Saturday, March 31, 2007
Gino Strada Interview - Daniele Mastrogiacomo: Appeal for Liberation of Hostages in Afghanistan
In the photo: Gino Strada with Rahmatullah Hanefi
The head surgeon of the Non-government Organisation raises a sound of alarm for the mediator: “He’s been transferred into a jail in the Capital”
Attilio Bolzoni for La Repubblica
ROME – He has returned to Italy, but his thoughts still turn to Kabul. He is worried about his friend Rahmatullah and he wants him to be liberated immediately. “And, instead we have come to find out just now that he’s been transferred into one of the three prisons of the Afghan Capital,” Gino Strada says, the surgeon who ten days ago brought Daniele Mastrogiacomo safely home. He is expected at the march that should be large this Saturday in Rome at Piazza Navona. He is especially awaiting a signal from the government of Kabul for the release of the head of staff of the Emergency hospital at Laskar Gah.
When was Rahmatullah Hanefi brought to the jails of the Afghani Capital?
“From what we know, Wednesday afternoon he was brought by a convoy of vehicles of the NSD, the Afghani secret services. We have asked to be able to see him, one of our representatives at Kabul tried this morning, without any success: they would not let him meet him. I know that tomorrow Ettore Sequi, the Italian ambassador, will ask officially for a visit with him.
Will Emergency try again to see him or to speak with him?
“Of course, starting tomorrow. Among other things, the Minister of Justice of Afghanistan signed a precise agreement with us: there is a protocol that foresees that all of those in the Afghani hospitals are visited by our doctors at the moment of their entrance into penitentiary. All of the prisoners, no one excluded. But in this case, they are violating the protocol. And then, paradoxically, really, right in this prison of Kabul, Emergency has one of its clinics. In this way, the position of Emergency is up for scrutiny. If this is how things are going to continue, we will be forced to revise our plans in Afghanistan. Certainly, we won’t close the hospitals. But there is going to be reconsideration of Emergency there if we don’t have the guarantees of operating in serenity.”
But the government truly wants you there…
“I repeat: we are not going to leave, perhaps we will have to make some changes.”
How much time do you expect it to take until the position of Rahmatullah is clear, to know why he as taken away by the secret services at dawn on 20 March?
“Nothing will be made clear, because there is nothing to clear, all that remains is to ask for his immediate liberation. Rahmatullah Hanefi is being imprisoned only because he did what the Italian government asked him to do. Through Emergency, he offered his help as mediator to save the life of Daniele Mastrogiacomo. Our friend Rahmatullah had practically done volunteer work for the Italian government. And after that, the Italian government itself made agreements with the Afghan government. At the end of the situation, one of the parties decided that the volunteer had to be imprisoned.”
Who wanted that, in your view?
“The other day, I spoke for a long time with the Afghani Minister of Health, Amin Fatimie. It was an official meeting, the ambassador Sequi was there as well. Would you like to know what the Minister told me? He said that he couldn’t understand perfectly what was happening, that there was something that was not very clear, that there were – and I quote him – invisible hands that were moving things. There may also be invisible hands, but the uniforms that those persons were wearing were quite visible and quite recognisable: they are those of the Afghani secret services, the NSD. Another paradox of this case: Rahmatullah was already arrested in 2001 by the Taleban religious police. Four months of prison was what he had to go through, and to release him, strong intervention and pressure was required. Then the Talebans kept him in all that time, now he’s been jailed again, but for the opposite reasons.
Has Emergency got any information on what has become of Adjmal Nashkbandi, the interpreter of Daniele, captured together with him at Helmand?
“Unfortunately, we are unaware of any news there. The only person who could give us some was Rahmatullah, and now he’s in prison…”
What do you make of the announcement made by Mullah Dadullah at Sky News 24? Was it recorded before the liberation of Daniele, or afterwards?
“I don’t have the elements to establish exactly when Dadullah spoke. But, there is something very anomalous in that message, or at the very least, something new. He has never recognised the Karzai government, and now he says that they have to deal with him in order to release Adjmal. He says that the Afghani government has to speak with him and they have to free the two Talibans that have been requested.”
Mullah Dudallah, in his interview, repeats the idea of his of journalist-spies, on those others who do not recount everything that they’ve seen down in Afghanistan…
“In our hospitals in the past few weeks, there has been a terrifying number of civilian victims. The huge offensive of the NATO in the southern provinces of the country seems to be ignored by everyone. There are so many dead, there are so many wounded.”
Appeal by Daniele Mastrogiacomo
“Adjmal and Rahmat: their freedom is my own”
I am worried, in anguish and afflicted for the fate of Adjmal Nashkbandi and Rahmatullah Hanefi. They are two friends, two men to whom I am linked in an unbreakable bond. Adjmal was my interpreter and had lived through the same prisons with me for two weeks, an imprisonment that has worn us down psychologically and physically, and that we are continuing to suffer. He has seen, just as I have, the assassination of our driver Sayed Agha. I saw them free him from his chains, then I saw them take him away in another convoy. Now I discover, with bitterness, that he is still in the hands of the Talibans. The agreement that was reached, or so our kidnappers told us, foresaw the freedom of both of us. In the same way and at the same time. It was not that way.
Rahmatullah was the person who saved my life, who came to get me, in person, in the deep south of Afghanistan. He is a man of peace, he works for Emergency, a humanitarian organisation. He served a role that was unbiased, he was a mediator. We know that he is being held in some structure of the Afghani police, that he is being interrogated, that no independent organisation, no official authority, has been allowed to meet him. We have no news of his conditions. We don’t know where he is being imprisoned. It is a tragic, unjust reality that is causing me anxiety. Rahmatullah and Adjmal have to be freed immediately. I make an appeal to the government and parliament of Afghanistan, to the president Hamid Karzai, to the United Nations, to the UNAMA, to all the western embassies present at Kabul, to the non-governmental organisations that have been active in Afghanistan for years, so that they mobilise and use any influence they might have, acting in every possible seat, in order to bring Adjmal and Rahmatullah back home. Their freedom is my own.
Translated from Italian by Mary Rizzo for peacepalestine and Tlaxcala.
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Friday, March 30, 2007
Land Day by Mazin Qumsiyeh
But humanity refuses to surrender and I am always amazed first at the resilience, adaptability, and amazing spirit of our people. I am also amazed at the refusal of so many people to play their assigned roles of passive consumers (consumers of products and consumers of propaganda).
The Republican neocons and their Democratic allies in Congress (the leadership of the Democratic party that is beholden to AIPAC) continue to delude themselves that they can shape Western Asia to their (i.e. Israel's) liking. This despite their massive failure in Lebanon, in Iraq, and in Palestine. This despite the accelerating disintegration of Israeli society that stretched from the Defense minister who sold his stock holdings just before ordering the attack on Lebanon to sex scandals and financial corruption involving its key elite leaders. This despite the failure of a Zionist manipulated shrieking media (CNN, Fox etc) in convincing enough Americans (let alone the rest of the world) that the Bush "war on terror" is anything but a scam to profit special interests. This despite the fact that US failing policies profited those they tried to target (look at how Iran profited from the rising oil prices and the mayhem created by the US occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan).
Under the radar, countries from Venezuela to China to Dubai to Iran are dumping the US dollar whose value will continue to decline against the Euro and the Yen. Even the king of Saudi Arabia (Abdullah Al-Saud whose regime would not last without US support) for the first time spoke publicly that "the US occupation of Iraq" (his words) causes violence and must be ended. This despite the fact that as the Zionists target Muslims, hundreds of new mosques are being established in America and Islam is the fastest growing religion in the world (and of course many people are bridging religions and cultures, intermarriage is at an all time high and accelerating). This despite the fact that hundreds of new organizations for solidarity with Palestinian rights are also being established around the world and more people of all faiths are becoming aware of the injustices and demanding human rights (a win-win outcome for ALL people). The most optimistic thing is that activism is flourishing and apathy is receding around the world.
Afghanistan/Association of Non-Violent Objectors: “Not in our Names!”
“The increase in military spending of 11%,” Paolicelli continues, “the confirmation of the project of attack fighter planes with the capacity to transport JSF nuclear warheads, the new USA army base in Vicenza and now the permanence of the failed war in Afghanistan of the Italian troops and the utilisation of mercenaries in Iraq, are the tragic result brought home by the Centre-Left government in less than a year, literally going against the program that it had called to Italians to vote on.
We are asking more than anything for the respect of Article 11 of the Constitution, violated in Afghanistan where a war is underway, where Italian troops participate together with those of the NATO. We are asking for the immediate withdrawal of our troops in order to permit a different kind of presence in Afghanistan, alongside the civil society and the democratic forces, who have been abandoned by the NATO mission. It is worrying that our Foreign Affairs Minister has a-critically cited, as the road towards reconciliation, the foreseen amnesty of the Karzai government, which has been accepted favourably by the warlords who are sitting in Parliament, but very strongly protested by the democratic forces of Afghanistan.
It is upsetting to see many of our Italian Parliament members who had demonstrated in marches in the past few years against the wars, without “ifs, ands, or buts”, but then leave their consciences hanging with their overcoats outside the halls of Parliament, and enter into the Hall in order to refinance Italian participation in a war, hiding themselves behind a finger – given that they support a some kind of proposal for a peace conference (that should take place after the Spring bloodletting) and some additional crumb dropped on the plates of cooperation. All of this is ‘not in our names’.”
Rome 28 March, 2007
Translated by Mary Rizzo for Tlaxcala
Thursday, March 29, 2007
Gilad Atzmon - Ziotacticus Autisticus
In the beginning they heckled me during my concerts. I can recall the first time, it was back in 2001, three days after 9/11. It was at the Hull Jazz festival in a sold out room. During the break, I was asked by a Palestinian Solidarity activist to announce a fundraising event for ‘Palestinian Medical Aid’. Just to be on the safe side, I approached the promoter and asked him whether or not I am allowed to mention the event. With his approval at my disposal I let myself go in between two tunes. It didn’t take seconds before a female Zionist heckler cut into my speech “and what about the Jews?” She shouted in a funny, high-pitch squeaky voice. I was bewildered. I didn’t expect it. Back in 2001 I was still very naïve. I realised that shouldn’t shout back, I had a microphone in my hands and I was backed by a massive PA system. Calmly, I addressed her query. “The Jews? I don’t really know. I assume that they are still consuming chicken soup in vast quantities.” The entire room burst into laughter. It was a kind of comic relief. The heckler lady wasn’t happy at all, she stood up in anger, dragging her obedient husband with her, and left the room with outrage. The audience were watching them make their public way out, giggling to themselves. I was rather shocked with myself.
Apparently, she was just the first bird. Over the next two years, Zionist hecklers kept showing up at my concerts. They always shouted their heads off while I calmly and rather politely dealt with their anger. I learned to count on the support of the PA system. The louder they were, the calmer my reaction was. Sometimes they would swear at me in Hebrew. Again, quietly I would translate their filth into English. “You are son of a bitch, a traitor, piece of shit, Nazi, anti-Semite, I wish you died in the Holocaust, Judenrat, etc”. Night after night the hecklers would end up leaving the room embarrassed and humiliated. On their way out I would kindly explain to the audience that this kind of people are very much the people who are engaged in the criminal Zionist project. At a certain stage, the hecklers admitted defeat, they left me alone. It’s now been four years since we have seen a heckler in any of my concerts.
It didn’t take long before a new tactic of silencing was introduced. This time it was death threats. Death is a big thing in Jewish culture. Simone Weil calls it the ‘destruction of the I’. This fascination with death may explain why Jews at large, both on the left and right, are succumbing to what can be called the holocaust religion.
However, once I was starting to publish my thoughts, a bombardment of hate mail and death threats found their way into my mailbox. They must have believed that that the fear of death would silence me. Naturally they projected their own symptoms onto me. I started to collect the emails at a certain point, hoping to publish them one day. I thought that they convey a very unique glimpse into Zionist poetic thinking.
I’ve obscured the names and email addresses, but all of these letters are real and I have them on file.
For instance Joel Goldtown, didn’t like me very much, yet he was kind enough to wish me a good day:
Sent: Monday, July 11, 2005 9:11 PM
Subject: I think you are a sick motherless bastard. Have a nice day
Brad was slightly more hostile.
From: "Brad Quickie <XXXXXXX@hotmail.com>
Sent: Tuesday, December 02, 2003 2:09 PM
“Hello. Did you really write that anti-Zionism article?
I wish you had died in a terrorist attack in Israel. You deserve it, you
god-damned fucking piece of shit scumbag. It's jews like you who helped the nazis.
Seriously. Fuck you. Go suck the dick of some hamas members, you fucking evil piece of shit.”
I may mention that this email was sent to me in 2003, three years before the Hamas was democratically elected by the vast majority of the Palestinian people. Seemingly Brad was gifted with some prophetic qualities, he suggested that I suck for the right people.
On 21/2/2005 at 5:57 PM, Cjraeli considered new possibilities of Zio-orientated tourism.
Sent: Monday, February 21, 2005 5:57 PM
Subject: (no subject)
“if I ever come to jolly old england I'll be sure to find you...and that day will be your last”
Four minutes later, at 6:01 PM, he just couldn’t stop himself. He made up his mind - he was buying the tickets.
Sent: Monday, February 21, 2005 6:01 PM
Subject: (no subject)
“know what scum? i'm getting my ticket today...see you soon”
I assume that Cjraeli is still hanging around in the UK. It’s been two years by now, he probably is looking for the opportunity to set that appointment between myself and my creator.
Arik Eyesore from Israel promised me that it would happen after one of my shows, I appreciated it, at the end of the day; I really wouldn’t like to die before a gig.
arik eyesore <arikhr@XXXX.net.il>
Sent: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 2:39 PM
Because people like you we had to suffer the SHOA.
Probably your MAMA and PAPA are ashamed of you.
I AM HAPPY THAT YOU ARE THERE AND NOT HERE, SO THE ENGLISH, EUROPEAN AND
GAY PLAESTINES WILL HAVE TO SUFFER YOUR STINKS BRAIN AND YOUR UGLY FACE.
I AND MY FRIENDS PROMISE YOU TO SURPRISE YOU AFTER ONE OF YOUR SHOWS !!!
AND G O F U C K Y O U R S E L F !!!
Moshe Rabin, has a biblical take on the subject. Back in 2003 he wishes me death or disaster within the course of 5 days.
From: Moses Rabin
Sent: Wednesday, January 22, 2003 8:47 AM
Subject: i wish
I wish to you with all my heart that something terrible will happen to you in the next 5 days.
Regards, Moishe R
Seemingly I am still here. Rabin’s curse didn’t really work. Arik may have come to one of my concerts and then fell in love with the music. It is understandable, after so many years, even I learned to like my music.
As bizarre as it may sound, I do not get any death threats anymore. I haven’t gotten a single one for more than two years. I do realise that this doesn’t mean that I will live forever. It doesn’t even mean that my brothers may let me die in a natural manner. It just means that the Zionist operators realised that this tactic is ineffective at least in my case. At the peak of the death threat season I used to get around 20 threats a day, it seemed to me at the time as if the entire Jewish world was up against me. Once the threats stopped I realised that it is more likely that the offensive emails were nothing but an orchestrated campaign set by one Zionist group or another. In fact, nowadays the circulation of my papers is far wider. Some of my papers reach 4-7 million readers, and yet, not a single threatening message is sent to me anymore. Does it mean that they accept me? Do they agree with me? I somehow don’t think so.
In their despair, the Zionist operators are left with no other option but trying to mobilise the Palestinian solidarity movement against me. Their only way to do so was to recruit their tribal brothers within the movement.
On a first glance, this move indeed looked like a highly calculated decision. The Zionist operators could clearly see that I deliberately refrain from collaborating with the racially and tribally orientated Jewish sectarian cells within the movement. Though Jews Against Zionism (JAZ) and Jews for Justice for Palestinians (JfJfP) approached me in the early days, I dismissed them and their approach categorically. My general argument against any form of Jewish clannish activity was rather clear. I believed that since the fight for justice in Palestine was a general humanist call, there was no need to fight it from within a tribally or racially affiliated group. Moreover, if Zionism was indeed wrong for being a racially orientated philosophy, it didn’t make any sense to counter it with another racially orientated ideology (Jews for this or Jews for that). The Jewish left in Britain was rather devastated with my attempt to expose them in such a light. Though more than a few amongst them realised that there was more than a kernel of truth in my criticism, a very few decided to join the Zionist war against me.
The people who led the Zionist fight against me in the name of Marx and Moses were actually far from being eloquent. They just couldn’t win, not even in a million years.
Their tactic was rather shallow, they took a one single quote of mine: “"We must begin to take the accusation that the Jewish people are trying to control the world very seriously." They were convinced that with this single quote they may be able to knock me down. They were obviously wrong. They failed miserably. Why did they fail? Because it seems that every non-tribal person who decided to check out my original text ended up supporting my views. In my original text I was referring specifically to the Zionist Neocons within Bush’s administration, I even listed their names and there were many of them. However, as time went by some very respected academics such as Prof James Petras (The Power of Israel in The United States) shared the will to expose such an obvious observation. Soon after Petras launched his attack, John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt had published their academic report about the Israeli lobby in America. Nowadays, every person who engages in the Israeli Palestinian discourse understands that ‘we must begin to take the accusation’ very very seriously.
Being Jewish ethnic campaigners imbued within the Jewish discourse, the recruited crypto-Zionist agents couldn’t communicate their message to the broad public. The louder they shouted, the lonelier they happened to find themselves. The reason was simple. The views that I happened to carry were becoming mainstream observations. Though the Palestinians fight Israel, Israel is just a code name for the ‘Jews only State’. As sad as it may be, Israel, the racially orientated State is supported by some very influential lobbies all over the world. These lobbies have managed to transform Britain and the USA into an Israeli mission force fighting the last pockets of Muslim and Arab resistance. Israel is the only country on this planet to benefit from the merciless war in Iraq. Every Palestinian solidarity and anti-war campaigner around the world knows it.
Within two years of bitter struggle, the Trojan Horses within the British Palestinian solidarity campaign have managed to marginalise themselves to the point of total humiliation. Two weeks ago they tried to pass a motion at the PSC AGM (Palestine Solidarity Campaign) that would define Zionism and decide which groups and individuals were “anti-Semitic” and thus to officially break all ties with them. They were defeated by an unheard scale of 95%. Basically every Palestinian solidarity campaigner has voted against them and what they represent. The Zionists had to give up on them.
Zionists Collaborate With Evil
Once the crypto-Zionists were minced into dust, the proper Zionists were basically left to fight me on their own.
Following Lenni Brenner who established beyond any doubt the fact that Zionists tend to collaborate with Evil, I was delighted to find out that as soon as I was identified as the official ‘evil’, Zionists started to work for me spreading my message and thoughts.
Failing to draw the necessary conclusion from the shameful defeat of their tribal brothers within the Palestinian solidarity movement, Zionist operators decided to try to cover some mileage recycling the very same quote. Rolling their eyes to the sky they argued, “Gilad says that considering the Jewish Lobby activity in America, the questions regarding the authenticity of the Protocols Of The Learned Elders of Zion are irrelevant.” They would expect to win a debate just there, but as it seems, they could only lose. The reason is simple. With the American Jewish Committee (AJC) publicly pushing for a war against Iran no one really cares whether the Protocols were a Tsarist forgery or not. In short, the Zionists ended up blaming me for telling the truth. Like their Marxist brothers, they ended up in a no-win situation.
So far, Zionists have been far from being sophisticated, at least in my case. Although they were defeated in every battle they call upon me, they thought it was worth it to try their luck in the international front. Last week I gave a talk in a conference in Sweden. The conference was organised in part by the Social Democratic Party. The Zionist operators within the Swedish media thought that their golden opportunity to smash the ‘anti-Zionist Swedish political establishment had arrived’. “The Swedish left is sleeping with Anti-Semites” said two papers. Indeed, the Zionists have managed to shove their usual recycled filth into two major papers. However, two days later, these two papers ended up publishing my lengthy and detailed reply. While in the conference I was talking to 150 people who were more or less familiar with the subject and even with my thoughts, thanks to my new Swedish Zionist supporters, I have now happened to communicate with 600,000 Swedes who are probably misinformed about the Israeli Palestinian topic.
The development in Sweden didn’t take me by surprise, it was basically a repetition of a similar event that took place in the Guardian CIF just before last Christmas. In the Guardian it was the Zionist smear operator David Hirsh of Engage who opened the door for me and practically speaking, closed the door on himself. At the moment the Zionist smear operators do nothing but open doors for me and my ideas. I do not know how to thank my new ‘allies’ for their worldwide support. I would never have gotten that far without them. There is an old Jewish saying: ‘A Righteous task is done by others’. I don’t know whether I am indeed righteous but it seems as if at the moment it is the Zionists who carry my thoughts to the wide public. In Martial Arts you learn to use not primarily your own force but the weight of your opponent in order to bring him down. That is what I’m doing, and I can tell you, our enemy is heavy and sluggish.
 http://www.gilad.co.uk/html files/onanti.html
Comment is Free: Atzmon responds to Hirsh
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Here comes the flood - by Gilad Atzmon
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced yesterday the decision of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman, Mahmoud Abbas to meet bi-weekly with the US mediating. Indeed ‘great news for the Palestinians and the Israelis’.
More or less at the same time at least five Palestinians drowned in a “sewage Tsunami” when a water treatment reservoir burst, flooding Umm Naser, a village in the northern Gaza Strip.
While in a peaceful news conference in Jerusalem Rice once again said NO to the democratically elected Hamas referring to the PA chairman as a “partner for peace”, a Bedouin village in Gaza was submerged in sewage.
This devastating picture of total surreal detachment between the two events, between a meaningless political intercourse and a devastating destruction on the ground is the true reality of the Palestinian disaster. This reflects upon the zero Western political leadership’s commitment to humanist and ethical thinking, it reflects upon our abandonment of the Palestinian people, it is a reminder of our general negligence towards people who are mercilessly dispossessed for six decades, our blindness towards what seems to be a suffering with no end and no limit.
Rice called on regional Arab states to “participate actively in the peace process”. She welcomed as well the Saudi peace plan as “an example of such new thinking.” And I end up asking myself when was the last time Rice or the Saudi Crown family had been submerged in Sewage? Rice probably failed to realise that people, who happen to be flooded by ‘treated water’, want something slightly more significant than a mere ‘peace process’. Ms Rice, shouldn’t we better start with food? In case you didn’t realise, your embargo on the Hamas government has led to unprecedented starvation in Gaza. Some 80% of Gaza’s population relies upon WFP’s aid and on that from the UNRWA, the UN agency for refugees.
More or less by the time the US Secretary of State concluded that the two leaders would discuss a “political horizon,” it was clear that dozens of residents of Umm Naser were still unaccounted for.
By late afternoon, receding floodwaters had left a foul-smelling muck. Village children clung to wooden doors floating on the putrid waters. Rescuers were paddling through the village searching for victims. Frantic goats and cows were seen swimming in the mud searching for safe ground.
By the time Rice left the region it was revealed that the ‘negotiations’ between Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas will not include the three core issues - Jerusalem, refugees and borders. How surprising.
Instead of going from Jerusalem to Riyadh, Rice went back to Washington. She realised that she had nothing to offer the Arab leaders summit. She has nothing to offer almost as much as the people of Umm Naser have nothing to lose.
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
The Jews of Teheran
Friday, March 23, 2007
Davide Frattini Translated by Diego Traversa with Mary Rizzo for Tlaxcala and Peacepalestine
HANIYEH: "THE EUROPEAN EMBARGO WILL CEASE; MANY MINISTERS ARE READY TO MEET WITH ME"
GAZA—Until a few days ago, the bare, ground-floor room doubled both as entrance and as “camping” room for anyone who had something to ask from the Prime Minister. Now the workers are at work: blue carpeting, emblems on the walls, the Palestinian flag.
Here, Ismail Haniyeh wants to appear before the photographers for the official handshakes with foreign guests. Prime Minister Haniyeh looks confident about the European envoys’ arrival to Gaza to speak to him, after more than one year of political and economic embargo. The wet paint and his smiles framed by an Islamic beard reveal it.
“I met with the Norwegian Foreign deputy-Minister and received a phone call from your Foreign Affairs Under-Secretary, Vittorio Craxi. These are two very important signs. We regard the contacts with the Italians as a great step towards the end of the international siege. The Foreign Minister, Massimo D’Alema, was about to go to Washington, so I suggested to Craxi that Italy brings a message to the American administration: this government is interested in dialogue with the US and Europe. America must look at the half-full part of the glass, not at the half-empty one. Craxi assured me about his dedication towards the ending of the embargo.”
Dressed in a blue suit and grey shirt, Haniyeh, 44, behaves in the simple way of the same man whom the people at Shati refugee camp still go on calling Abu Abed: the neighbour ready to furnish electricity from his own generator or to attend weddings and funerals. An image that has made him the most popular Palestinian politician (22% against Mahmoud Abbas’ 19%, according to a recent poll.)
Hamas hard-liners have blamed the newly born national unity government while Said Siam, former Minster of the Interior, who has been excluded from the executive, threatens that “no leader from the movement will ever recognize Israel, we will never betray our values.” During the interview, the first one since he took office again through the new mandate, Haniyeh repeats he is speaking on the government’s behalf rather than in name of the religious extremist movement, of which he is one of the leaders. In his answers, he refers several times to the political platform that was agreed by all the factions on 8 February in Mecca, an agreement that has been reached after months of negotiations (and bitter military fights) with Fatah. The document doesn’t speak about recognizing the Jewish state, as required by the international community, but only of “respect” for the accords that were signed by the PLO in the past.
The EU has confirmed its positions and requests. Have either you or President Abbas been assured that the embargo will be called off?
“There are important signs. France invited Foreign Minister Ziad Abu Amr and we know that some European Foreign Ministers are ready to come to the Gaza Strip in order to meet with me and other Ministers.”
From what countries?
“It’s too early to say it publicly.”
Condoleezza Rice, American Secretary of State, declared: “In his speech, Haniyeh hinted at the right of resistance in all of its forms. It doesn’t sound very good.”
“The resistance is recalled also in our platform, as being legitimate and guaranteed by the international conventions. We’re still under occupation and we have the right to defend and protect ourselves until the occupation of our land ends. We’re interested in extending the truce to the West Bank as well. Likewise, any aggression must stop. Now the ball is in Israel’s court.”
You’re speaking about extending the truce, yet a sniper from Gaza shot at and wounded a worker on Israeli soil just last Monday. Hamas has claimed responsibility for the attack, for the first time since the ceasefire started.
“In our capacity as government, we have no information or detail concerning the attack.”
Jacob Walles, American consul in Jerusalem, met with Salam Fayyad, Palestinian Minister of Finance, who is an independent.
“Washington must talk to all the Ministers, as this is the government of the Palestinian people. We don’t oppose opening channels with some of them but we reject a political tack which makes distinctions between the Ministers.”
What did you talk about during the government’s first session on Sunday?
“We agreed upon how very important it is to focus on internal security (author’s note: 90 dead in the clashes between factions from December to February). We demanded the Minister of the Interior to come up with a plan that may tackle the situation. The other Ministers are going to arrange an action program for the first hundred days as well.”
Hamas has slated Mohammed Dahlan’s appointment as Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor for National Security. Apparently, the unity with Fatah hasn’t been achieved over every point.
“The President assured me that the office hasn’t been officially entrusted yet. It’s still being discussed…I will deal with the matter face to face with Mahmoud Abbas. We’ll confront any controversial question through dialogue.”
Is Hamas willing to let the President freely negotiate with Israel?
“As we decided with the common platform, Mahmoud Abbas bears political responsibility for the negotiations. Any accord will have to be ratified by the Parliament’s vote, or else be submitted to a popular referendum which all the Palestinians will take part in, the refugees in exile as well.”
Are you ready to accept an ultimate agreement?
“The agenda defines our goals very clearly: we mean to establish an independent and sovereign Palestinian state within the 1967 borders, with Jerusalem as capital, besides the refugees’ right to return and the releasing of all the Palestinian prisoners. These are our demands; the point is whether Israel is ready or not.”
Do you consider the Arab League’s initiative a basis for the negotiations?
“It’s the Israelis who have problems with the Arab brothers’ proposal, not the Palestinians.”
In early March, the Minister of Education decided to call in from schools and burn a children’s popular storybook, as being considered offensive to Islamic principles. The decision was cancelled due to the protests, yet a part of the Palestinian society fears that Hamas wants to impose fundamentalist laws.
“There is no fear for Hamas’ decisions. It’s about distortions. We are founded on Palestinian culture and traditions and in that book there are unbearable passages for our ethics. We aren’t against all the stories.”
Thursday, March 22, 2007
A Tribute to Shimon Tzabar by Gilad Atzmon
By Gilad Atzmon
Shimon Tzabar, one of the very few Israeli genuine and authentic peace enthusiasts, died three days ago (19 March 2007). He was Eighty-one. Shimon was a friend. Though we hardly ever agreed on anything, though he was sometimes harsh in his criticism, he has always managed to be charming, loveable and a good laugh. Maybe even the best laugh around.
As well as being a fabulous artist, a landscape and portrait painter, Shimon was probably one of the best storytellers one could find. This is hardly surprising, the man obviously had some stories to share. He was born in Tel Aviv in 1926. Already in his teens he had managed to join every Israeli Paramilitary organisation. He knew everyone and it is more than likely that everyone knew him.
Shimon participated in three Israeli wars. However, it was only after 1967 that he fully internalised the scale of the Zionist fallacy. Repulsed by emerging Israeli imperialism, Shimon left Israel and settled in London. I believe that it was then that Shimon started regarding himself as a ‘Hebrew-Speaking Palestinian’. By doing so he detached himself from the classic Zionist collective attribution to world Jewry, he instead identified himself with an esoteric geographical orientation.
Like my peers, I came across his name as a young kid. Every Israeli child knows Tzabar’s ‘Tusberindi the Hero’ (Tusberindi Ha’gibor). We grew up with his special wit and captivating sketches.
Before leaving Israel, Shimon was an established author. He was also a columnist for a number of years for both the daily Haaretz and Uri Avnery’s Ha’olam Haze. In fact, till his last days, Israeli journalists, intellectuals, academic researchers and solidarity campaigners who visited London tried to approach him and to learn his views about things.
Shimon always loved to surround himself with creative people. When we got to know each other he asked me to join the editorial staff of the Israel Imperial News. I was on his editorial board for a while. In 2004, he asked me to join forces with him in the production of the “Better than the Michelin Guide to Israeli Prisons, Jails, Concentration Camps and Torture Chambers". To join forces with Shimon, or to be on his editorial board, meant to come over for a coffee and watch him working. There was never much for me or anyone else to do.
Shimon was a workaholic, he was addicted to hard work. In 1967, in his early forties, after immigrating to London, Shimon became a builder. Not exactly what you would expect from a prominent writer. Evidently, the man was anything but spoiled. However, in London Shimon found the time to write one of the funniest books ever. “The White Flag Principle, How to Lose a War and Why”. It is a profound military doctrine that is there to suggest that losing a war is always the best way to win a future. The white flag principle was there to teach generals and warlords how to get everything wrong, how to train their soldiers to run backwards and to bring their country to their knees. “Being defeated is the way forward,” said Tzabar.
I believe that the necessary key to understanding Shimon’s unique contribution to the Israeli-Palestinian discourse has something to do with the fact that Shimon was primarily an artist. Rather than bouncing between political campaigns and dealing with activists’ will to power, Shimon was always focused on himself, on his own acts, on his art, on his particular creative way of saying things. Shimon always had something in the pipeline: whether a large landscape picture, a print, a portrait, a pamphlet about Israeli occupation, a book about Israeli atrocities, a virtual Israeli roadblock in front of the Parliament. Though I myself hardly agreed with Shimon on many things, I did learn a lot from the man.
Following Shimon, I tend to believe that artists better leave politics to politicians. Artists should work independently. We should never affiliate with anyone but our ethical consciousness and moral awareness. In fact, Shimon has never pointed it out in such a clear manner, but thinking about the man and his role, this is what Shimon was all about, a total commitment. He was always doing his thing, engaging in what he believed should be the right thing to do. Shimon will be missed.
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
Smear First, Apologise Later - Sue Blackwell eats some crow
By Mary Rizzo
Why is it that most everyone who starts a smear campaign against Gilad Atzmon ends up repenting at a certain stage, or at the very least, eating some crow? Harry’s Place, who has been attacking Gilad Atzmon for years now by calling him a racist crank is now stating, “Is Gilad Atzmon a racist? Not in the narrow sense of being preoccupied by genetic differences between people, certainly. He is rather, I think, a 'cultural essentialist': if such a term exists.” So, he’s not a racist, he’s just a garden variety crank. It boils down to this, to quote Morrissey, who seems to be the spiritual guide of David T: (claiming full paternity of thought is not something you will find on most Zionist sites, obviously, pen names are the vogue in those circles)
“You're just another person in the world
You're just another fool with radical views
You're just another who has maddening views”
That’s a step in the right direction, but it’s certainly not an objective observation. Its criterion is a subjective one, and it’s driven by the Zionism of the person saying it. But of course, Zionists are going to think that Gilad’s a crank…So far, so good.
Let’s focus instead on the smear campaign run by a known activist for Palestine, someone who actually believes that Zionism is responsible for the troubles in the Middle East. Some in the UK might be familiar with Sue Blackwell. She is a university professor who was one of the promoters of the failed PSC motion about Zionism, the DYR and anti-Semitism. She also managed to somehow not be able to pull off the Academic Boycott she was organising for a Union of British university Teachers. It’s not clear where the blame should be set for that, and this may not be the appropriate moment to address it. What is rather interesting, however, is her personal crusade to lead the Palestinian Solidarity movement and to dictate who is acceptable and who is not, and she of course, is the one in the know. Just like the Zionists, it’s about what she feels and thinks, not what is objectively true.
Let’s look at the facts: two years ago, upon consulting her “Jewish comrades”, as she puts it, Sue Blackwell added a page to her “famous” (like, where??) Palestinian Web Page. She called it Nazi Alert. Listed are some notorious right-wingers but also “people who should know better who give support to nazis, racists and holocaust deniers by circulating their material”. It makes things sound very sinister indeed, especially because connected in her mind to Nazi scum, we see the names and profiles of many Palestine solidarity activists who have nothing whatsoever to do with rightwing activity or have any Nazi affiliation in any way, shape or form. So ludicrous were her claims and so undocumented as to whom she put up there, before shifting some of the contents to another area, she even included my name on it. Besides having translated thousands of pages for the site commemorating Italians deported into Nazi camps, I’m known in Italy for having been involved in actions to nail Michael Seifert, the Nazi war criminal of the Bolzen Concentration Camp (see pages, 10, 11, 12, 13), so this placement on a page of "people who give support to Nazis, racists and holocaust deniers" is outrageous, as well as defamatory and false. Sue Blackwell insists the “Nazi Alert” page has had a name change, but upon reading it, one still finds this paragraph: “There is no question that Deir Yassin deserves to be remembered. Unfortunately the organisation which was set up to fulfil this task includes Israel Shamir and Paul Eisen on its board (Eisen is actually a Director). Click on the "nazi alert" button to read the whole sorry story of these blokes and their defence of holocaust denial. I am suspending my link to DYR until they are removed from its board.”
Of course, one may not discuss the Holocaust, because that turns one into a full-blown Holocaust denier! According to this logic, hundreds of thousands of people are smeared just for wanting to look at history and investigate forensic material without prejudice. History is always treated by non-specialists as a closed book of objective accounts, and analysis and investigation is generally not undertaken until the facts are chronologically quite removed. As Elias Canetti wrote, “History portrays everything as if it could not have come otherwise. History is on the side of what happened.” This might be one of the crimes, talking about a fact in history that is riddled with emotive triggers for many people, and one that is connected to how the West justifies Jewish settlement and occupation of Palestine, right up to the establishment of Israel without consent of the representatives of the indigenous people. The fact that the settlement goes on unabated in the face of continued Palestinian suffering makes the connection relevant. The ties between the two issues are obvious, and often, the Holocaust is used as a figleaf to cover Israeli and imperialist crimes, but one simply is not allowed to address that in any terms but those set by Wiesenthal and Co. One can believe that analysing the connection is not very productive, but dismissing it in an a prioristic way is lending the Zionists a hand and permitting the justification. Yet, I tend to think the crime that is worse in the eyes of the “gatekeepers” is that of discussing the issue of Jewish Power, at any level. It is apparently unacceptable to do just that. One need not even make any conclusions, the mere issue is Verboten. Just try it and see the reactions. You will get them.
Back to the “famous” Nazi Alert list. Gilad Atzmon was on it, and still is on the “Removed links” page with this text:
“Gilad is Jewish (and plays great jazz) but there have been some disturbing reports about things he has allegedly said recently which appear to condone violence against civilians. Not sure whether he said them or not, but anyway I found his "Protocols of the Elders Of London" highly offensive, not least because it slagged off some of my closest Jewish comrades while cosying up to the highly dubious Israel Shamir. So long, Gilad, thanks for the music.”
“disturbing reports” – by whom?
“things he has allegedly said” – did he or didn’t he?
“appear to condone” – do they or don’t they?
“not sure whether he said them or not” – oh, but she sticks the idea in people’s heads of rumours as truth…. This is not a very firm basis to smear someone at levels that it creates something of a monster and anathema of them, but that did not stop Sue.
Just like Sue, no one likes their friends being slagged off, but slagging off people seems to be the speciality of Sue and her own friends. Yet, if it is done, there should be a legitimate REASON for it and proof that there is something concrete behind the slagging. Crimes or instigation to crime, words and deeds that demonstrate the suppression of the rights of others, that sort of thing. Neither she nor her comrades could ever come up with a reason for it beyond affiliations that they have pumped to mean what they want them to mean, actions that they have blown out of proportion and wilfilly manipulated and distorted, and worst of all, intent. Wherever in the world does Sue Blackwell get the idea that Gilad Atzmon condones violence against civilians? Isn’t a claim that is this inflammatory and defamatory be one that should be substantiated? She has thrown the accusation around and hasn’t bothered to substantiate it in any way. Sue says it, that has to be enough.
Well, at a certain point, Gilad said to himself “Enough is enough,” and decided to have a London legal office look into the charges. Faced with having to actually substantiate her claims or face litigation, Sue Blackwell has now removed the text from the (nameless?) Poison Icon, created a separate page for Gilad, still full of insinuations, but inserted this text (errors in original) into the bottom of the page full of the people who are damaged goods (if they aren’t out and out Nazis, natürlich).
A note on Gilad Atzmon
My comments about Mr. Atzmon have been removed from this page at the request of his lawyers. I would like to make it clear that I have never called Mr. Atzmon a a nazi, a neo-nazi or a fascist. To the extent that readers of my website may have been misled into an impression that I regard Mr Atzmon as a Nazi sympathiser, I apologise to him.
And on the “former” Nazi Alert page writes:
“Please note: I have never suggested that Atzmon is a nazi. He just calls himself a "proud self-hating Jew" and has very poor taste in friends and politics, in my personal opinion.”
Well, if having poor taste in friends and political views that are in poor taste in her “personal opinion” is a hanging crime, get out the rope for Ms Blackwell herself.
But, seriously, a question does remain and it should be an example and a reflection on how all of these smear campaigns start, grow, develop and ultimately end: if Gilad Atzmon is not and was not ever a Nazi or Nazi sympathiser, why did Sue Blackwell brand him as one or both for more than two years, lumping many others with him, and all of them with right-wingers? Is this because Sue had to take advice from some others who tell her how to think, what is appropriate and how British Jews are supposed to behave in the Palestine campaign? If she never thought any of these horrible things that she’s accused him of, why does she listen to the “Jewish Comrades”? Do their views override her “better judgment”? Now she is taking the advice of solicitors. Does someone slur just as long as they can get away with it, without any criterion besides “what people say” and stop doing it when threatened with litigation? Is this any way to operate in the task of campaigning for Palestinians?? Is this rendering service to their cause?
What exactly is Sue’s contribution to solidarity and activism towards Palestinians? Besides the aborted initiatives, she has a “famous” webpage, no better, no worse than any of several thousand of them that reprint generally useful information. Then? While Atzmon has vehemently denounced the racism and crimes of Israel to audiences in hundreds of concerts and speaking events he does every year and published 170 papers on Palestine, Zionism and Israel in the recent years, as far as records seem to show, Ms Blackwell has published three papers on the issues. Actually, one of them was a compilation of Emails about the academic boycott and the other an article about the same and, the only other piece is about anti-Semitism! It’s a bit scarce to be damning someone who doesn’t give Israeli racism breathing room and is opening consciences to the ways we are all implicated by not condemning it and attempting to expose the racism and what keeps it in place, and doing it night after night, damn the torpedoes. For Sue Blackwell, it seems that fitting in with the UK “radical Jewish community” outweighs all other considerations. Well, I won’t be keeping Sue any longer, she has a “Radical Yeshiva” to participate in, where she will be giving an “Etymological history of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism”, quite certainly, with the focus on the former. Hope her advisers have hooked her up to a radio-transmitter so that she won’t have to put up apologies on her site again.
Monday, March 19, 2007
DANIELE MASTROGIACOMO IS FREE!!!!
All too often, when running a blog that concerns Palestine and the wars in the Middle East and Central Asia, there is no good news. Imagine the pure joy to learn that this afternoon, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, NON-IMBEDDED reorter, was released from his imprisonment. He was taken hostage on 4 March and spent 15 days chained in a different location each day. He claims that his interpreter was liberated. This wonderful news follows the terrible news of the killing of his driver by the Talibans who had kidnapped them on the road between Kabul and the territory that is under the rule of the Talibans.
Pain Ray - "With Pain You Shall Protest"
by Mario Sanna, Angelo Saso, Maurizio Torrealta of RaiNews24
The researchers that have been interviewed have doubt about the non-leathal feature of the "pain ray", there are not sufficient biological data on the medium and long term and on the consequences it can have on the central nervous system, on eyes and other body parts.
The people we talked to always mention another non-lethal weapon: "Taser", a device that anyone can buy on the internet and that can be considered a smaller relative of the "pain ray". It can give an electrical shock of 50 thousand volts for 5 seconds at a distance of a few meters.
This report contains one of the many shocking videos, that can be found on the web, that shows the images of a young boy hit by an electroshock caused by Taser only because he refused to show his student card. The possible scenario shows a change in the form of power that might have an impact on democratic rules if this system is not regulated to protect human rights in the best way possible. One of the people interviewed suspects that the testing of this weapon has been given out by contract to those countries where the protection of civil rights has lower standards than the European countries and the United States.
The possibility that these weapons, that are very expensive at the moment, in the future could be available on the free market, worries very much those people who want to keep high the level of freedom and democratic expression in their own countries.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
Gilad Atzmon - From Guilt to Responsibility
At least in my case, responsibility is primarily grounded on the deep acknowledgment that, though totally against my will, as things are set by the Jewish State, every atrocity committed by Israel is actually committed in my name and on my behalf. In other words, my commitment to the Palestinian issue is evoked by my acceptance of my responsibility. Though shouting ‘not in my name’ would have helped to vindicate me as an individual person, it won’t change the grave sinister fact that every Israeli war crime is actually done in the name of the Jewish people. Thus, I have never been an advocate of the ‘not in my name’ call. Clearly, I am not searching for my own self-redemption but rather for a metaphysical shift of awareness. Consequently, responsibility is for me a form of intervention that bridges the necessary gap between silent acceptance and ethical commitment. My responsibility is my pledge to do whatever I can to bring the suffering of the Palestinians to an immediate halt.
I obviously set myself a very serious challenge here. Bearing in mind that my weapons are my saxophone and my pen, it may even sound slightly pathetic. One may wonder whether it is possible to knock down a nuclear regional superpower with a soprano saxophone or even with a pencil. Though I don’t have a definite answer yet, I am willing to admit that in the last seven years I have given it a go.
For me, being responsible means looking into the Israeli atrocities while regarding myself at the crux of the issue. While in the past I somehow tended to remove myself from the conflict, positioning myself as a detached scout, I now happen to search for the answers inside myself, in my own soul, in my esoteric experience. Following Otto Weininger, I’m inclined to believe that artists’ revelations about the world are the direct outcome of some sincere self-searching. However, while looking into myself I clearly found out that whereas I may be able to say some things about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I probably cannot really say much about its political aspects.
Generally speaking, discussing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is far from being an easy job. Furthermore, lately, the task is becoming more and more difficult. Due to some intensive pressure imposed on the Palestinians by Israel (with the full support of the willing and obedient West), the Palestinians are pushed into a state of civil war. As a result, the emerging animosity within Palestinian society (both in Palestine and in the Diaspora) makes it very difficult to suggest any intellectual or ideological contribution that may refer to a conflict resolution. Palestinian society is now officially divided about almost everything. Moreover, Palestinians may even find it difficult to agree upon the notion of the Palestinian cause. As it seems, many of us in the West happen to claim to support the Palestinian cause without really being able to suggest what this cause is anymore. Rather often we happen to classify activists based on their vision of the conflict resolution. We would say, “he is OK, he is for ‘one State’, but leave her alone, she is a Zionist ‘two States’ supporter”. In other words, we identify political affiliations with what seems to us as the ‘true’ Palestinian cause. But in fact, our image of the Palestinian cause is in itself dependent upon our own political culture, personal political struggles, personal affiliations and lifestyle. It has very little to do with Palestine, the Palestinians and their current or future needs.
Such a realisation may challenge the notion of solidarity and it implies some possible criticism over the entire issue of responsibility. Consequently, I have been recently coming to terms with the idea that I must be very careful with any rhetoric having to do with Palestine. Consequently, I avoid talking in the name of the Palestinians. Moreover, being an ex-Israeli, I do not allow myself to interfere with the Palestinian discourse of resolution. I am totally convinced that the future of Palestine is an internal Palestinian affair. The future of Palestine should be determined by the Palestinian people and by themselves alone. Yet I feel more than entitled to talk about the atrocities that are committed in my name. This is where my responsibility is coming into play.
My task is far from being hard to define. I would argue that if indeed the crimes against the Palestinians are committed by the ‘Jewish State’ in the name of the ‘Jewish’ people, before any progress can be made, we first must grasp what the word ‘Jewish’ stands for. In other words, it is Jewishness which I am trying to contemplate. I try to learn its metaphysics, its historical and cultural background. I try to understand how Jewish lobbies are operating within different organisations, institutes and systems of hegemony. I argue that if it is the Jewish State that is engaged in terrorising the Palestinians, we better understand once and for all what hides behind the notion of Jewishness. Yet, I find it necessary to elaborate on the differences between the different categories having to do with the ‘J’ word.
Resolutely, I differentiate between Judaism (the religion), Jews (the people) and Jewishness (the ideology). I refrain categorically from referring to Jews and avoid criticism of Judaism. The reasons are obvious. First, though Israel regards itself as the ‘Jewish State’, it is far from being the State of the Jews. Many Jews are living outside of Israel and have nothing to do with Israel or the Israeli crimes. Second, it isn’t Judaism that inflicts so much pain on the Palestinians but rather people who follow some peculiar modern secular vision named by some as Zionism. Thus, it is the Jewishness that I am interested in, the ideological mindset and the cultural framework. I am interested in the collective bond that provides Zionism with a substantial body shield. I am interested in that which transforms Global Zionism into a leading and winning contemporary worldview.
But this is exactly where the real problem starts. Although I firmly refrain from referring to racial or ethnic categories, enormous energy is invested in stopping me and others from saying that which we feel entitled to say. Jewish political pressure groups both in the left and in the right, both Zionists and anti-Zionists, both sectarian Marxists and Fascist settlers fight to keep the differentiation between Judaism, Jewishness and the Jews as blurred as possible. May I suggest that they know what they are doing. It is this tactic that allows them to dismiss any possible criticism of Israel and its lobbies as being a racist assault. As long as the demarcation between Judaism, Jews and Jewishness is obscure, Israel is safe from criticism.
By maintaining such a tactic, Jewish groups in the left and in the right have managed to block any meaningful debate having to do with Israel, the Jewish State, Palestine, world Jewry, the Israeli Lobby in America, etc.. Every essential discussion is dismissed immediately as a form of racism or as plain anti-Semitism. My responsibility therefore is to stand up and resist. My duty is to insist that Jewishness is an Ideology, or at least a mindset. It is an idea that made the Nakba possible, it is an ideology that has maintained ethnic cleansing policies for six decades, it is an a unique intuition that lives in peace with 80% starvation in Gaza.
It is not the Jews and it is not Judaism that are to be blamed here, but it is not Zionism either. Jewishness is actually a deeper concept than mere Zionism. How do I know that it is deeper than Zionism? I know because I look into myself and into my past. I know because I grew up in Israel and I can tell that as a young lad, the word Zionism was foreign to my ears. My peers and myself were Israelis, we were the Jewish people, we were not Zionists. Zionism was a foreign abstract expression, it smelled of Galut (Diaspora). We were Jews and our enemies were the ‘others’ whoever they were at the time: the Germans, The Goyim, the anti-Semites, the Arabs in general the Palestinians in particular and so forth.
My responsibility thus is to expose the real meaning of the Jewish idea in its full extent. My mission is to get to the essence of this almighty fear that settles comfortably at the core of the Jewish collective psyche. My responsibility is to expose the carriers and protagonists of this ideology. As an artist, my duty is to look into myself and to trace its origin in my own soul.
If I am indeed correct and Jewishness is an ideology, then it cannot just position itself beyond criticism. If I am indeed on the right track, it is my duty as an intellectual and as an artist who believes in free spirit, to point out that the Palestinian discourse is viciously shaped by an absurd form of political correctness that blocks any meaningful and fruitful discourse.
I will use this unique opportunity and mention as well that I am tired of hearing people telling me “Gilad, you can say it all, you are a Jew.” I just do not accept it. There is nothing in my ethnic belonging or biological origin that should grant me with any special entitlement. I must admit as well that I have never found myself telling a Muslim or an Arab friend “you can say it, you are an Arab.” I do not remember myself ever hearing anyone suggesting to anyone else: “you can say it, you are Protestant, Irish, Black, etc.”. Noticeably, the Jewish State and its supporters have managed to position their beloved country in a very privileged precious position, far beyond criticism. My responsibility is to expose this tactic as a complete fallacy.
I believe that we cannot bring hope to Palestine unless we teach ourselves to speak freely, unless we allow ourselves to open up the discourse. I may as well suggest that I truly believe that the Zionists and the Israelis will benefit from such an initiative.
The Israelis and their supporters set themselves in an artificial detached heaven. They have surrounded themselves with security walls and have managed to block all channels of criticism. While in a complete state of blindness, the Israelis have failed to notice that they have become the embodiment of modern evil. More than anyone else, it is the Jewish State and the Israelis who need an immediate wake up call.
Ramzy Baroud - Articulating a Just Peace: Whose Responsibility?
In my speech today, I will refrain from stating the obvious: those who are yet to recognize the injustices committed daily against the Palestinian people, have either succumbed completely to Israel’s propaganda or are simply uninterested in the whole matter.
Although confronting both groups - one plagued by misinformation or misplaced sympathy, and the other plagued by indifference and apathy - is vital, to say the least, I am addressing neither of these groups today.
There are various reasons behind what I am about to say: but most importantly, one particular episode, where I was invited to speak at some European country by a group that introduced itself as Marxist. I, of course, readily obliged, when I was faced with the following question: where do you stand on the one state solution?
I was not sure why I was urged by the head of the group to delineate my position regarding an issue that is of no particular consequence, at the time being, considering what Israel has done and is doing to ethnically cleanse large swathes of the West Bank, and is actively, with American, and less energetic, but real European support, starving Palestinians mostly in the Gaza Strip, but elsewhere in the Occupied Territories.
According to the World Food Program (WFP) forty-six percent of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories are food insecure, I was quick to cite. Though I thought that a one state solution, if ever possible, is an honorable and dignified solution to the conflict, I thought this was neither the time nor the place for such discussion.
Our focus, should hardly be diverted to intellectual and technical scuffles over a subject whose relevance to the current happenings in Palestine is most uncertain, to say the least. Moreover, this is something that should be decided through a national Palestinian consensus. If I must address the one state solution topic, this is how I would approach it, I told my potential host.
After some hesitation, and a clear loss of enthusiasm, I was told that the group, who had decided amongst itself that this is the most suitable solution for Palestinians and Israelis was not able to afford my ticket, and the invitation was revoked.
A day later, I met with a long time American activist for Palestine. Sharing with her the story, with a bit of disillusionment, that I, a Palestinian whose family still dwells a refugee camp in Gaza should be censored by a group of activists for questioning the timing and the method of making sweeping solutions to the conflict, she confronted me with something even more disheartening: in New Jersey among other areas, she says, some Palestine groups determine their relationship with one another, whether to participate in joint rallies or organize joint conferences, based on their self proclaimed solution to the Palestine Israel conflict: whether a secular democratic state, bi-national state, two states, etc.
This is the backdrop of what I am about to declare: I would neither rail against anyone, nor go on a personal crusade promoting one solution vs. the other. But I would rather to use this as an opportunity for self reflection, introspection and self critique.
It is never easy to admit that the Palestinian front, both at home and abroad, remains more fragmented and self-consumed, thus ineffective than ever before.
Such a realization wouldn’t mean much if the inference concerned any other polity; but when it’s made in regards to a nation that is facing an active campaign of ethnic cleansing at home and an international campaign of sanctions and boycott, the problem becomes both real and urgent.
Palestinians in the West Bank, especially in areas penetrated by the formidable Israeli imprisonment wall, are losing their land, their rights, their freedom and their livelihood at an alarming speed, unprecedented in their tumultuous history of military occupation. The 700-kilometre wall, once completed, will further fragment the already splintered West Bank; Israel’s settlement project since 1967 has disfigured the West Bank using Jews-only bypass roads, military zones and so forth, to ensure the viability of the country’s colonization scheme, but split or isolate Palestinian areas, making the two-state solution, or any other solution that is predicated on a viable exchange of land for peace simply inconceivable.
Gaza, which Yitzhak Rabin had once wished would sink into the sea and which Israel has labored to dump on anyone foolish enough to take responsibility for it as long as it is not part of any comprehensive agreement that would include Jerusalem and the West Bank, maintains its “open air prison” status.
Palestinians there are being reduced to malnourished refugees, manipulated into violence and discord, a spectacle that Israel is promoting around the world as an example of Palestinian lack of civility and their incapacity to govern themselves.
The Israeli government insistently refuses to consider Jerusalem an issue that warrants negotiations; nothing to talk about, according to Israeli officials who see Jerusalem as their state’s undivided and eternal capital.
Vital movement from and into Jerusalem is increasingly impossible for West Bank Palestinians. Muslim and Christian properties in the city are continuously threatened, targeted or desecrated.
The most recent targeting of Al Aqsa Mosque was intended to further exacerbate Muslim fury and emphasize the point that Israel retains the upper hand in its relations with the Palestinians.
Other major issues such as settlements, water, refugees, borders, continue to be subjected to unilateral Israeli actions, while the Palestinian role is relegated to that of a hapless, submissive and often angry victim.
If such decisive matters go largely unchallenged by a solid, popular Palestinian strategy, one mustn’t be surprised if other issues, such as the need to restructure the progressively more fragmented Palestinian national identity, the need for a powerful, sustained and articulate Palestinian voice in the media and an influential body that unites and channels all Palestinian efforts around the world to serve a clear set of objectives, are receiving little or no attention whatsoever.
It must also be acknowledged, as uncomfortable as this may be to some, that the Palestinian democratic experience is rapidly succumbing to Israeli pressures, American meddling — tacitly or otherwise, coordinated with other governments — and the fractious Palestinian front that has been for decades permeated with ideological exclusivism, cronyism and corruption.
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), since its formation by the Arab League in 1964, but most significantly since its reformation in the early 1970s under Palestinian leadership, was for long regarded as the main body that eventually brought to the fore the Palestinian struggle as — more than a mere question of a humanitarian issue that needed redress — a national fight for freedom and rights.
There was, more or less, a national movement that spoke and represented Palestinians everywhere. It gave the Palestinian struggle greater urgency, one that was lost, or willingly conceded, by Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn in September 1993, and again in Cairo in May 2004, and yet again in Paris, Sharm al-Sheikh and so forth.
Aside from snuffing out the Palestinian national project, reducing the territory to self-autonomous areas, rendering irrelevant millions of Palestinians, mostly refugees scattered around the world and thus demoting the international status of the PLO to a mere symbolic organization, Oslo gave rise to a new type of thinking among Palestinians who see themselves as pragmatic and whose language is that of real politic and diplomacy.
This is the most woeful case of self-defeatism, and it continues to infuse most Palestinian circles whose new “strategy” is limited to acquiring funds from European countries which eventually dotted the West Bank with NGOs, mostly without a clear purpose, agenda and coordination.
Involving oneself in such useless projects is ineffectual, while rejecting them without a clear alternative can be frustrating or demoralizing.
An official in President Mahmoud Abbas’ circle chastised me during a long airplane ride once for subscribing to Edward Said’s school, whose followers, I was told, wish to parrot criticism from the outside and refrain from “getting their hands dirty”, i.e., getting involved in the Palestinian Authority’s institution building, and so forth. Such a claim is utterly baseless; and no viable institution can possibly come out of the current setting, an amalgam of a most violent occupation, and internal corruption sanctioned, if not fed, by both Israel and the US government.
It is true that there have been no serious collective Palestinian efforts to redress the Oslo mistakes and to breathe life into the PLO. The Intifada was a popular expression of Palestinians disaffection with Oslo and the occupation, but, alone, it can hardly be considered a sustainable strategy.
Neither a religious movement like Hamas nor a self-exalted one like Fateh is capable of approaching this subject alone, nor are they individually qualified to alter the Palestinian course, which seems to be moving in random order.
The problem is indeed bigger than mere ideological or even personal quarrels between two rival political parties; rather, it is the expression of a prevailing Palestinian factionalism that seems to consume members of various Palestinian communities regardless of where they are based.
In the absence of centrality everywhere, individuals hoping to fill the vacuum are offering their own solutions to the conflict, once more without any serious or coordinated efforts and without a grassroots constituency either in the occupied territories or among major Palestinian population concentrations in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, etc.
Others, like the Geneva Initiative enthusiasts, find it acceptable to negotiate a solution on Palestinians’ behalf — without any mandate whatsoever — and obtain sums of money to promote their ideas, though the whole enterprise is run by a few individuals who have no support from the Palestinians.
Oslo has lost its relevance as a peace treaty, but the individualism it espoused among Palestinians still prevails; its legacy was self-preservation at the expense of the collective good, and I believe no Palestinian party, including Hamas, is immune from subscribing to its luring values.
To avoid further debacles, Palestinians must ditch their factionalism and quit thinking of their relationship with their struggle in terms of funds, ideology (at times so flexible as to fit political interests) or religious interpretations.
They are in urgent need of a new collective strategy that pushes for specific principles which can only be achieved through national consensus. Waving flags in the face of passersby and the proverbial preaching to the choir alone will lead nowhere.
Individual initiatives will further confuse the Palestinian ranks. Only a consistent, cohesive and reasonable strategy that emanates from the Palestinians themselves can engage international public opinion — with the hope of breaking the patronage system that unites the West, especially the United States to Israel — and possibly slow down the Israeli army bulldozers currently carving up the West Bank into a system of cantons and high-walled prisons.
While for Palestinians, I believe that reforming and revitalizing the PLO is not an option, but a must, I call on groups that work for a just peace between the Palestinians and the Israelis to continue to emphasize and expose the injustices committed against the Palestinian people, to highlight that self determination for Palestinians, everywhere, is an imperative for that just peace and to continue to push for serious governmental shifts in their respective polities, to entertain whatever needed pressure, through boycotts, media campaigns, and so forth, but to kindly refrain from imposing specifities on the Palestinian people: who, to avoid the mistakes of the past, must be the ultimate definer of its own destiny and whose articulation for a just peace has been the most overlooked, yet vital imperative. Without it, there will neither be peace, nor justice.
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