Friday, April 28, 2006

May Day Protest

In lieu of the upcoming May Day Protests set to take place on 1 May, 2006, there will be no new posts until 2nd May, 2006.

Workers Of The World UNITE!


Of Seinfeld and Anti-Semitism

I wouldn’t call myself a television junkie. Nowadays I don’t care for anything that is on television. But there use to be a show that I loved, Seinfeld.

A friend and I would always go around quoting whole scenes of the show. I recall one of my favorite moments on the program. It involved the lead character played by Jerry Seinfeld and his Uncle Leo. The two of them are sitting in the same booth that all the characters on the show sit at.

Jerry is trying to convince his uncle to take in Jerry’s parents, who have come for a visit to New York from Florida. Jerry feels that his mom and dad living with him are violating his “Buffer Zone” of separation that he has painstakingly taken years to cultivate. He doesn’t mind them visiting, but staying with him that is a different story.

So, he takes his Uncle Leo out to lunch at the coffee shop to convince him to let his parents stay at Leo’s.

Now, while the two of them are sitting in the booth, Jerry is trying to find the right way to broach the subject with his uncle, who is about to eat his hamburger that he has ordered. As Jerry is talking, Uncle Leo bites into his hamburger and throws it back onto his plate in disgust. The following dialogue is paraphrased but you should get the gist of it:

JERRY: What’s wrong?

UNCLE LEO: I told them medium rare, this is medium!

JERRY: I’m sure it’s just an innocent mistake.

UNCLE LEO: No it wasn’t. I’ll bet the cook is an Anti-Semite!

JERRY: Okay let’s get back to the issue at hand before Goebbels made your hamburger!”

Later on the episode, Jerry is on a television talk show. The host of the show asks Jerry about some people that are waiting for him in the guest room. Jerry explains that they are some of his family and that they are a bit odd. He then goes on to say that his Uncle Leo is “one of these guys who blame everything on Anti-Semitism.” Jerry goes on to list a slew of innocuous incidents that Uncle Leo would equate with Anti-Semitism:

“The guy at the car wash didn’t clean the hubcaps, Anti-Semite!”

“The girl at the checkout counter charged me forty cents more for a coke and the last time it was free, Anti-Semite!”

“Vending machine didn’t give me the cookies I wanted, Anti-Semite!”

You get the idea.

So what is the point to all this you might ask? Well, there is no point I just love the show. No seriously, there is a point.

In yesterday’s addition of Ha'aretz, Sweden called off its participation in international air force exercises to take place in Italy next month because of the involvement of the Israeli Air Forces in the drills.

A Swedish Foreign Ministry official was quoted as saying, “The point of the operation is to prepare for international cooperation in preserving world peace. The participation of the Israeli air force changes the prerequisites of the drill.”

Not to be out done, the national Religious Party Chairman MK Zevulun Orlev, called Sweden’s decision (Wait for it.) ANTI-SEMETIC! Orlev went on to say, “Just a day after commemoration of Holocaust Remembrance Day, an enlightened nation has risen and surrendered to the Islamic axis of evil.”

Well, there you have it folks. Once again when someone decides to call Israel out on it’s human rights abuses of firing into civilian populations maiming and killing Palestinian women and children; Virtually holding an entire population captive without freedom of movement, and allowing a concerted effort of collective punishment that places The West Bank and Gaza on the brink of collapse, this is viewed as Anti-Semitic.

I can just see MK Zevulun Orlev now, sitting down at some deli just going off on everyone:

“Damn peace activist who come to Israel and accompany Arab children to school, Anti-Semites!”

“Those ‘so-called’ Jews who denounce the ‘Neighborhoods’ built on Palestinian land, Anti-Semites!”

“Anyone who says anything wrong about Israel in any way, shape or form, Anti-Semite!”

If I didn’t know better, I’d swear someone in the Israeli Knesset plays Uncle Leo’s character.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Breaking the Last Taboo By ROBERT FISK

Stephen Walt towers over me as we walk in the Harvard sunshine past Eliot Street, a big man who needs to be big right now (he's one of two authors of an academic paper on the influence of America's Jewish lobby) but whose fame, or notoriety, depending on your point of view, is of no interest to him. "John and I have deliberately avoided the television shows because we don't think we can discuss these important issues in 10 minutes. It would become 'J' and 'S', the personalities who wrote about the lobby - and we want to open the way to serious discussion about this, to encourage a broader discussion of the forces shaping US foreign policy in the Middle East."

"John" is John Mearsheimer, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. Walt is a 50-year-old tenured professor at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. The two men have caused one of the most extraordinary political storms over the Middle East in recent American history by stating what to many non-Americans is obvious: that the US has been willing to set aside its own security and that of many of its allies in order to advance the interests of Israel, that Israel is a liability in the "war on terror", that the biggest Israeli lobby group, Aipac (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee), is in fact the agent of a foreign government and has a stranglehold on Congress - so much so that US policy towards Israel is not debated there - and that the lobby monitors and condemns academics who are critical of Israel.

"Anyone who criticises Israel's actions or argues that pro-Israel groups have significant influence over US Middle East policy," the authors have written, "...stands a good chance of being labelled an anti-Semite. Indeed, anyone who merely claims that there is an Israeli lobby runs the risk of being charged with anti-Semitism ... Anti-Semitism is something no-one wants to be accused of." This is strong stuff in a country where - to quote the late Edward Said - the "last taboo" (now that anyone can talk about blacks, gays and lesbians) is any serious discussion of America's relationship with Israel.

Walt is already the author of an elegantly written account of the resistance to US world political dominance, a work that includes more than 50 pages of references. Indeed, those who have read his Taming Political Power: The Global Response to US Primacy will note that the Israeli lobby gets a thumping in this earlier volume because Aipac "has repeatedly targeted members of Congress whom it deemed insufficiently friendly to Israel and helped drive them from office, often by channelling money to their opponents."

But how many people in America are putting their own heads above the parapet, now that Mearsheimer and Walt have launched a missile that would fall to the ground unexploded in any other country but which is detonating here at high speed? Not a lot. For a while, the mainstream US press and television - as pro-Israeli, biased and gutless as the two academics infer them to be - did not know whether to report on their conclusions (originally written for The Atlantic Monthly, whose editors apparently took fright, and subsequently reprinted in the London Review of Books in slightly truncated form) or to remain submissively silent. The New York Times, for example, only got round to covering the affair in depth well over two weeks after the report's publication, and then buried its article in the education section on page 19. The academic essay, according to the paper's headline, had created a "debate" about the lobby's influence.

They can say that again. Dore Gold, a former ambassador to the UN, who now heads an Israeli lobby group, kicked off by unwittingly proving that the Mearsheimer-Walt theory of "anti-Semitism" abuse is correct. "I believe," he said, "that anti-Semitism may be partly defined as asserting a Jewish conspiracy for doing the same thing non-Jews engage in." Congressman Eliot Engel of New York said that the study itself was "anti-Semitic" and deserved the American public's contempt.

Walt has no time for this argument. "We are not saying there is a conspiracy, or a cabal. The Israeli lobby has every right to carry on its work - all Americans like to lobby. What we are saying is that this lobby has a negative influence on US national interests and that this should be discussed. There are vexing problems out in the Middle East and we need to be able to discuss them openly. The Hamas government, for example - how do we deal with this? There may not be complete solutions, but we have to try and have all the information available."

Walt doesn't exactly admit to being shocked by some of the responses to his work - it's all part of his desire to keep "discourse" in the academic arena, I suspect, though it probably won't work. But no-one could be anything but angered by his Harvard colleague, Alan Dershowitz, who announced that the two scholars recycled accusations that "would be seized on by bigots to promote their anti-Semitic agendas". The two are preparing a reply to Dershowitz's 45-page attack, but could probably have done without praise from the white supremacist and ex-Ku Klux Klan head David Duke - adulation which allowed newspapers to lump the name of Duke with the names of Mearsheimer and Walt. "Of Israel, Harvard and David Duke," ran the Washington Post's reprehensible headline.

The Wall Street Journal, ever Israel's friend in the American press, took an even weirder line on the case. "As Ex-Lobbyists of Pro-Israel Group Face Court, Article Queries Sway on Mideast Policy" its headline proclaimed to astonished readers. Neither Mearsheimer nor Walt had mentioned the trial of two Aipac lobbyists - due to begin next month - who are charged under the Espionage Act with receiving and disseminating classified information provided by a former Pentagon Middle East analyst. The defence team for Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman has indicated that it may call Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to the stand.

Almost a third of the Journal's report is taken up with the Rosen-Weissman trial, adding that the indictment details how the two men "allegedly sought to promote a hawkish US policy toward Iran by trading favours with a number of senior US officials. Lawrence Franklin, the former Pentagon official, has pleaded guilty to misusing classified information. Mr Franklin was charged with orally passing on information about a draft National Security Council paper on Iran to the two lobbyists... as well as other classified information. Mr Franklin was sentenced in December to nearly 13 years in prison..."

The Wall Street Journal report goes on to say that lawyers and "many Jewish leaders" - who are not identified - "say the actions of the former Aipac employees were no different from how thousands of Washington lobbyists work. They say the indictment marks the first time in US history that American citizens... have been charged with receiving and disseminating state secrets in conversations." The paper goes on to say that "several members of Congress have expressed concern about the case since it broke in 2004, fearing that the Justice Department may be targeting pro-Israel lobbying groups, such as Aipac. These officials (sic) say they're eager to see the legal process run its course, but are concerned about the lack of transparency in the case."

As far as Dershowitz is concerned, it isn't hard for me to sympathise with the terrible pair. He it was who shouted abuse at me during an Irish radio interview when I said that we had to ask the question "Why?" after the 11 September 2001 international crimes against humanity. I was a "dangerous man", Dershowitz shouted over the air, adding that to be "anti-American" - my thought-crime for asking the "Why?" question - was the same as being anti-Semitic. I must, however, also acknowledge another interest. Twelve years ago, one of the Israeli lobby groups that Mearsheimer and Walt fingers prevented any second showing of a film series on Muslims in which I participated for Channel 4 and the Discovery Channel - by stating that my "claim" that Israel was building large Jewish settlements on Arab land was "an egregious falsehood". I was, according to another Israeli support group, "a Henry Higgins with fangs", who was "drooling venom into the living rooms of America."

Such nonsense continues to this day. In Australia to launch my new book on the Middle East, for instance, I repeatedly stated that Israel - contrary to the anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists - was not responsible for the crimes of 11 September 2001. Yet the Australian Jewish News claimed that I "stopped just millimetres short of suggesting that Israel was the cause of the 9/11 attacks. The audience reportedly (and predictably) showered him in accolades."

This was untrue. There was no applause and no accolades and I never stopped "millimetres" short of accusing Israel of these crimes against humanity. The story in the Australian Jewish News is a lie.

So I have to say that - from my own humble experience - Mearsheimer and Walt have a point. And for a man who says he has not been to Israel for 20 years - or Egypt, though he says he had a "great time" in both countries - Walt rightly doesn't claim any on-the-ground expertise. "I've never flown into Afghanistan on a rickety plane, or stood at a checkpoint and seen a bus coming and not known if there is a suicide bomber aboard," he says.

Noam Chomsky, America's foremost moral philosopher and linguistics academic - so critical of Israel that he does not even have a regular newspaper column - does travel widely in the region and acknowledges the ruthlessness of the Israeli lobby. But he suggests that American corporate business has more to do with US policy in the Middle East than Israel's supporters - proving, I suppose, that the Left in the United States has an infinite capacity for fratricide. Walt doesn't say he's on the left, but he and Mearsheimer objected to the invasion of Iraq, a once lonely stand that now appears to be as politically acceptable as they hope - rather forlornly - that discussion of the Israeli lobby will become.

Walt sits in a Malaysian restaurant with me, patiently (though I can hear the irritation in his voice) explaining that the conspiracy theories about him are nonsense. His stepping down as dean of the Kennedy School was a decision taken before the publication of his report, he says. No one is throwing him out. The much-publicised Harvard disclaimer of ownership to the essay - far from being a gesture of fear and criticism by the university as his would-be supporters have claimed - was mainly drafted by Walt himself, since Mearsheimer, a friend as well as colleague, was a Chicago scholar, not a Harvard don.

But something surely has to give.

Across the United States, there is growing evidence that the Israeli and neo-conservative lobbies are acquiring ever greater power. The cancellation by a New York theatre company of My Name is Rachel Corrie - a play based on the writings of the young American girl crushed to death by an Israeli bulldozer in Gaza in 2003 - has deeply shocked liberal Jewish Americans, not least because it was Jewish American complaints that got the performance pulled.

"How can the West condemn the Islamic world for not accepting Mohamed cartoons," Philip Weiss asked in The Nation, "when a Western writer who speaks out on behalf of Palestinians is silenced? And why is it that Europe and Israel itself have a healthier debate over Palestinian human rights than we can have here?" Corrie died trying to prevent the destruction of a Palestinian home. Enemies of the play falsely claim that she was trying to stop the Israelis from collapsing a tunnel used to smuggle weapons. Hateful e-mails were written about Corrie. Weiss quotes one that reads: "Rachel Corrie won't get 72 virgins but she got what she wanted."

Saree Makdisi - a close relative of the late Edward Said - has revealed how a right-wing website is offering cash for University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) students who report on the political leanings of their professors, especially their views on the Middle East. Those in need of dirty money at UCLA should be aware that class notes, handouts and illicit recordings of lectures will now receive a bounty of $100. "I earned my own inaccurate and defamatory 'profile'," Makdisi says, "...not for what I have said in my classes on English poets such as Wordsworth and Blake - my academic speciality, which the website avoids mentioning - but rather for what I have written in newspapers about Middle Eastern politics."

Mearsheimer and Walt include a study of such tactics in their report. "In September 2002," they write, "Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes, two passionately pro-Israel neo-conservatives, established a website ( that posted dossiers on suspect academics and encouraged students to report behaviour that might be considered hostile to Israel... the website still invites students to report 'anti-Israel' activity."

Perhaps the most incendiary paragraph in the essay - albeit one whose contents have been confirmed in the Israeli press - discusses Israel's pressure on the United States to invade Iraq. "Israeli intelligence officials had given Washington a variety of alarming reports about Iraq's WMD programmes," the two academics write, quoting a retired Israeli general as saying: "Israeli intelligence was a full partner to the picture presented by American and British intelligence regarding Iraq's non-conventional capabilities."

Walt says he might take a year's sabbatical - though he doesn't want to get typecast as a "lobby" critic - because he needs a rest after his recent administrative post. There will be Israeli lobbyists, no doubt, who would he happy if he made that sabbatical a permanent one. I somehow doubt he will.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent.

Photo by: Nayef Hashlamoun

Freedom Day

On this day 27 April, 12 years ago, South Africa held it’s first democratic all race elections. I recall this day very well because I was there. I had the distinct privilege of monitoring the election process as an African National Congress representative.

As I stood watching the lines of people, almost all whom were voting for the first time, that seemed to stretch for miles, I inhaled deep and whispered underneath my breath:

“We did it. I can’t believe we did it!”

What “we” did was nothing short of remarkable. I grew up in South Africa, the land of apartheid, under the heavy veil of oppression. I saw my brother killed before my eyes when I was five years old. I remember the security police constantly raiding our house looking for my father, and anti-apartheid activist who were hiding “underground” to continue his struggle against apartheid. Recalling the times when my mother, sister, brother and I nearly starved because of the lack of nutrition we received due to food being scarce.

I remember my mother telling me of the times when she and my father marched with Nelson Mandela, Chief Albert Lithuli, Govan Mbeki (Thabo’s father), O.R. Tambo, Robert Sobukwe, and many others, demanding our rights as equals.

Often in these marches, the police would respond with force. She told me of the deaths of those who marched in some of the more famous marches in the country’s history where the police unleashed their full arsenal against peaceful protesters. Ask anyone who grew up in South Africa and mention the name Sharpeville; Trust me when I say it always conjures up dark memories of a bygone time in the country's history.

On 21 March, 1960 at least 180 black South Africans were injured (there are claims of as many as 300) and 69 killed when South African police opened fire on approximately 300 demonstrators, who were protesting against the pass laws, at the township of Sharpeville, near Vereeniging in the Transvaal province.

From what I can gather, both of my parents were at this march. My mother was uninjured, but my father suffered his first gunshot wound at the hands of the South African police; He would receive five more before he fled the country in 1972.

Although I had never had to deal with this sort of tragedy, I cannot forget the look in my mothers eyes as she told me of the hardships she and my father had to endure in a land that blacks had inhabited long before the whites showed up.

“One day” she said, “We will be free. I don’t know how many more have to suffer jail, beatings, demolition of they’re homes, or even death, but one day we will be free.”

Now, after more than centuries of oppression at the hands of the Boer (White Farmer), we were free.

As I stood along a stretch of road while monitoring the voting process, an old man, accompanied by his grandson, slowly approach and looked on at me. I smiled at him, but he kept his gaze fixed. I began to feel uneasy wondering if I had done something to anger him. Finally, he spoke:

“I know you" he said, "Your Mthuthuzeli Biko’s boy are you not?”

Shocked, I nodded my head. The man told me that he had met my father back in 1960 at an ANC meeting. My father had given a speech about the need for blacks to feel proud of their blackness, to embrace it that we were every bit as good as the whites. Later, in the 70s, my cousin Bantu Stephen Biko would evolve this concept into the philosophy of Black Consciousness.

“I never forgot that lesson” the old man replied. “Please tell him thank you on my behalf. He helped free me from the chains of my mind.”

I looked on as the old man walked on, patiently waiting his turn to cast his ballot for the very first time.

Looking on at him I thought to myself; “Isn’t that a helluva thing?”

I think back on that moment for the simple fact that I see far too many similarities between South Africa and Palestine.

Recently, while I was in Bethlehem, a taxi driver dropped me off at the Northern terminal and pointed to the horrendous structure:

“Look” he said, “What can we do. This is our life.”

Turning too me he asked;

“Do you understand this sort of pain? Do you know what it feels like to have so much sufferring in your life and no one cares?”

I remained silent. I knew the pain he spoke of and I could understand exactlly what he talked about. He and I are brothers, joined forever in our common humanity of sufferring.

I hope, one day, in the not too distant future, that driver will be able to see what I saw in South Africa; and utter the same words I spoke on this glorious day 12 years ago:

“Isn’t that a helluva thing?”

Photo by: Peter Magubane

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Settlers to get East Jerusalem police building in exchange

Right-wing nonprofit associations are building the new Judea and Samaria District Police building in the E-1 corridor between Jerusalem and Ma'aleh Adumim. In exchange they will receive the current police building, located in the heart of the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Ras al-Amud, according to an advocacy group.

The Ir Amim advocacy group made this claim in a petition to the High Court of Justice against the construction of the new station.

The lot where the current police building is located was purchased by the Bukharan Community Committee during Ottoman rule in order to expand the Jewish cemetery on the Mount of Olives, but it was never used for this purpose. Following the 1967 war, the State of Israel expropriated the land for the police station. For years discussions were held between representatives of the Bukharan community and the government over compensation for the land.

In recent years, settler organizations have taken notice of the police station, mainly because it is across from Ma'aleh Zeitim, the neighborhood built by American millionaire Irwin Moskowitz within the Palestinian neighborhood of Ras al-Amud.

At the time, Nadav Shragai reported in Haaretz that the settlers' "big plan" was to receive the police building from the Bukharan Community Committee, which would give them significant territorial contiguity within Ras al-Amud.

Last July an agreement was signed between the committee and the Israel Police stipulating that the committee "or its agents" would carry out all the construction work on the new police station, after which it would receive the police building in Ras al-Amud. Experts estimated the cost of the project at $10 million.

The agreement authorized the committee to contract out all of the labor, from the architect and interior designer to the electricity and safety engineer. The only restriction was that they had to meet the field security requirements of the Israel Police. The agreement was signed by National Police Commissioner Moshe Karadi.

The agreement stipulated that the Bukharan Community Committee would obtain from the Civil Administration a 14-dunam (3.5 acre) allotment for the station in the E-1 area.

Approval was almost immediate, and in August then-prime minister Ariel Sharon ordered the plans for the new police station in Ma'aleh Adumim submitted for approval. Last February the Civil Administration's Supreme Planning Committee approved the plan after rejecting objections submitted by Palestinian residents in the area.

In its petition, Ir Amim claims the agreement proves that the real reason behind moving the Judea and Samaria police station to E-1 is to enable the settlers in Ras al-Amud to use the building.

"The real beneficiaries of the plan are not the residents of Judea and Samaria, whom the police are supposed to serve, but rather the settlers in East Jerusalem," the petition states. Ir Amim's attorney, Daniel Seidemann, claims that representatives of settler associations helped to plan the new police station and even visited the site when the decision makers were there.

According to the agreement between the police and the Bukharan committee, as well as a separate agreement between the committee and the Israel Lands Administration regarding the Ras al-Amud property, after the agreement was carried out, "The land shall stop serving the needs of the public."

This means the land could be used for residential purposes. There is a serious shortage of public institutions such as kindergartens and schools in East Jerusalem, and in many cases the municipality has claimed there is not enough land for public services. The municipality even used this claim as a reason for failing to meet an explicit promise to the High Court to build educational institutions in East Jerusalem.

Jerusalem Deputy Mayor Yehoshua Pollak, who is a member of the local planning and building committee, said a zoning change of this kind must be approved by both the local and regional planning councils. He said he cannot remember a permit of this kind ever being approved for Ras al-Amud.

Attorney Avner Salem, who represents the Bukharan committee, refused to discuss the issue.

Seidemann says he has information "from official sources" that settler organizations will receive the police building once it is vacated, and that they are funding the construction of the new police station. He pointed out that the Bukharan committee did not deny these claims when they came up in court, and that representatives of both the settlers and the Bukharan committee confirmed these claims in the past.

The Ministry of Public Security said the Bukharan committee is carrying out the work on the new police station and that it is unaware of any involvement of right-wing organizations.

By Meron Rapoport, Haaretz Correspondent

What objectivity?

I hear more and more in the corporate media the word “objective” being tossed about. The talking heads that one sees on the major networks of ABC, CNN, CBS, NBC, MSNBC and FOX all purports to objective coverage on today’s news.

But the more we hear this, the more it seems that it isn’t so. I hate to break it to you people, but there is no such thing as objective journalism. Not on major issues that are being covered (i.e. Iraq, Palestine, Iran, Domestic spying etc).

For instance, over the last several weeks, there have been a slew of tank shells that have fallen into civilian populated areas in Gaza; yet, outside of the alternative press and independent journalists, there has been no coverage. But, in the same time frame, when a suicide bomber blew himself up in Tel Aviv, the corporate news junkies stumbled over themselves trying to cover the story.

Please understand, I am not saying that the death of those in Israel is no less important than those in Palestine. Death is death. Murder is murder. But I find it odd that the only time when a Palestinian’s name is mentioned, outside of a government official, it is that of a suicide bomber. Rarely have the names of Palestinian victims of Israeli violence been mentioned in the mainstream media.

I have yet to hear the corporate media show photos of Palestinians who have died as a result of the occupation. Too often, the international press receives their information on the events of Gaza and The West Bank from the Israeli Occupation Army. Often the reason that they tend to do this is because they are told that going into The West Bank and Gaza is too dangerous.

So what?

The very profession that we work in demands that we take the risks to get a story out no matter what the cost. Journalist risks there lives constantly, and at times pay with their lives, in order that the World might be able to see the side of a story that has not been heard. Some of the most solid footage the West received on siege in Fallujah was due to two brave journalists working for the Aljazeera Network. The same Aljazeera network that Bush supposedly wanted to bomb a while ago.

A friend of mine, Mazan Dana, was shot in Iraq by American troops covering the war. James Miller, who did freelance work for the BBC, was murdered in Gaza by Israeli soldiers while making a documentary about the catastrophic situation in Rafah Refugee camp.

To be objective (And I am speaking of major news stories i.e. Israel/Palestine, Iraq, Iran etc) is to simply agree with the power structure. To be objective means to toe the company line. To be objective means to give in to the pressure of not pursuing the truth. The very reason that one pursues a story shows that they are not objective; and this isn’t a bad thing it’s good! The job of a journalist is to uncover the hidden stories that are not being reported. We must show the “Other side” of the news. The side that the mainstream press refuses to cover. And if we choose to do this, we can no longer remain objective. If we choose this path we are in essence saying:

“There has to be more to this story than what they are saying. There must be another side to reveal.”

And when we choose to reveal that side, we can no longer call ourselves objective. But what we can be is fair.

One can continue to show the disparity between rich and poor, oppressed and oppressor, haves and have-nots without whoring out one’s journalistic integrity. The question is; will we do it and risk our cushy jobs and status in the eyes of the general public and our smug peers?

Do you have the courage to do this?

Do I?

For more on the disparity of news coverage in Palestine and elsewhere, click on the links below

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Still waiting.

My father once had an interview, that I read about later, with a journalist about the end of apartheid. The journalist felt that apartheid in South Africa at the time in the 1980s was dead.

My father, being the cynical man that he was made this reply:

"Well" he started, "They told me apartheid was dead in the 1950s, but the surpression of communism act said otherwise. They told me it was dead in the 1960s, but the Sharpville Massacre, which left 69 people dead after being shot in the back, showed me otherwise. They told me it was dead in the 1970s, but seeing the slaughter of thousands of children, that began on 16 June 1976, at the hands of the security police told me otherwise. It is now the 1980s and I am still waiting to go to it's funeral."

Still waiting, when will apartheid die all over the World?

Monday, April 24, 2006

Israeli crimes blanked out in UK, but...

Scotland, Thursday, April 18th, 2006
The Tel Aviv bombing on Monday received intensive, extensive, and poignant BBC coverage, including pictures of pieces of human flesh shredded by the force of the explosion. Below is a partial list from occupied Palestine of shillings, killings, robberies, savage beatings, attacks on schools and infrastructure, home demolitions, kidnappings, the use of sewage as a weapon, and more. Virtually all of these Israeli government, military and settler crimes went unreported. BBC viewers were told that Israel would 'retaliate' for the Tel Aviv bombing: we are seeing more of the collective reprisals, themselves war crimes that Palestinians are used to. The Islamic Jihad bomber was not shown as 'retaliating' for any of the thousands of shells Israel has fired into Gaza in recent days; killing children. Viewers are left with the impression of a motiveless, irrational violence, probably caused by hatred of Jews.
Is killing people with high explosives a crime only when the perpetrator doesn't survive? If they go home for a cup of tea afterward and watch TV with their own children, does that make child-murder any less of a crime? Tony Blair and the BBC certainly think so.

The miracle is that so many see through the dishonesty of the BBC and other major British media.
Please join the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and campaign against crime and murder.
British arms sales to Israel doubled in the past year

24 hours to 8am April 19, 2006
Tear-gas grenades fired at schoolchildren
Suicide bomber's parents' house to be destroyed
Israeli troops hold mothers of Occupation resisters
Israeli troops beat up & hospitalise man at work on his land
Israeli soldiers desecrate mosque
3 children injured during Israeli incursions
Journalist beaten up & hospitalised by Occupation troops
322 shells hit northern Gaza in 24-hour day & night blitz
Israeli shelling wounds child & 2 adults.

24 hours to 8am April 18, 2006
Boy aged 14 killed in Israeli shelling
1 air raid – 18 attacks – 36 raids – 26 wounded
Schoolboy injured & school principal beaten up
Village school & homes occupied by Israeli Army
Many homes invaded & 10 occupied by Israeli military
Jenin – 10 children & 10 adults wounded in Israeli incursion
Settlers beat up shepherd & steal 20 sheep
Refugee girl (6) & another child wounded in Israeli raid
Man beaten up & hospitalised during Israeli incursion

24 hours to 8am April 17, 2006
9 killed in Tel Aviv bombing*
Israeli army invdes Gaza. Nablus, Jenin, Qalqilya
Israeli aircraft fires missile at Gaza
Continued military operations conducted by Israel in the northern Gaza Strip - many casualties
Palestinian child killed and two injured by artillery shell near a playground in Beit Lahia.
Artillery shells fired at Sheikh Zayed town, Gaza, near a playground. Mamdouh 'Obaid, died on the way to the hospital.
Wounded, Mohammed Abu Tabaq, 14, and 'Ammar al-Kas, 15.

Tanks shell ed the northern Gaza Strip for the past several days. Hundreds of shells have hit Palestinian homes and civilian and security facilities, According to Israeli sources, 200-300 shells are fired daily at the Gaza Strip. Three Palestinian civilians, including two children, have been killed and 47 other civilians, including 17 children, wounded by the Israeli shelling in the past 8 days. Considerable damage has also been caused to houses, farms, buildings and infrastructure.

PCHR (Palestine Commission for Human Rights) is increasingly concerned over the continued killing of Palestinian civilians, especially children, by the Israeli Military .Since the beginning of 2006, IOF have killed 15 Palestinian children ( 8 in the West Bank and 7 in the Gaza Strip). Thus, the number of Palestinian children killed by IOF in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, since the beginning of the current Intifada in September 2000, has increased to 666.

24 hours to 8am April 17, 2006
9 Wounded in Israeli Incursion into Jenin
Checkpoint Pedestrians Shot at & Attacked with Tear-gas Grenades
Jewellery Taken by Israeli Soldiers in Home Invasion
139 Shells Hit Northern Gaza
Shelling Knocks out Power Grid
2 Curfews
Jerusalem Resident Beaten & Hospitalised
Settlers Stone Vehicles.

24 hours to 8am April 16, 2006
Palestinian Dies from Air Raid Wounds
Villagers' Homes Under Israeli Fire
Israeli Soldiers Beat and Injure Shepherd
Boy (14) Wounded During Israelis Incursion
Man Critically Injured as Israelis Fire on Vehicle
Mentally Handicapped Man Taken Prisoner
Boy (15) Wounded as Israelis Shoot at Civilians
Settlers Beat Up Father & Daughter & Destroy Vineyard.

48 hours to 8am April 15, 2006
Boy (15) Wounded by Occupation Gunfire
Settlers Assault & Expel International Journalists
No Sleep as F16s Menace Night Skies
6 Attacks
2 Houses Occupied – Many Invaded
23 Raids
Man Wounded as Israelis Open Fire in Jerusalem
Boy (15) Taken Prisoner in Home Invasion
Settler Bikers Close Main Road
Troops Beat Up Petrol Station Attendant
Resident Wounded During Israeli Incursion
250 Shells in 23-hour Night & Day Bombardment of Northern Gaza
Israeli Navy Shelling Wounds Two Civilians.

24 hours to 8am April 13, 2006
2 Palestinian Deaths
School Attacked with Stun-Grenades & Tear-Gas
Checkpoint Beating – Man Hospitalised with Internal Bleeding
Boy (17) Deliberately Run Over by Israeli Army Jeep
Israel Orders Gross Desecration of Ibrahimi Mosque
1 Air Raid – 22 Raids – 10 Attacks.

24 hours to 8am April 12, 2006
Occupation claims another child's life
Checkpoint troops beat & hospitalise mentally handicapped man
3 Palestinians hospitalised in yet another checkpoint beating
Mosque worshippers stripped & forced naked into the streets
Settlers close road – raid village – set fire to vehicle
Indiscriminate Israeli fire wounds woman aged 70
231 Israeli shells slam into Gaza
25 Taken Prisoner.

24 hours to 8am April 11, 2006
Shells Hit Houses 1 Death – Girl Aged 7
197 Shells Fired in Day & Night Bombardments
12 Wounded – Including Little Girl in Critical Condition
13 Attacks
27 Raids – 27 Prisoners Taken
67 Restrictions of Movement
Stolen Land to be Used for Racially Segregated Jewish Road
Israeli Shells Set Fire to Palestinian Crops
Israel Orders Destruction of 2 Palestinian Homes.

24 hours to 8am April 10, 2006
3 Deaths Including Boy (17)
Israeli Special Forces Murder Palestinian National Security Officer
Taxi Driver Killed & 8 Wounded in Israeli Shelling
2 Adults & 3 Children Wounded in Day & Night Israeli Shelling
Palestinian Houses Damaged by Israeli Shells
Israeli Army Violence Helps Settlers Occupy Palestinian Home
Homes Vandalised as Israeli Troops Invade Houses
Settlers Seize More Palestinian Land.

24 hours to 8am April 9, 2006
[Source of statistics: Palestinian Monitoring Group]
8 Dead (Total this Month: 18 Including 2 Children)
22 Wounded
2 Air Raids
23 Attacks
21 Raids
68 Restrictions of Movement
Man Hospitalised in Yet Another Checkpoint Beating
Families Forced From Their Homes
Occupation Troops Beat Up Shopkeeper – Vandalise Shop
Settlers Plant Olive Trees on Stolen Palestinian Land.

48 hours to 8am April 8, 2006
1 Death - 3 Wounded in Same Attack
4 Air raids – 22 Attacks – 26 Raids
20 Taken Prisoner
Total Wounded – 16 {Including 2 Children}
Refugee Boy (17) Critically Wounded
318 Shells Fired Into Northern Gaza
Call to Prayer Still Silenced
61 Restrictions of Movement
Settler Gunmen Shoot Up Village
Israeli Soldiers Beat Up & Hospitalise Hebron Resident
4 Dead in Missile Strike 1 Child Aged 7 Among the Dead & 15 Wounded
20 Wounded in Total
2 Air Raids
19 Attacks
23 Raids
65 Restrictions of Movement
1 House Demolished.

24 hours to 8am April 6, 2006
9 Wounded (6 of them Children) During Israeli Incursion
112 Shells Fired into Northern Gaza
Israel Silences Call to Prayer from Ibrahimi Mosque
Another Home Demolished
39 Taken Prisoner Including Palestinian Minister
18 Attacks
29 Raids
61 Restrictions of Movement.

24 hours to 8am April 5, 2006
Israeli Shelling Kills Palestinian
152 Shells Fired on Northern Gaza
House Shelled – Baby (6 Months) & 3 Others Wounded
3 Air raids – 2 Wounded
16 Attacks
34 Raids – 2 Children Wounded
64 Restrictions of Movement
Man Suffers Fractures in Another Checkpoint Beating
Residents Beaten & Confined in 4-hour Home Invasion
Shelling Wounds Man & Damages Sewage Works.

24 hours to 8am April 3, 2006
1 Death & 5 Wounded
10 Attacks
24 Raids
61 Restrictions of Movement
Homes Invaded – 7 Residents Tear-gassed
Settlement of Ariel Deliberately Pollutes Salfit Water Supply
Israeli Shelling Wounds Child (7) & Adult
139 Shells Fired from Israel into Northern Gaza.

24 hours to 8am April 2, 2006
11 Attacks
17 Raids
66 Restrictions of Movement
Raiding Settlers Beat Up Man Aged 60
Family Home Occupied in 32-hour Ordeal
Stone-throwing Settlers Injure International Observer
Settlers Stone Schoolgirls & Houses
Over 133 Israeli Shells Hit Northern Gaza
Israeli Navy Shelling Cuts Power Near Beit Lahiya
Israelis Prevent Repair Work to Electricity Supply.

24 hours to 8am April 1, 2006
4 Israeli Settlers & 1 Palestinian Killed in Suicide Bombing
7 Air raids
9 Attacks
13 Raids
7 Wounded Including a Child
7 Beatings – Boy (17) Hospitalised
Houses Damaged as Israeli Troops Break In
Settler Gunmen Steal Sheep
Settlers Beat Up 3 Villagers
69 Shells and 8 Missiles Fired Into Palestinian Territory
Missile Damages Children's Playground
Missiles Destroy Sewerage & Overpass
1 Death – Buried Alive by Israeli Bulldozers
2 Air raids – Street & Another Children's Playground Hit
15 Attacks
15 Raids
8-year-old Girl Injured in Israeli Home Invasion
Checkpoint Beating – Physically Handicapped Man Hospitalised
Checkpoint Beating – Woman's Arm Broken
Checkpoint Troops Stone Palestinian Vehicles
Israelis Fire 94 Shells & 4 Missiles
72 Restrictions of Movement

24 hours to 8am March 30, 2006
19 Attacks
28 Raids
Refugee Suffers Stroke in Terrifying Home Invasion Ordeal
Physically Handicapped Refugee Assaulted in Home Invasion
Boy (13) Beaten Up & Leg Broken as Israelis Raid His Home
Settler Gunmen Open Fire on Palestinian Ministry Vehicle
Settler Vehicle Runs Over & Injures Girl (12)
Two 14-year-old Shepherds Taken Prisoner.

24 hours to 8am March 29, 2006
7 Attacks – 1 Person Wounded in Hebron
30 Raids – 2 Children Wounded
60 Restrictions of Movement
Jerusalem – Settlers Occupy Palestinian Man's Home
Villager Beaten Up During Israeli Incursion
Settler Gunman Threatens Vehicles on Main Road
Israeli Soldiers in Jerusalem Beat Up & Hospitalise Palestinian Man
Israeli Settlers Beat Up Palestinian Farmers & Stone People's Homes.

24 hours to 8am March 28, 2006
12 Attacks – Resident Shot Dead in Home Invasion
26 Raids – 8-year-old Refugee Child Wounded
Man Beaten Up During Israeli Incursion
Refugees Beaten During Incursion into Refugee Camp
Palestinian Shepherds Under Fire from Green Line
Villagers Forced to Sign to Hebrew-Written Documents.

24 hours to 8am March 27, 2006
1 Death
6 Air Raids
8 Attacks
28 Raids
Two Wounded in Missile Strike on School
Israel Closes Al Aqsa Mosque Compound
Israel Orders Destruction of Mosque & Kindergarten
Man Hospitalised in Yet Another Checkpoint Beating
Two Men Hospitalised After Savage Beating
Settler Gunmen Beat Family Members with Clubs & Rifle Butts.

24 hours to 8am March 26, 2006
Boy (16) Shot Dead on Green Line
1 Air Raid
8 Attacks
19 Raids
Hundreds of Fruit Trees Destroyed for Segregated Jewish Road
Settlers Destroy Olive Trees
Settlers Invade & Trash Home – Beat Up Children & Father
Israeli Navy Fire Off Rafah City Beach.

48 hours to 8am March 25, 2006
24 Attacks
39 Raids
13 Wounded
53 Restrictions of Movement
Home Invasion; Contents Trashed & Holy Qur'an Burnt
3 Palestinians Beaten Up
Resident Shot & Wounded During Israeli Incursion
Israeli Death Threats to Residents of Northern Gaza
Israeli Navy Fires on Beach at Rafah
House Partially Demolished in Israeli Incursion
Boy Critically Wounded by Abandoned Israeli Mortar
Israeli Violence Represses Protests – Many Beatings & Injuries
Child Shot & Wounded During Protest Meeting
Israeli Army Beats Up Boy Aged 14
Occupation Troops Rampage in Hebron
Settlers Destroy Palestinian Olive Trees

24 hours to 8am March 23, 2006
2 Dead
14 Attacks – 27 Raids
26 Taken Prisoner Including Wounded Child
2 Houses Demolished
3 Land Thefts
1 Curfew
60 Restrictions of Movement
Villager Savagely Beaten & Hospitalised
Palestinian Security Officer Hurt in Another Checkpoint Beating

24 hours to 8am March 22, 2006
Refugee Shot Dead in Israeli Incursion & Home Invasion
7 Attacks
27 Raids - 1 Wounded
36 Taken Prisoner
1 House Demolished
59 Restrictions of Movement
Israeli Navy Fires on Fishing Boats & Nearby Beach

24 hours to 8am March 21, 2006
10 Attacks – 7 Wounded – 19 Raids
20 Taken Prisoner – 16 Detained
3 Additional Annexation Wall Building Sites: Total 31
56 Restrictions of Movement
Many Terrifying Night Home Invasions in 9 Towns & Villages
Cruel Violation in Land Trapped by Israel's Annexation Wall

24 hours to 8am March 20, 2006
Woman Beaten & Hospitalised in Checkpoint Beating
9 Attacks
1 Wounded in Shelling of Northern Gaza
28 Raids
22 Taken Prisoner
53 Restrictions of Movement
Cash Taken from Home during Home Invasion.

24 hours to 8am March 19, 2006
Correction to yesterday's report: the little girl shot dead by Israeli troops was described as being twelve years of age. In fact Akbar Zayed was eight years old.
2 Air Raids
1 Attack
22 Raids
64 Additional Restrictions of Movement
Checkpoint Detainees Subjected to Prophet Mohammed Insults.

48 hours to 8am March 18, 2006
9 Attacks – Israeli Troops Shoot & Wound 2 Children
3 Injuries
20 Raids
54 Additional Restrictions of Movement
Checkpoint Soldiers Shoot & Wound Taxi Driver
Two Residents Beaten During Home Invasions
12-year-old-Girl Dies in Enemy Assault on Yamun
14 Wounded
13 Attacks
24 Raids
52 Additional Restrictions of Movement
1 House Partially Demolished

NOTE: This list was compiled by The General Union of Palestinian Students

The Relevance Of This New Post Zionism Debate To Me

my mother has always been
plaiting hair de-tangling grape
vines preparing plates of
mahshi between prayers and
sharpening machetes
her breath has always been

ancestry deep rooted in sun
in land she raised
children to songs of war and
kept the rhythm of faith
always on beat

and i have always been

the calamity nightmare come true
problem with no
solution backward dirty other
these are not my words

they have never been

never left been here
standing rush of race in my blood
has quieted to this
stillness and knowing

i have always been
my father always was
refugee nuisance man without
land still is his
survival has always been

and we exist
as reminders museum quality exhibits of
how spirits works through allah through
christ through orisha through jinn

we exist as families who argue women
who sin men who
hurt basic people mere spirits
have always been never
perfect and yes sometimes
brothers cut each other to see
if they still bleed still cry and
yes sisters love each other sometimes
just cause no one else does
ever has

always known different truths like
how the number dead is
always double the official like
daughters were raped in
front of mothers
no matter what else was said

always been
i had almost forgotten
believed the hype
but look
i look into my sister's eyes
hear the way she says
palestine palestinian
and know

this is nothing new
we have always
i have always been
and post

Suheir Hammad

Friday, April 21, 2006

Israel considers reoccupying Gaza

Israel has stated that it will reoccupy Gaza if Hamas continues to allow cross border rocket attacks into Israeli territory.

Major-General Yoav Galant, who heads Israel’s southern command, said he was considering a range of options including the possibility of re-entering Gaza.

However, sources within the Senior General Staff told Haaretz that it was still too early for a head-on confrontation with the Palestinian Authority and the Hamas led government. They further stated that Israel is “scoring points” in the international arena in view of its restraint following the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv.

In addition, IDF commanders believe that Hamas will have trouble trying to secure funds that they require to run the Palestinian Authority and to pay the wages of some 160,000 public sector workers.

Indeed, the US and the EU have officially cut off aid as well as diplomatic contact with the PA until Hamas renounce violence and ceases calling for the destruction of Israel.

Both bodies stated that they will continue to help the Palestinian population meet their basic needs by proposing to reallocate part of these funds to the UN and other international relief bodies in order to offset the human and social consequences of their sanctions.

But the humanitarian medical group MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders) considers this proposal unacceptable. MSF is concerned with the far-reaching socio-economic future of the population already sorely tested by years of conflict and occupation.

There is widespread concern that the hardship will worsen. This concern is no more apparent than in the Gaza Strip where nearly half of the 1.4 million residents are already below the poverty line.

Both the UN and OXFAM have warned of a potential dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

According to Iain Guest who wrote in electronic intifada:

“Canada, Australia, the United States and the European Union have all announced their intention to boycott the PNA, in an effort to force Hamas to recognize Israel and join the peace process. These governments appear to have few qualms about using aid as a blunt political instrument. They feel that any harm to Palestinians can be mitigated by providing humanitarian aid through the UN and nongovernmental organizations.

This policy is fraught with risk. In the first place, it is certain to increase the pressure on ordinary Palestinians – the exact reverse of what is intended. Sanctions always fall most heavily on the poor, as we saw in Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, and of course in Iraq under Saddam Hussein. The tougher the sanctions, the easier it is for those in power to exploit their monopoly over scarce resources.”

An open letter to Roger Waters

Dear Mr. Waters,

Let me start off by saying that I am deeply pleased and grateful for your decision to NOT perform in Israel.

Furthermore, I commend you for continually voicing your opposition to ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine.

I will admit that I have not been a fan of PINK FLOYD the rock band you helped found, but I will let you know from this day forward, you will always be one of the musicians I look up to. Sadly, there doesn’t seem to be very many in the celebrity world that realizes the dire situation that exists in Palestine today.

For instance, Sharon Stone the Hollywood actress of such films as; BASIC INSTINCT 1 & 2, CASINO (For which she received an Academy Award nomination), and of course SLIVER (Never saw it? Don’t worry neither did most of the world), came to Israel. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz she stated that her visit to Israel did not imply taking sides. “I am not for or against one side,” she said, further saying: When my children fight, I don’t choose any side, either. I love them equally.” With this comment, Ms. Stone shows that she is wholly unaware of the continuing cycle of violence that has happened to Palestinians for almost 40 years. By choosing not to take a side, she is in fact endorsing the gross human rights violations that Israel continually commits against the Palestinians.

Mr. Waters, it would be nice to think that Ms. Stone is the exception to the rule, but alas, there are more from the entertainment world who are following her lead and gleefully coming to Israel: the rapper 50 Cent and Ziggy Marley (Son of the late singer Bob Marley), are but two of the entertainers scheduled to come and perform in Israel.

The entertainment world, in general, is notoriously slow to acknowledge the suffering of the two-thirds world for as long as I can remember. I grew up in Apartheid South Africa. Many times those within the arts and culture aspect of the anti-apartheid movement implored celebrities from the arts and sports to boycott coming but their calls fell on deaf ears. The lure of money took over principles and they came in droves until bold and conscious driven people such as Arthur Ashe, singer/actor Harry Belafonte and actor Danny Glover spoke out against the injustice and refused to come. I now count you among a small but hopefully growing group of entertainers, along with Michael Franti and actor Richard Gere who have voiced their opposition to the Israeli occupation.

Mr. Waters, know that there will be many that say that you are taking an ill-advised stand on the conflict. They will say that you are professing your Anti-Semitism. But know that the Israeli apologists that say these things feel that anyone who says anything critical of Israel is considered Anti-Semitic.

But the criticism that is directed at the Israeli government is valid. In fact, The United Nations and the overwhelming majority of nations recognize Israel across the world as a repressive occupying power that maintains illegal settlements in occupied Palestine. Further, it violates international law, UN resolutions and basic human rights of the Palestinian people. Since 1948 Israel has not recognized the Palestinian refugees right of return, yet all the while resettling their own Jewish population on land that has been confiscated by force from the Palestinian population.

But I do not wish to regurgitate these facts to you sir. From what I have heard and now have seen, I am quite certain that you are well aware of these facts.

Again Mr. Waters, I thank you for having the courage to stand for peace and justice rather than sit down and take a paycheck.

I hope that more musicians, sports personalities, actors and other artists will follow your lead and speak out against Israel’s illegal, immoral and inhuman occupation. Only then will we see true peace and stability in a region that desperately needs it.

Chris Brown

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Smells like teen spirit

I recall a time when I was ten years old. A friend of mine, John, were wanting to play football with another neighborhood boy, Kenny, but we didn’t have our own ball. Kenny, however, did have a ball and agreed to play with us.

Now, understand, we were all about the same age. We had been friends for a little over two years. I had recently moved to California from South Africa and I still had difficulty understanding English. But I knew the rules of the game because we had all been playing since we could walk.

It started off easy enough; we choose our players for the two sides, had a coin toss to see which goals we would defend; Easy right?

Well that is when the problems started. Now, before I go any further, it might be worth mentioning that Kenny is not a very good footballer in fact, he stunk. I mean he flat out couldn’t play. He had no natural athletic ability; he constantly got winded due to his asthma condition, and he seemed very reluctant to mix it up when the rest of us who were flying across the field, sacrificing our bodies the way normal, slightly deranged ten-year-old boys do. At one point, someone decided that we were playing in The World Cup The USA VS South Africa (This happened by default because I was the only kid who had lived outside the country).

During the second half, Kenny managed to steal the ball away from one of our players. He had an open field and only one kid to beat, the goalkeeper that would be me. Kenny charged hard, I tried to take an angle so I could have the goal defended as best I could. Kenny, neared, sweat dripping down his chubby cheeks, wheezing all the way; I heard John cry out, stop him Topher (my nickname; short for Christopher)! I decided not to wait; I bolted towards Kenny and slid just as he began to strike. I cleanly hit the ball and took out Kenny’s legs in the process. The ball careened off the wooden fence that served as one of the boundaries and rolled to a bush where it stayed.

My teammates all came over and cheered. There was quite a bit of backslapping and hand shaking going on. Congratulations were showered upon me.

“Great job Topher!”

“Man, you ought to turn pro after a save like that!”

“Awesome buddy, that’s why you’re the best!”

As I soaked in this adulation, I heard a loud shout from just behind me.

“Foul!” said the voice.

“What?!” I replied incredulously.

“Foul. You totally fouled me!”

It was Kenny. He walked over and picked up the football and placed it just outside the goalie box.

“I get a free kick.” He said.

“Are you serious?” John asked, looking on in total disbelief.

“Of curse I am! Topher, you totally fouled me and you know it!”

“No I didn’t Kenny. Knock it off and suck it up! That was a clean save.”

Kenny looked around hoping that his own teammates would chime in and help him out. Hoping that someone would step in to rescue him from this awkward position.

There was silence.

Finally, Kenny picked up his football and began heading to his house. The rest of us looked on at him, saying nothing. What just happened here, we thought to ourselves. Then John called out to him:

“Where you going Kenny?”


“But we’re playing, it’s the second half.”

“I quit!” Kenny replied.

“You can’t quit The World Cup!” John shouted.

But it was too late. Kenny kept walking, turned the corner and disappeared.

There’d be no World Champions on this day.

We all stood around for a moment looking at each other. Then, slowly, we all began to head home, convinced that our side would have taken the Championship, but never fully knowing now.

A few days later, Kenny and his family moved away. None of us ever found out where. We never did finish that game due to the fact that none of us had a ball to play with.

I relate this story to you today for a reason. Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa is planning a trip to Ramallah to reciprocate the recent visit to South Africa of the president of The Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas – and to talk to Hamas.

But as anyone knows, meeting with Hamas will anger Israel and rule out any chance of Mbeki playing a mediating role in the conflict between Israel and Palestine, a role that he has deeply coveted.

Mbeki has an “open invitation” to visit Israel and wants to take up the offer. But Israel has made it very clear that it is toughening its attitude towards Hamas and is trying to do as much as it can to isolate the organization, which is dedicated to the destruction of the Jewish State. In fact, last week, Israel announced that it would not talk to anyone who talks with Hamas.

Get the picture?

For all the years I spent living in Palestine and just recently coming back, I have noticed the same thing. Israel wanted Hamas to cease with suicide bombings, they did, but Israel continued targeted killings on Palestinians fighters and civilians alike.

Both the US and Israel wanted the Palestinians to hold free and fair, democratic elections, and when Hamas won by a large majority, both countries cried “Foul!” and said that they would not bother talking to them. Both the US and Israel have cut off all aid to the PA, and essentially placed the entire Palestinian people on collective punishment for actually showing both countries how democracy works in the electoral process.

Hmmm…I don’t know about you but it seems that I’ve figured out where Kenny may have ended up after all these years.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Letter to President Bush

Dear Mr. President,

Look, I know you’re busy not taking care of the folks in New Orleans, defending Donald “Rummy” Rumsfeld bad mismanagement of the war, but I have to say, I’m quite impressed with you wanting to invite those boys from the Iraqi Natinal youth soccer team to The White House.

Good on ya mate!

Boy, just think how good that’s going to look on your resume when you leave office in two years, or at this rate sooner but no negative thoughts now this is a time for joy!

I mean, never mind, that the man who sponsored the trip for these young war-torn traumatized lads is a big oil executive who has ulterior motives, that’s beside the point. The point is, that you’re making an effort to understand more about Arab culture, and that’s a good thing. If you don’t mind me quoting Mr. Albert Huddleston, the oil executive who made the trip possible:

“I think it’s important that we have the young of tomorrow in America and also in Iraq and other countries know each other.”

Too bad someone couldn’t have thought to get a Palestinian boys soccer team over to play in this world youth tournament. But you know what, that’s not your problem, because you’ve pretty much severed ties with the Palestinian Authority anyway and cut off aid to them as well.

You know on second thought, maybe it isn’t a wise idea to invite the Palestinian kids. I mean, they’d just, eventually blow something up, throw rocks at their opponents, or cause some other sort of mayhem. Don’t ya think?

Oh well, it’s not like the Palestinian kids would be missed, right? I mean most people figure they are busy making bomb-belts right now, or hurling deadly stones at gun-toting, brave Israeli soldiers, trying to defend their country, based on how the mainstream media reports these things.

Yeah, it’s better this way. You can only screw up one country and it’s people at a time. Right? That whole Afghanistan thing, no one is going to remember that over time anyway. And after the kids meet you and Laura, and your dog…Oh, by the way, maybe the dog shouldn’t be around when the kids meet you, if they were observant Muslims it would be inappropriate.

Now, where was I…Oh yes, after the kids meet you and Laura, there would be such an out flowing of love and joy that I’m sure they will look gleefully at going home to instability and strife, to gun wielding militias, Friday prayer suicide bombings, and a coalition force that has probably killed one or more of their family members, or at the least, detained a father, brother, sister or mother. But like I said, I’m not going to mention any of that. That’s just negative talk. And we all should be proud that you’re making such an effort to reach out. In fact, I’m heading back to Palestine in December for at least a couple of years. While I’m there if I hear any Palestinian children whine about lack of food, medicine, security, education, or freedom of movement, I’ll say: “Shut your pie hole! The man had some Iraqi kids over at the White House for Humus and pita, what more do ya want!”

Keep up the good work Sir.

Chris Brown

P.S. This may not be the right time to ask, but do you think I could get my 40 acres and a mule. Former President Lincoln promised my family and other African American families this very thing. Look it up. But like I said, we can talk about that in another letter. Thank you, Sir.

Photo by: Nayef Hashlamoun

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Seems so simple when it's on television.

Yesterday, April 17th in Palestine was Prisoners Day. A solemn reminder of just how bad the situation in Palestine has become.

On Sunday I happened to turn on the television and came across the news program “60 MINUTES” Usually, I don’t watch the mainstream media but the first story grabbed my attention and I felt I had to watch.

The story dealt with Palestinian Prisoners in Israeli prisons. I sat and watched as Bob Simon interviewed Abdullah Bargouhti, a man whom Israel claims is behind the most deadliest suicide bombings that resulted in the deaths of 66 people.

I found an exchange between Simon and Bargouhti to be quite interesting:

The most notorious of all the prisoners held at the Be'er Sheva Prison is Abdullah Barghouti. It's not easy to get to see him because he’s being held in indefinite solitary confinement. He's been convicted of being the mastermind behind Hamas’ deadliest suicide bombings, responsible for the deaths of 66 people, including five Americans. How does he feel about this death toll?

"I feel bad because the number only 66. This the answer you want to hear it?" Barghouti told Simon.

"I want to hear what you have to say," Simon replied.

"No, this is the answer they want to hear it? Yes, I feel bad, because I want more," Barghouti said.

I found this exchange interesting because, to me, people in the West want people like Bargouhti to have these feelings; that they are glad that they killed 66, 100, or 3,000 people; and they are now dancing in the streets for joy.

But what many of us continue to forget is to ask ourselves the question of why someone would do what he or she has done.

What drives a person to become a suicide bomber?

What compels someone to walk into a crowded market and destroy their life and the lives of others?

The answers are never easy, nor simple. But, as a person who lived in Palestine for three years; and witnessed children being threatened by soldiers, settlers, and police; whose parents, siblings, and extended families endure constant harassment, threat of arrest constantly, home demolitions, and of course extra judicial killings, one can see that there is a strong motivation to seek revenge.

I do wish that Simon had delved deeper into the causes that make these young men, an on occasion women, commit these horrible acts. It would have given people who know nothing about this conflict a better idea of what is going on.

But this seems to be the perpetual problem. Yesterday there was a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that received a mountain of coverage in the mainstream press as well as the alternative media. But yet, last week, when the Israeli Army was firing 300 shells a day into populated areas and saying that they would continue the practice, most of the mainstream press barely covered the issue.

Many Palestinians I know keep asking the same question: “No one knows of our story. No one knows about our suffering.”

From the way the media portrays things nowadays, they’re right.

Photo by: Nayef Hashlamoun

Monday, April 17, 2006

How long?

We see the sufferring in newspapers, online, hear it on the radio, yet, nothing happens for the good of the people.

Parents bury children, children bury parents.

What can we say to those with anguished faces, filled with rage, sorrow, and despair?

We must be the ones who give the people a voice. We must tell their stories. We must not forget them.
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A friend of mine once spoke to me when we were both attending the funneral of a South African activist in 1992 who had been killed by the South African Security Police; "I'm getting tired of going to funnerals. Just once, I'd like to be invited to a wedding reception, birthday party, or happy event. How many more of our own must we bury before someone takes notice and says, 'Enough!'"

How long will it continue? It will continue until we all have the courage to say "Enough!" and put an end to all this madness.

Friday, April 14, 2006

FLASHPOINTS Radio Interview

Please feel free and listen in to the radio interview that I did yesterday with Nora Barrows-Friedman of FLASHPOINTS RADIO, regarding my recent trip to Palestine and my concern for the future of this land.

Click here and you will go to the FLASHPOINTS website. The interview is under the Thursday, April 13, 2006.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

They have to wait?

Often, in my discussions with people I talk to in The United States and Europe, I hear the same refrain: “Well, I know it’s bad right now in Palestine but the people just have to be patient and wait. Things will get better.”

Well, waiting is fine for a letter to come from an aunt or uncle on your birthday. Waiting is okay to run down on Christmas day to open up your presents.

And there is no problem waiting in line at the bank to cash your paycheck.

But when you have seen Israeli soldiers and settlers shoot, bomb, and stab your parents at will; when you have seen hate-filled border police curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your siblings with impunity, when you see the vast numbers of your Palestinian brothers and sisters cut off from one another by a supposed “Security wall” that is nothing more than a large outdoor prison; when you suddenly find yourself at a loss for words because your five year old boy wants to know why he cannot visit Jerusalem, even though he was born there but his parents hold West Bank IDs, and you see tears welling in his eyes when you explain that most of the land is closed off to him simply because he is Palestinian, and see the clouds of inferiority that begin to form in his once creative mind, and see him distort his personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness towards Israelis; when you have to create a lie when your beautiful seven year old daughter asks: “Abu (Father) why do Israelis and the world treat Palestinians so mean?”; when it takes you two hours instead of the normal 20 minutes to get from one village to the next because you are not allowed to drive on “Israeli only” roads; when you are humiliated day in and day out by 20 year old soldiers at checkpoints who really don’t give a damn about whether you have a permit to go to a hospital in Israel or not; when your first name becomes “terrorist” and your family name becomes “Arab”; and your grandparents are not afforded the respect they are due; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Palestinian, living, always, on the edge, never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued always with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “invisibility”, and you wake up everyday saying to yourself; “Today can’t be worse than yesterday.” But somehow it always is; then you will begin to understand why the Palestinians cannot wait.

NOTE: The Inspiration for this post came from Martin Luther King’s “LETTER FROM A BIRMINGHAM JAIL”

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

8 Questions for Prime Minister Ehud Olmert

Hello, is this thing on? Hello… Oh, okay, glad to have this opportunity to ask you a few questions Prime Minister Olmert. I’d appreciate a response but I know your busy trying to run Israel, so I’ll be quick.

1. I’m not a lawyer or anything, but isn’t what your doing in Gaza a war crime?

2. Mr. Prime Minister, did you know that the settlers keep popping up illegal outposts all over The West Bank? Just thought I’d let you know.

3. Mr. Prime Minister, couldn’t you speak to the US and EU about not giving money to the PA? It seems to me this is just another form of collective punishment.

4. Not to sound pessimistic, but whether you call it a terminal or not, its still pretty humiliating for those who have to go through it. Mr. Prime Minister, have you yourself, or anyone in your family ever had to go through such a humiliating experience?

5. Oh by the way, did you know that the majority of the settlers really don’t want to be in The West Bank? Oh, I have an idea! Let’s move them all to Israel. Hell, I’ll fly over and help with the moving boxes if you need. Although I will demand cake for my services.

6. Think about it, is it really wise to have The Christian Zionists as an ally? I’m a Christian and I don’t even trust’em!

7. Am I really Anti-Semitic when I say that Israeli government policy is a danger not only to Israel, but also to Palestine?

8. Admit it, you really didn’t think Hamas was going to win did ya?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Activist Tom Hurndal vindicated...well sort of.

As I sit here writing, I am numb at news that comes out of London. Tom Hurndal a young man who voluntered with The International Solidarity Movement (ISM), and someone I personally trained in non-violence for the organization, has received vendication (post-humously) on the shooting that took his life two years ago.

However, Israel never issued an apology for his death. Nor did they ever send condolences to his family. I figure they might be to busy dropping bombs on famalies in Gaza. Yeah, that must be it.

To read more on this story click here

Monday, April 10, 2006

And so it goes.

As a new day arises, the same old things continue to happen in Israel/Palestine. The Israeli government said it would sever all ties with the Hamas led government because of it is a "hostile entity."

However, the government of Israel said it will continue talks with Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen).

During my recent time in Palestine, I spoke with many people who felt that it didn't matter who was in charge of the PA. They felt that Israel has no intention of negotiating a just and lasting peace.

Many feel that it wouldn't make a difference if Hamas, Abu Mazen or Ghandhi, for that matter, negotiated with the Israelis. No substantial gains would be made by the Palestinians.

It is ironic that the Palestinians are being told to lay down their arms by the Israelis. When in fact, extra-judicial killings continue to happen in Gaza and The West Bank at the hands of the Israeli millitary.

Both Israel and The United States claim to be democracies, and have encouraged the Palestinians to show their own desire for freedom by voting in a free and fair election. Well, this happened back in January, but not the way the Americans and Israelis would have hoped.

I remember watching Bush stand before the White House Press corps right after the elections. He had a bewilldred look on his face. And said that he could not have any contact with a government that had an "armed wing." I'm not sure what he call's the NSA, CIA, FBI and the Armed forces, but that's for another time.

There will continue to be more of the same in The West Bank and Gaza. The Israelis will continue to act unilaterally on setting borders. The US will continue to fund the destruction of Palestine, and many of us will sit back and say nothing. And so it goes.

Friday, April 07, 2006

EU suspends monies to PA

As of this morning, the European Union (EU) has mde it known that it will no longer be giving the Palestinian Authority (PA) finances in light of the fact that Hamas is leading the Palestinian government.

In addition to the EU, the US is also suspending aid to the Hamas led government, citing Hamas non complience for not recognizing Israel's right to exist.

At the present time, the Bush Administration has no official or unofficial communication with the PA, and has no plans to do so in the future.

The Hamas led government lashed out saying that such a move is essentially "collective punishment" of the Palestinian people.

It has been noted by the United Nations Releif Workers Agency (UNRWA), that the PA is facing a severe crisis in Gaza due to the karni crossing constantly being closed to any humanitarian aid.

Presently, Israeli unemployemnt is 8.9%, while the Palestinian unemployment rate is estimated at 25-31%.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The play's the thing.

You could hear the low rumbling from all the young boys in the room as they sat in a "U" shape before me around three long folding tables.

Finally, one of the boy's, Hammad, raised his hand.

"You mean we're going to do all of this in 45 minutes?" He inquired.

"Yes." I responded, "I promise you. You can do this."

What "this" happened to be involved writing, directing, and performing a play in under an hour.

A friend of mine asked me to participate in National Reading Week here in Palestine. When she first presented the idea, I looked on a bit unsure of what I could bring these kids.

The kids I am refering to are from Al Fawwar refugee camp that resides close to the town of Dura, near Hebron. The camp is run by United Nations Relief Workers Agency (UNRWA). Unemployment runs high here, more than 60% of all famalies live below the poverty line, and the camp is under constant harassment from the Israeli army. Children don't really have an outlet, but my friend thought that teaching them about art might be of some use.

After awhile, she talked me into doing a workshop on play-wrighting.

As I stood before the 18 boys who had ventured into the Palestinian Cultural Center, I told them of how I first came to love the theatre. At eight years old, my sister took me to see my first play. We lived in a township called Ginsburg near East London in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa. Because of apartheid, we could not go to White locations to see such things so a man in our township performed for us in the center of our camp.

The stage consisted of three beat-up, fold away tables and several parafin lamps to serve as the stage lighting. On the stage sat a chair and nothing else. When the actor appeared, he sat on the chair and told of his youth growing up in the township from infancy to adulthood. All he used to describe those he encountered along his journey were the minimal in props; a rubber mustache, wig, and various hats.

I sat spell-bound at how he made me feel. I thought the people he spoke of and transformed into, were right next too me.

After the show, I dragged my sister with me in order that I could meet him. Shyly, I inquired how he managed to do something so mystifying. He bent down and pointed to his brain.

"Up here." he said, "I can create anything I want."

As I related this story to the children, I informed them that they would be making a play from their own imagination and perform it for myself and the other adults who were present.

After explaining, the basics of story structure and the beauty of minimal theatre, I split the boys into two groups. They eagerly went at their task with a ferver that really impressed me.

After 45 minutes, they were ready to present their art. I must admit, that I tend to be skeptical on how these sorts of works might come out, in that there is so little time, but I found myslef impressed with the results.

I emphasized drawing from their own experiences in the camp to create their works, using only boxes, of various sizes (that were supplied for their use), paper, and color pens.

The results from both groups of children spoke of life under ocupation. In particular, dealing with soldiers at checkpoints and the humilation that this induces. I sat, once agian, mesmerized by how they made me visualize the checkpoint and the callous nature of the soldiers.

Shakespere would have been proud.

After the performances, Hammad, the young man whom had spoken up before asked a pointed question:

"Why do this?" He inquired, "What can be the purpose of it all?"

I looked on and smiled, just like the actor who had smiled at me so many years ago in my township, and said:

"Because the Israelis might be able to take your land. They might be able to keep you in camps. They might even be able to kill you. But they can never take your mind. No one can ever take that away from you."

Hammad looked on at me and smiled. He raised his hand once more and said to me that he and the other boys were honored to have me with them.

"The honor is all mine." I replied.

"When will you come back?" He asked.

"Hopefully," I said, "In December of this year."

"We look forward to seeing you then." he said.

God willing, I plan on keeping that promise.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Times up.

My journey is nearly over. Its been over a year and-a-half since I last was in Palestine. A lot has changed since I touched down here and called this place my home. Checkpoints are being replaced with "Terminals." Ariel Sharon, who ran rough-shod over the Palestinians and their land, lies in a coma in a hospital in Jerusalem, replaced by Ehud Olmert. Who, not to be outdone, is trying to shore up permanent borders unilaterally for Israel and a "Supposed" Palestinian state by 2010. Yes many things have changed.

But still familiar things remain. For instance, the blind support of 48 million Evangelical Christians to the State of Israel.More illegal settlements popping up on Palestinian lands.And the obvious anti-Semitic rhetoric that is unleashed whenever anyone speaks out about the Israeli government.

This trip has been a wondrous ride at seeing old friends, making new acquaintances, and bidding farewell to others.

But inspite of all that has gone on since I have arrived back here. In spite of the fact that many days I sat in shock, wondering what will become of all this. I am still filled with hope for the future. How much at the moment, I can't really say, but I have it.

Its time now for me to go back to the confines of the United States. Back to a country that is where I am based but have not called home for quite some time.

I'm not sure where life will take me next. Perhaps there is some way that I can work here in Palestine, as I had always hoped. Buy a house in Bethlehem's Old City, and be able to stand with some many people who have graciously welcomed me into their homes and lives.

I'd love for this to happen. But, at the moment, its all out of my hands. However, know that I will never give up, give in, or move on from the commitment that I have for this place and the people of it.

I recall once when I was still in Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) in Hebron. I appeared from our apartment in The Old City and one of the shopowner's that had known me for quite some time asked me where I was going:

"I am traveling to America." I replied.

"Are you leaving for good?" He inquired.

"No, just for a month or so, then I'll be back."

"Good," he said with a bright partially toothless smile, "Because your home is here not in America."

To this day, that is still the nicest thing anyone in this country has ever said too me.