters and UN school were smashed, along with stored medicines and food supplies.

Why? The Congressional response: "Hamas terrorists" everywhere. Sure, defending their Palestinian families is called terrorism. The truth is there is no Hamas army, airforce and navy up against the fourth most powerful military in the world. As one Israeli gunner on an armored personnel carrier frankly said to The New York Times: "They are villagers with guns. They don't even aim when they shoot."

Injured Gazans are dying in damaged hospital corridors, bleeding to death because rescuers are not permitted to reach them or are endangered themselves. Thousands of units of blood donated by Jordanians are stopped by the Israeli blockade. Israel has kept the international press out of the Gazan killing fields.
What is going on in Gaza is what Bill Moyers called it earlier this month - "state terrorism." Already about 400 children are known to have died. More will be added who are under the rubble.

Since 2002, more than 50 Arab and Muslim nations have had a standing offer, repeated often, that if Israel obeys several UN resolutions and withdraws to the 1967 borders leaving 22 percent of the original Palestine for an independent Palestinian state, they will open full diplomatic relations and there will be peace. Israel has declined to accept this offer.

None of these and many other aspects of this conflict matter to the Congress. Its members do not want to hear even from the Israeli peace movement, composed of retired generals, security chiefs, mayors, former government ministers, and members of the Knesset. In 60 years these savvy peace advocates have not been able to give one hour of testimony before a Congressional Committee.

Maybe members of Congress may wish to weigh the words of the founder of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, years ago when he said:

"There has been anti-Semitism the Nazis Hitler Auschwitz but was that their [the Palestinian's] fault? They only see one thing: We have come here and stolen their country."

Doesn't that observation invite some compassion for the Palestinian people and their right to be free of Israeli occupation, land and water grabs and blockades in the 22 percent left of Palestine?

Full Article

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Canada & Israel's Occupation

by Engler, Yves

The Canadian Left has taken a major step forward in opposition to Zionism. On Saturday Montréal held probably the largest pro-Palestinian demonstration in Canadian history. Despite some ridiculous media reports, I estimate that there were between 12,000 and 17,000 (possibly as many as 25,000) people marching through the streets of downtown. "Jews, Christians, Muslims, anglos, francos, grandmothers and children walked together yesterday in the bitter cold to call for an immediate ceasefire in [Gaza]," noted the Montréal Gazette. The march was endorsed and organized by all three major Québec unions and most of the province's social groups.

On Thursday 20 people blockaded Israel's consulate in Montreal, a day after a group of Jewish women occupied the Israeli consulate in Toronto. Two weeks ago Sid Ryan, the head of 200,000-member Canadian Union of Public Employees-Ontario, courageously denounced Israel's "genocide" in the Gaza strip and this weekend influential Canadian author Naomi Klein published an article supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign against Israel called for by Palestinian social movements. In the face of media hostility, CUPE-Ontario, The Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the teachers Federation in Québec and the 40,000 members of Québec student Association ASSE have all supported the international boycott campaign against Israeli apartheid.

Canadian opposition to Israeli policy is important in light of this country's long history of private and public support for Zionism. Before there was a Jewish Zionist movement, in the 1880s, Canada's preeminent Christian Zionist, Henry Wentworth Monk, supported efforts to colonize Palestine on behalf of European Jews and called for the British Empire to establish a "Dominion of Israel", similar to the Dominion of Canada. Six decades later, Ottawa played a decisive role in the UN's 1948 partition plan, which gave the new Jewish state the majority of Palestine despite the Jewish population owning only 5.8% of the land and representing less than a third of the population. Four decades on, a survey of UN members ranked Canada second only to the U.S. in perceived support for Israel and by fall 2008, Harper's Conservatives were publicly proclaiming that Canada was the most pro-Israel country in the world.

One might assume that the Canadian Left has long opposed Israel's Jewish/White supremacy, its role in advancing US geopolitical interests in the Middle East or its status as the final frontier of European settler colonialism. Unfortunately this has not been the case. Recent opposition to Israeli policy by the Canadian Left is particularly important because it's a reversal of the Left's historic support for Zionism. While it might seem like ancient history to unions that recently passed motions to boycott Israel, in September 1977 the Canadian Labour Congress passed a resolution demanding Ottawa enact anti-boycott legislation against Arab countries that were boycotting companies doing business with Israel to pressure that country to return land captured in the 1967 war.

In 1975, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution (72 votes to 35 with 32 abstentions) calling Zionism a form of racism. In response, CLC President Joe Morris, stated, "By this act, it can justifiably be argued the UN has 'legitimized' anti-Semitism and pogroms against Jews. Canadian labor will fight all moves to implement such a resolution and will exercise its influence to prevent further extensions of the resolution." The same year, the CLC vigorously opposed the admission of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to the International Labor Organisation and in 1985 CLC president Dennis McDermott denounced a Canadian Senate report that rebuked Israel's 1982 invasion/occupation of Lebanon and provided mild support for the PLO. McDermott, who refered to himself as a "Catholic Zionist," said the Senate report, which stopped short of calling the PLO the legitimate voice of Palestinians, was an ''exercise in bad judgment and, even worse, bad taste.'' (A portrait of McDermott hangs in a library named after him at the trade school of the Histadrut union in Israel.)

Most astoundingly, in 1956, the CLC called on the Canadian government to "lend its sympathetic support to Israel's request for defensive armaments in order that Israel may match in quality if not in quantity, the constant flow of Soviet Block armaments into the Arab countries." The resolution was passed just before Israel invaded Egypt alongside former colonial powers France and Britain. What is especially disturbing about this resolution is that Canada had been selling Israel weapons for a number of years and was under (private) pressure from Washington to send Israel advanced fighter jets.

Unions are not the only part of the Left that staunchly supported Israel. In 1975, Tommy Douglas, the head of the CCF (precursor to the NDP) and 'father of Medicare', told the Histadrut, "The main enmity against Israel is that she has been an affront to those nations who do not treat their people and their workers as well as Israel has treated hers." This speech was made eight years into Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and a quarter century after 800,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed during the 1948 war. Staunch Zionist Irving Abella explained in the late 1970s that, "Historically, the New Democratic Party (NDP) has been the most supportive of the Israeli cause, largely because of its close relationship to Israel's labour party, and to the Histadrut, the Israel trade union movement."

The Left is still not unanimous in its antagonism towards Israeli policy in Palestine, its domestic racism or its belligerence in the region (over the years Israel has bombed Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Tunisia, Iraq and is now threatening to bomb Iran). Some unions continue to buy Israel Bonds while NDP MPs still take tours of the region organized by pro-Israel groups. In a particularly distasteful episode last year, the NDP opposed and then supported the Harper government when Canada was the first country to withdraw from the second UN Conference on Racism ("Durban II"), much to the delight of the Israeli government, which was the second country to pull out (criticism of Zionism at Durban I was deemed "anti-semitic").

Despite some setbacks it is clear that the Canadian left is slowly catching up to the rest of the world in seeing the fundamental injustice of Zionism. Palestinian activists, alongside non-Arab activists, have worked tirelessly to make opposition to Zionism a central part of the left's political culture. This explains why there were 18 actions across the country on Saturday, many of them with as many as 1000 people, even in smaller cities like Hamilton and Edmonton.

Yves Engler is the author of the soon to be published Canada on the World Stage: A Force for Good or Bad Actor? and other books.

Full Article

We are all Palestinian

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(((( T h e B u l l e t ))))~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
A Socialist Project e-bulletin .... No. 180 .... January 15, 2009

"We are All Palestinian":
Gaza, the War, and Global Solidarity

David Wiebe

Across the world, the Israeli bombardment of Gaza has been viewed with horror and outrage. The massive loss of human life in the densely-populated occupied territory has sparked worldwide condemnation and protest. In Europe, North America, the Middle East, Latin America, Africa and Asia, millions of people have demonstrated against the Israeli version of "shock and awe." The number and size of these protests are a testament of global solidarity with the Palestinian cause, and open new fronts against Zionism and U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Global Solidarity with Palestine

In the Middle East, for example, hundreds of thousands of people have gathered and marched in Lebanon, Turkey, Syria, Jordan, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt. In many cases, these protests have blamed the Arab regimes for colluding with Israel and the United States, and have faced severe repression as a result. Protests and riots have also occurred across the occupied West Bank and have suffered repression from the joint forces of Israel and Fatah. In Israel itself, protests by Arabs, communists, anarchists and Jews have also taken place, including a few "civil disobedience" actions.

Expressions of solidarity from outside the region have been no less remarkable, especially in terms of their size, intensity and political composition.

As part of the global day of protest on January 3rd, up to 60,000 people gathered in London against the war and British complicity. After the rally, more than one thousand shoes were tossed at the Prime Minister's Office on Downing Street. Solidarity protests were also held in smaller cities in England such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. On January 10th, more than 100,000 people marched in a loud, militant protest in London.

The size and scope of these demonstrations cannot be overestimated: for the first time, they mark the Palestinian struggle as a central, galvanizing issue for the anti-war movement in Great Britain, even in small towns and cities.

Protests have been similar across Europe. On the weekend of January 3-4, up to 20,000 people marched in Paris and 10,000 in Berlin and Frankfurt. Demonstrations were also held in Stockholm, Helsinki, Rome, Lyon, Madrid, Amsterdam and other large cities on the continent. After a demonstration in Athens outside the embassies of Israel and the United States, an effigy of George Bush was burned along with a number of banks. Building on a long tradition of solidarity with Palestine, demonstrations were also organized in Belfast and Dublin. On January 8th in Norway, at least 40,000 people marched in Oslo, as well as in five other cities, in a protest called by an alliance of about 80 organizations. This past weekend, rallies in Paris, Berlin and other European cities drew equally large numbers, including 100,000 in Madrid. In Greece, a planned demonstration for January 15th has forced the government to cancel a contract with the U.S. military, which hoped to use the port of Astakos as a transit point for new arms shipments to Israel.

These demonstrations in Europe have catapulted the issue of Palestine to the fore of anti-war organizing and sparked new demands for a boycott and divestment campaign and for Israeli leaders to be tried for war crimes. The protests have also forced many European governments to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and to put new trade relations between the E.U. and Israel on hold.

Down Under, protests have also occurred in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia, as well as in Auckland, New Zealand, where a monument to Israel was recently doused in blood and paint.

Similarly, on January 5th, university students in Delhi, India threw 200 shoes at the Israeli embassy before being arrested. Over the past two weeks in Srinagar, Kashmir, police have repeatedly used tear gas and batons against hundreds of protesters chanting, "We're with the Palestinians" and "Down with Israel."

In Afghanistan, demonstrations have been held at mosques in Kabul and Herat, where thousands of people chanted "Death to Israel, America and Great Britain."

Outrage was also demonstrated this past week in South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and Thailand, where thousands of people participated in protests.

In Latin America, the governments of Ecuador and Brazil have accused Israel of "crimes against humanity" and "state terrorism," while the President of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, and the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales, have expelled Israeli ambassadors. At the grassroots level, protests have occurred across the region, from Mexico and Nicaragua to Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina, Costa Rica and Cuba.

North American Demonstrations

Even in North America, there has been a clear outpouring of anger against the bombing and ground invasion. In Canada, hundreds of people have gathered in Ottawa, Halifax, Winnipeg and Vancouver for vigils and protests. In Toronto, up to 10,000 people attended a protest on January 3rd organized by a large coalition of Palestinian solidarity and anti-war groups. On January 7th eight Jewish women were arrested after occupying the Israeli consulate in downtown Toronto. In Montreal, 4,000 people gathered on January 4th for an emergency protest against the war. Last Thursday, thirty people occupied the Israeli consulate in Montreal, demanding the expulsion of the Consular General and an immediate end to the Israel invasion and siege of Gaza. In Canada, these protests and the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions have also been supported by a number of trade unions, such as the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the Canadian Union of Public Employees who have both issued public statements against the Israeli actions in Gaza.

Most surprising, perhaps, are the demonstrations in the United States. In more than 100 American cities, both large and small, thousands of people have attended protests and vigils since the bombing began on December 27th.

For example, two weekends ago, up to 20,000 people gathered for a protest in Manhattan, New York. This demonstration was the largest ever on the issue of Palestine in the city and brought together many groups of the Left and Arab community.

San Francisco in particular has been the scene of raucous protests. Over the past two weeks, hundreds of people have engaged in marches and civil disobedience, including a street "sit-in" of approximately 50 Jewish anti-occupation activists. In record numbers, Americans have also gathered in Boston, Houston, Washington DC, Seattle, Chicago, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Nashville, Denver, Kansas City, New Orleans, Portland, Orlando, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Greenville, Sioux Falls, Toledo, Dayton, Raleigh, Des Moines and Oklahoma City, amongst other places. Most recently on January 14th about 15 Jewish activists attempted to shut down the Israeli Consulate in Los Angeles by blocking its driveway and locking themselves to the entrance.

The Importance of Emerging Palestinian Solidarity Activism

These demonstrations are significant for a number of reasons.

First, they have re-galvanized an important layer of the U.S. anti-war movement, which has been relatively dormant since the failed campaign to elect Senator John Kerry as a Democratic President in 2004.

Second, they are the first demonstrations in the United States to put the question of Palestine at the centre of the anti-war movement. In the past, the movement has been seriously divided over whether or not to address the issue of Palestine as part of the broader campaign against U.S. policies in the Middle East. In this context, the current demonstrations represent a potential watershed moment in which Palestine becomes a leading issue for the anti-war movement. While UFPJ (United For Peace and Justice) has so far refrained from organizing a mass demonstration, it did encourage people to attend the protest in Washington DC last weekend held by ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War & End Racism) and a number of Arab, Muslim and Palestinian organizations. Pressure and protest from below will have to be maintained in order to keep the large anti-war organizations focused on Palestine over the long-term.

Third, these protests reflect an important shift in popular consciousness against Israeli policies. According to a new Rasmussen poll, the American public is highly divided on the current war, with 44 percent expressing support and 41 percent dissent. Amongst Democratic voters, however, 55 percent oppose the Israeli operation against 31 percent in support. These numbers are highly significant given the full support offered to Israel by the Democratic Party leadership, Congress, and mainstream media. Indeed, the poll suggests that increasing numbers of Americans are starting to question and oppose the consensus on Israel within elite circles.

Fourth, the protests create hope that the anti-war movement will operate independently of the incoming administration of Barack Obama. While Obama has an old history of working with the Palestinian and Arab communities in Chicago, and has promised a new approach to American foreign policy in the Middle East, his more recent positions on Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and Palestine demand protest and strict opposition from the anti-war movement. For example, his decision to remain quiet during the current conflict in Gaza stands in stark contrast to his condemnation of the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, and suggests a tacit nod of support for Israeli measures. In this context, it is positive that anti-war and Palestinian solidarity activists have already demonstrated outside of Obama's vacation hotel in Hawaii and his transition headquarters in Washington, DC. These demonstrations are hopeful signs that the anti-war movement will not be incorporated and marginalized by the Obama-machi!
ne, which is stacked with veterans from the Clinton and Bush II administrations.

Fifth, the protests are a vindication of the small-scale, community organizing around Palestine over the last few years. Every major city in the U.S. (and in Canada and much of Europe) now has a wide-ranging network of Palestinian solidarity activities, from film festivals and poetry groups to active campaigns around the Right of Return, the siege of Gaza, and the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Protests are organized on a regular basis outside of Israeli consulates, and boycott campaigns are being directed against a host of companies with ties to Israel.

Palestinian and Arab activists in the diaspora are leading these struggles across North America, and are generally unified around (1) the critique of Israel as an apartheid state; (2) building a movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel; and (3) the demand for a one-state, bi-national solution to the conflict, with the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees.

As the protests reveal, this organizing around Palestine has developed a real momentum and significance. In fact, there is a real possibility that Palestine may emerge as a central issue for the anti-war movement and the radical left in the U.S. in the near future. While the media and political elite continue to offer full support to Israel as the main ally of U.S. imperialism in the Middle East, there are unequivocal signs of grassroots opposition on a national scale to this alliance and to the ongoing oppression of the Palestinian people.

In both the United States and around the world, then, we are witnessing the emergence of a global movement of solidarity with the Palestinian cause. From New York to London, from Caracas to Beirut, this movement encompasses people of all nationalities and faiths, and asserts that "We Are All Palestinian" and support the right of resistance to occupation, colonization and state terror.

As such, these protests build the potential foundation to isolate and sanction Israel through a boycott and divestment campaign, as demanded by Palestinian civil society institutions around the world. Just as the 1976 massacre in Soweto, South Africa led to the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime, so too might the war on Gaza spark the same kind of international movement against the Zionist state.

The global character of recent protests gives hope for such an outcome.

David Wiebe is a writer, researcher and socialist activist from Canada now living in the USA.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~(((( T h e B u l l e t))))~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
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17th January 2009, Picket in Toronto

Constituency office of Conservative MP Peter Kent
Saturday, January 17
11:00am to 1:00pm
7600 Yonge Street - assemble on the sidewalk
Thornhill ON
(north of Arnold Avenue )

Buses to the picket will depart from the following locations:
Downtown Toronto
Buses leave at 10:15am
Meet at: 720 Spadina Avenue (TTC: Spadina)

To book a seat, please e-mail
Suggested donation: $5 to $10 (or pay what you can)

Car pooling will be arranged by Palestine House - email
in advance.

Picket called by:
Palestine House, Canadian Arab Federation, Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid,
Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, Not in Our Name – Jewish Voices Opposing
Zionism, International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network Toronto, Independent Jewish

For more information, please email or phone
416-795-5863 or 905-270-3622

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Israel testing ‘extremely nasty’ weapon in Gaza

OSLO: Israel is testing a new ‘extremely nasty’ type of weapon in Gaza, two medics charged as they returned home to Norway Monday after spending 10 days working at a hospital in the war-torn Palestinian territory.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel's Moral and Political Insanity


Apart from the slaughter of 900 Palestinians and the vast destruction from 14 days of aerial bombardment, the Israeli invasion of Gaza has failed to achieve any of its strategic objectives. The Palestinian resistance is still intact, the rocket-fire has continued, and Hamas is stronger than ever. So, what has been gained? Hamas has withstood the ferocious Israeli assault without knuckling under or making any concessions. They've proved that they are the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people and the standard bearers of the national liberation movement. Their place at the head of the government is now assured thanks to Israel's criminal blunder. In contrast, Mahmoud Abbas and the PA have ended up looking like cowards and quislings kowtowing to Tel Aviv.

For Israel, the military campaign has been a public relations disaster. Photos on the internet of bloodied and dismembered children rushed off to make-shift hospitals or wrapped in their funereal shrouds has generated unprecedented sympathy for the plight of Palestinians. Israel has come across as a bully. The establishment press has also suffered yet another blow to its credibility. This could be a tipping point for the corporate media. Arab news channels have come of age while more and more westerners are turning to independent media for their news.

Presently, Israel is looking for a way to wind down its rampage and withdraw its troops, but Hamas is not making that easy. On Saturday, Hamas chief Khalid Meshaal rejected UN Resolution 1860 which calls for a ceasefire and issued this statement:


“We want the immediate and complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and the lifting of the unjust siege on Gaza that has led to the current situation. Our other request is the opening of all border crossings including the Rafah border crossing. We, with an open mind, will deal with any initiatives and decisions based on these three requests. Therefore, we will not accept any negotiations for a truce in the light of and under the pressure of a military campaign and siege.

“Let the military campaign stop, let the Israelis withdraw, and let the rights of our people be admitted to, let them recognize our rights to live without a siege and closed border crossings, just like other humans, then we are ready to discuss a truce, just like we did before. We will not accept a permanent truce, because it will take the right of resistance from the Palestinian people. The resistance is against occupation and military campaigns and therefore as long as occupation exists, resistance will too... We will also not accept the interference of international forces because international forces will come only to protect Israel's security and any international force imposed will be considered as occupiers.

Full Article

16th January Washington, D.C. and 25th January Montreal Demonstration

Event Info
Time and Place
Friday, January 16, 2009
4:00pm - 7:00pm
Washington Post Headquarters
1150 15th St NW (btwn L & M Sts)
Washington, DC
Contact Info

Time and Place
Sunday, January 25, 2009
1:00pm - 4:00pm
carré Cabot
corner St. Catherine | Atwater, metro Atwater
Montreal, QC

Contact Info

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

10th January Demos in Toronto and Montreal, Canada

Time and Place
Saturday, January 10, 2009
1:00pm - 4:00pm
Dorchester square
Corner Peel and René-Lévesque
Montreal, QC
Contact Info

Event Info
Palestine House
Time and Place
Saturday, January 10, 2009
11:00am - 2:00pm
Israeli Consulate
180 Bloor Street West
Toronto, ON
Contact Info