INDEX (stories follow)
ZIONISM = RACISM
- Israeli Troops Kill 13 Pro-Palestinian Protesters in Multiple Border Confrontations
- Egypt Security Forces Crackdown on Pro-Palestine Protesters at Israel Embassy, Hundreds Injured
- International Criminal Court Issues Arrest Warrant for Muammar Gaddafi, Son and Intelligence Chief
- United Arab Emirates Hires Blackwater Founder to Build Mercenary Army
- Head of International Monetary Fund Arrested on Sex Crime Charges
- Japan Expands Exclusion Zone around Damaged Nuclear Plant, Greenpeace Calls for Radiation Investigation
- Saudi Diplomat Assassinated in Pakistan
- Guatemala: Dozens Found Decapitated in Historic Drug-Related Mass Killing
- Michel Martelly Sworn In as Haiti’s President
- Key Mississippi Floodgate Opened Up as Waters Rise, Tens of Thousands Threatened
- Israeli Forces Seriously Injure American Student Filming Nonviolent Protest
Four people were reportedly shot dead by Israel Defense Forces troops Sunday as they opened fire on large numbers of infiltrators trying to breach Syria’s southern border with Israel. Another four people were said to have been killed on the Lebanese side of its shared frontier with Israel, as Palestinian protests for the annual Nakba Day, which mourns the creation of the State of Israel, took hold across the region.
In Majdal Shams, which runs along the Israel-Syria border, scores of Palestinian refugees from Syria spilled into the town. The Magen David Adom rescue service said about a dozen others had been wounded. The Israel Defense Forces confirmed opening fire on infiltrators.(Haaretz)
Israeli soldiers respond to unarmed civil protest in the only way Israel knows, deadly violence. This coordinated protest by Palestinians refugees happened on four borders. But the Egyptian border was apparently quiet thanks to the the Mubarak clones who still rule Egypt. The Egyptian military government, still eager to serve the US and its unhinged mini-me, Israel, blocked the roads to Sinai, because “the timing was inappropriate.” But the time is always appropriate for sucking up to the empire.
The Israeli press called the protesters “infiltrators,” reviving a term used in the fifties for the thousands of Palestinians refugees who tried to get back to their homes after the expulsion. Between 1949 and 1954, Israeli forces, with shoot to kill rules, murdered about 5,000 Palestinians caught near the borders.
The term was offensive already then, declaring people “infiltrators” in their own houses, fields, and country. But today the term is also misleading. Those murdered in the fifties were mostly trying to be invisible and to get home. The eight murdered today were involved in a direct action commemorating the Nakba, inspired by the massive Arab awakening that has swept the region from Tunisia to Yemen. Like Assad, Qaddafi, and the kings of the Gulf, Israeli generals believe that if they kill enough people the protests will peter out. One cannot say that this strategy never works. It is a double-down strategy. Like every double-down strategy, whether it works or not depends on the quality of credit possessed by the player. If the defiance of the people remains steadfast, or, as often happens when people are martyred, grows stronger, sooner or later the carnage is too much for key allies and constituencies, and then it is over for the regime. But the Israeli Junta believes it has enough credit to withstand any bloodbath. Given Israel’s dependence on the good grace of its Western supporters, we all have a role to play in seeing that it doesn’t.
Apartheid is Murder. The time for ending it is yesterday.
16 dead counted so far. at least 90 injured. All dead in massacres on the Syrian and Lebanese borders. There was also a massive protest in Ramallah, Amman, Gaza, El-Arish.
The Lebanese government and army, like the Egyptian army, and like Hamas, like the PA police, tried to stop the protests. This is Shimon Peres’s vision of the “New Middle East”: all governments working together to defend Israel from popular anger.
“Something’s Happenin’ and Ya Don’t Know What It is, Do Mr. Netanyahu?”
Last week, Israeli intelligence sources trumpeted the notion that Israeli Palestinian citizens and their West Bank/Gaza counterparts might plot an uprising around Nakba Day that they hoped would turn into a sort of civil war or perhaps Third Intifada. There were banner headlines about how Israeli forces were preparing to meet every eventuality and would deal with sternly with troublemakers and that the citizenry, by which they meant the Jewish citizenry, had nothing to worry about.
As always seems to happen with these things and Israeli intelligence, they were shocked when it turned out that the Nakba Day protests took on a life of their own when a private settler security guard in an illegally occupied home in Beit Yonatan shot a 17-year-old boy, Malid Said Ayash, who died shortly thereafter. Thereafter, all hell seemed to break loose, but in ways that the intelligence establishment hadn’t at all predicted. Protests were held by the usual suspects in the usual places in villages along the Separation Wall. But Palestinians and their sympathizers also massed on three other borders which had rarely before seen such demonstrations. Thousands trampled the border fences underfoot in the Golan, in Gaza, and on Israel’s Lebanese border and broke through the barrier. All who did so were unarmed, though the IDF has planted false claims that some were armed.
The army responded to these civilian protestors in the only way it knows how, it killed them, and in fairly large numbers (close to 20 dead in various rallies at various locations).
Since the numbers of protests and what occurred is so large I thought it useful to compile a compendium in order to better wrap our minds around developments and understand their possible meaning. The main question is: is this a blip on the screen of anti-Occupation activism or is this an ever intensifying level of protest which should deeply worry those Israel’s who maintain the Occupation? Is this the beginning of a Third Intifada? Or an Israeli version of the Arab Spring sweeping through Arab capitals from Cairo to Damascus? Or is it a one-hit wonder, part of an annual rite of Nakba Day protests which rock the Palestinian community each year only to subside after a day or so?
Given the number of deaths and numbers of frontline states involved (Lebanon, Syria, Palestine) it seems to me this is a new chapter in the resistance. A bold non-violent stroke that almost predictably has been met by the type of massive violent crackdown used by Arab tyrants like Assad who is prepared to mow down his own citizens in their homes in order to preserve his power. I have written numerous times here in the past few months that Israel in using such murderous tactics is showing itself to be no better than the dictators, despite the fact that Israel claims it is a beacon of democracy in an otherwise bleak authoritarian Mideast landscape. Responses like this prove otherwise.
Israel is used to fighting wars on one front and with difficulty has fought wars on two fronts. But if these developments heat up and take on a life of their own, this would be a movement on multiple-fronts the likes of which the country has never seen. Not to mention that so far, at least, the unrest seems non-violent and unlike any previous war-time scenario Israel has faced. It’s almost like Israel is entering an entirely new scenario which is not war and something different than an Intifada. Perhaps it’s a regional Intifada, rather than a purely Palestinian one–though the Palestine issue is fueling the protests clearly. Israel has laughably blamed Iran for the protests claiming as usual with no evidence that the protests “bear the mark of Iran.” When you’d rather deflect attention from the fact that non-violent demonstrators are acting against what they perceive as an unjust, oppressive system imposed by Israel on Palestinians, what better way to do it than invoke the bogeyman: Iran?
As I wrote in the first line of this post, there’s also another phenomenon stirring which Israel does not understand(Hebrew). Just as social networks helped organize protests and topple dictators in Tunisia and Egypt, and brought others to their knees in Libya, Yemen, and Syria, the Nakba events also show evidence of a sophisticated use of digital technology (Hebrew) to mobilize for political action. In the eyes of the Israeli media, these groups show signs of a dastardly conspiracy by anti-Israeli agitators to organize the events and by implication, attempt to topple the Israeli regime. While most of the rest of the world tends to see such organizing in the way it viewed the Facebook Revolution which was brought to life in Tahrir Square: as legitimate expression of grievances long-held and never addressed. The truth of digital revolutions is they only work where the slogans resonate with the populace and injustice festers. Israel would prefer to see all of this organizing as the work of Hezbollah, Syria and Iran, when the truth is that without the spark represented by Occupation there could be no conflagration.
Here are the protests I’ve researched (thanks for the assistance of Dena Shunra) beginning with those that involved deaths, moving to those in which demonstrators were wounded (with no deaths), and finally protests in which there was Israeli violence, but no dead or wounded:
In Majdal Shams (on Syria/Israel border), Ynet reports at least four Syrians were killed and dozens wounded by Israeli fire when thousands crossed the border in the Golan Heights and headed to Majdal Shams. The area was declared “closed military zone”.
In Maround Al-Ras and Naqoura, Ynet reports, according to Lebanese Al-Mustakbal news network, six Lebanese demonstrators were killed and 60 wounded by Israeli military fire, or by Lebanese military fire,according to Israel. In these situations I’ve found that IDF claims, when contradicted by credible counter-claims, are usually wrong. Given that Israeli forces killed demonstrators on two other fronts today, claiming they didn’t use lethal fire on the Lebanese border seems to stretch credulity. Reuters says ten killed. Maan provides higher figures of 14 killed, 112 wounded.
In Gaza, one man was killed, (Reuters reports two dead) at least 45 wounded (including a journalist and many children) when Israeli army used a tank to shell demonstrators by the fence.
Nonlethal, wounded demonstrators/soldiers:
In Ramallah, thousands took part in Nakba Day demonstration in Manara Square.
Nabi Salah: 25 Palestinian and/or Israeli peace activists & two Border Patrol soldiers wounded, 34 Palestinian and/or Israeli activists arrested
Al-Arob, Beyt Ummar, Bir Zeit, Annata: tear gas canisters shot at protesters. Israeli military claims that stones were thrown and tires burned.
Issawiya: approximately 60 Palestinian and/or Israeli activists arrested.
Bir’am: 9 arrested, unknown number wounded due to violence & mace according to Ran Cohen of PHR-Israel
Qalandia: 250 wounded, 40 seriously, 15 with a rubber-coated bullets, two from live fire. Also, from Hadas Ziv, Media Outreach coordinator for PHR-Israel: shooting at Kalandia. army goes into crowd, hits 2, and takes them on MDA ambulance into Israel. Dr. Moustafa Bargouthi from the Medical Relief told PHR Israel that there are 90 wounded, 10 seriously (head and abdominal from rubber bullets). Many are treated in Medical Relief field hospital. Recently they have started to use live fire. He also told us of mistaarvim (Border Police disguised as Palestinian activists who either provoke violence or arrest victims depending on circumstances) that are arresting demonstrators.
Leehee from Anarchists against the Wall notes another report from the scene: “I was among the medics from 12:30 till 13:30 and there were already dozens of injuries mostly light ones due to gas and rubber bullets.” she described how many ambulances come and go, evacuating around 50 people every half an hour. “At around 13:30 they [Israeli army] intensified the shooting, and at around 14:30 they started with live ammunition” – PHR-Israel report here.
Shuafat Refugee Camp, May 14th (but still relating to Nakba Day events): tear gas etc. in Shuafat. Palestinian paramedics are not allowed in.
Al Walaja: IDF Disrupts Nonviolent March–Prominent political analyst, author and professor, Dr. Mazin Qumsiyeh was arrested along with two other Palestinians as they protested in the village of Al Walaja, near Bethlehem, on 15 May 2011. According to Dr. Qumsiyeh’s press release, the three were arrested while participating in a non-violent march of civil disobedience towards the Green Line. As of six o’clock on Sunday night, Dr. Qumsiyeh was still in detention at the Israeli military compound close to Rachel’s Tomb.
According to reports, Israeli forces bombarded the protest in Al Walaja with tear gas, forcing protesters to find refuge in the village’s houses. Five more were arrested after IDF soliders raided homes. According to the press release, three Palestinians, one Irish and another international were arrested from homes.
The original village of Al Walaja was expelled in 1948 and gradually resettled across the valley, near Beit Jala in the Bethlehem district. The march today planned to march from the newly settled Al Walaja to the village’s original lands, which is now forested with a nature reserve.”
East Jerusalem: two days ago in a demonstration outside Beit Yonatan, a neighborhood in which settlers have illegally dispossessed Palestinian residents, a private security guard killed Malid Said Ayash, 17, with a bullet to the chest. Subsequently, dozens of people wounded (in dozens of reports).
Non-lethal force, no one wounded:
Acco/Acre: Dozens of youths waved Palestinian flags & called for the right of return. Israeli police forces confiscated the flags and detained one of the youths for interrogation.
Tel Aviv: Left-wing activists protested in the evening in support of the Nakba Day protests, flew Palestinian flags & chanted anti-military slogans. Local residents threw eggs at them from nearby windows, right-wing counter-protesters changed “Am Yisrael Chai”.
Out of control truck driven by Palestinian with Israeli citizenship kills one man [Avi Morag, 28], wounds 17 others, and damages or destroys 15 cars. The driver accused of being a Nakba Day attack, although he claims that his truck blew a tire and went out of control. In response, Tel Aviv residents demonstrated, demanding “Death to the Arabs.”
Jordan: Jordanian forces prevent protesters from reaching Israeli border, 20 wounded (both police and demonstrators).
Ran Cohen, head of PHR-Israel (Physicians for Human Rights) reports that he saw no evidence of protesters being armed (countering Israeli army spin claiming that there had beeen shooting from among them) on twitter,
Prominent Israeli peace activist and blogger, Didi Remez summed it up best here:
“I think the train wreck is no longer in slow motion.”
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As`ad–not me was in Marun Ar-Ras. He sent me some observations (I am citing with his permission). I hope that Anthony Shadid would not dismiss my friend and the others who are in the pictures as agents of the Syrian regime. As`ad–not me said shorting after he returned hom: “I saw courage and heroism today in front of my eyes. The sight was unbelievable. 10 death and dozens injured and the Palestinian guys would not stop. It is mind boggling. I was 200 meters behind the fence. The Lebanese army at the end attached us and was shooting like crazy up in the air. They chased us up the whole mountain. A day I won’t forget in my life. Thoussands of bullets wire fired above us to drive us back. Friends were literally at the fence and saw the guys falling. I will upload pics and videos later on FB. I will email you my thoughts later. We are still under shock. We were literally taking cover behind rocks, I really don’t know what to say.i swear if only these Palestinians are trained, given arms and support, Israel will not last a week. Every shot Asad from Israelis, a wounded or a killed from our side, dozens of ambulances leaving the scene.. and the guys would not stop. Showers of rocks were going the other way, and the damn Israelis snipers were shooting them down one by one.”
Under a picture of a victim of Israeli fire on the Lebanese-Israeli border, the New York Times printed this: “The body of a Palestinian said to have died by Israeli fire was carried in Maroun al-Ras.” In the hard copy, it was even more skeptical: it said a body of someone that the Lebanese said was killed by Israeli fire, or words to that effect. Does the New York Times employ such cautious language in reporting on victims of, say, Syrian army? Will Anthony Shadid claim that this man was a member of the Syrian mukhabarat and that his informant in Washington, DC saw him being hauled in a Syrian regime bus too?
Today, George Mitchell resigned as Obama administration special envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations. It’s not exactly a day to “give thanks for what the Lord hath made,” to upend Scripture a bit. More like the proverbial chickens of an off-kilter U.S. policy coming home too roost.
Increasingly over the past few months and even moreso in the past few weeks, the Arab peoples, including the Palestinians, have taken matters into their own hands given Israeli obduracy and U.S. irrelevance.
Mitchell had to have seen the handwriting on the wall. Being an honorable man, he didn’t want to continue presiding over a sham policy. The wonder is that he remained in his position as long as he did.
Each party said nice things about the man and blamed the other for failure of his efforts. Israel’s attempt to blame the Palestinians for refusing to negotiate, while the former offered nothing over which to negotiate, was laughable.
I’d like to think (though I have no way of knowing) he lobbied for our joining the effort on behalf of Palestinian statehood which is gathering steam for the UN in September. Perhaps he couldn’t be heard within the administration. Likely, this will leave the hardcore pro-Israel figures like Dennis Ross increasingly in control of policy. That remains to be seen, though one might have reasonable fears this might be the outcome. Ross is a long-time policy infighter who often disagreed with Mitchell’s more balanced approach. When there is an institutional/policy vacuum it is people like Ross who rush to fill it.
Mitchell leaves, of course at an awkward time, just before a major Obama Middle East address and White House meeting with Netanyahu. The effect is as if to say the emperor, that is U.S. Mideast policy, has no clothes. One wonders just what Obama will say in this speech and whether the speech will be little more than a distraction from just how ineffectual our policy is and has been.
Besides the problems with a moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace track, the increasing murderousness of the Assad assault on his own Syrian citizens, which has left 600 dead at the hands of brutal security forces, and which the U.S. has observed from the sidelines, leave us increasingly out of reach and out of touch.
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Ehud Barak, like the Titanic in 1913, gave this second act in his political career a magnificent send-off as he launched his new political party, Atzmaut (Independence). About the only thing it’s independent of is reality. But even Barak seemed to accept his consignment to oblivion come the next election, when he told the (literally) dozens of supporters who came to watch the spectacle:
Barak addressed the dozens of supporters who attended the event, saying he had “good news and bad news”. The defense minister said the “bad news is that we are doing terribly in the polls.”
But, finding a silver lining in the party’s lack of popularity, Barak said “the good news is that we can only go up from here”.
…”There are only 80 people in this room,” Barak said, “but this is only the beginning. If each one of you brings another 80, we can get 20 seats…
By my quick calculation that gets him 6,400 votes, which is barely enough for a single seat, let alone 20. Can you imagine a former Israeli prime minister and current defense minister declares the inauguration of a new political party and he can only draw 80 people? Let us all wave a fond farewell to Ehud Barak who has just consigned himself to political irrelevance and a much deserved rest.
But don’t worry about Ehud. He’ll resume his lucrative defense consulting business milking all those international companies which want to do business in Israel or with Israeli defense contractors. He’ll be opening doors like crazy or seeming to promise that he can.
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Only in Israel could someone take a beautiful natural specimen, the butterfly, and turn it into a lethal agent on behalf of the State. Channel 2 News reports (Hebrew) that renowned Israeli weapons designer, Dubi Benyamini has designed a mechanical butterfly that can be used to infiltrate a target like a home, car or any outside location in order to kill a victim targeted for assassination by Israeli intelligence or the IDF. You might call it a “butterfly drone” (Channel 2 calls it the “butterfly of death” though the inventor calls it more prosaically, the “X-wing”) and add it to the arsenal of death possessed by Israel and the U.S. and used in counter-terror attacks in the Middle East. Of course, the drone can also photograph and video any subject it “sees” and can be used for “close-in” surveillance of subjects. It can be powered by solar energy absorbed in its wings in the course of flight. I suppose if you were a weapons designer you might find it a thing of beauty. But certainly, dark beauty.
The irony: Benyamini has, since the age of 9 (he’s 70 now) had a deep love for butterflies. In fact, he’s know as Israel’s “Mr. Butterfly,” and has written learned tomes on the subject. He’s traveled around the world searching out and naming scores of new butterfly species. The lilting classical music accompanying this news report and the inventor’s proud smile indicate his loving attention to the subject of his hobby and his newly developed weapon. It’s downright eerie to know that this same lovely flying contraption might wreak death on Israel’s enemies.
After enumerating the non-lethal qualities of the drone, the reporter asks whether the drone can “kill.” The inventor answers with a proud smile: “By invitation. Whatever you ask of it, it will do.” With that, the contraption circles around its “father’s” head and all break out into peal of delighted laughter as the classical music plays on.
So why would a man abuse a species he loves so well to turn it into a killing machine? How does he create such a schizoid division between the subjects of his hobby and use of their principles to kill? A question the reporter notes he asked Binyamini, who would not or could not provide an answer.
Frankly, if given the choice between a lepidopterist like Nabokov, who incorporated his knowledge in masterworks of literature; or Benyamini, who yokes his hobby to weapons design, I’d prefer the former.
The Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar reports that the Palestinians in the south of that country wanted to commemorate the Great Defeat (Nakba) of May 15, 1948, but rather than commemorating it they had to relive it. Thousands left their refugee camps all over Lebanon early in the morning Sunday and joined a lively procession they called “Parade of the Return to Palestine.” When they reached the southern Lebanese village of Ra’s Maroun, a few hundred were able to get past the Lebanese army line and to get near the barbed wire that marks the Israeli border, beyond which their parents or grandparents homes had been. The Lebanese army had tried to prevent them from reaching the barbed wire fence, firing shots over their heads. The Palestinians, undeterred, began throwing stones into the Israeli side, and waving Palestinian flags, and putting posters on the barbed wire. Israeli army troops were just a few yards away from all this.
For reasons that are not clear, the Israeli troops abruptly opened fire at the crowds along the barbed wire, killing 10 persons and wounding 112, some of them severely– according to a communique of the Lebanese army. The Guardian reports only 2 killed and does not mention the wounded. An Israeli general is quoted as saying the Palestinians were “vandalizing” the barbed wire fence, thus attracting the fire, and denied knowledge of Palestinian casualties. The Palestinians seem to have been convinced that the gunfire came in retalitation for the rock-throwing. For Israeli soldiers to fire over the border into Lebanon and kill Palestinians on Lebanese soil was felt by the Lebanese as a violation of their sovereignty.
Israeli troops also opened fire on Palestinian protesters at the border they have drawn between the West Bank and East Jerusalem (actually East Jerusalem is part of the West Bank that was occupied by Israel in 1967), and in the West Bank itself, where Israel has plopped down colonies of often armed Jewish fanatics in Palestinian cities and towns.
In the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, which belongs to Syria, a crowd of some 200 Palestinians from Syria got past Israeli barbed wire to come into the village of Majdal al-Shams, where they were fired on by Israeli troops, who killed 2-4 or more and wounded others. Likely it was the weakness of the Syrian state that allowed this small Return of Palestinians, not the machinations of Damascus.
Syria’s protests about the Israeli rush to use live ammunition on protesters would have carried more weight had the protest issued from quarters not engaged in a similar deployment of live ammunition on… protesters.
Palestinian protesters in Gaza came toward the Israeli border (Palestinians are excluded from about 1/4 of Gaza that is near Israel), and were fired on.
Aljazeera English has video:
Thousands of Egyptian protesters gathered outside the Israeli embassy in Cairo demanding the expulsion of the Israeli ambassador. When some tried to invade the embassy grounds, Egyptian troops used tear gas and live ammunition to disperse the demonstrators. One was critically wounded and many were sickened by the tear gas. The protesters complained that excessive force was used against a peaceful crowd.
I don’t think the army changed anyone’s mind.
More Aljazeera video:
What was driving the Palestinian protests is desperation and a state of statelessness, of being in limbo, of having no rights, no property, no prospects, living within sight of their former home, gazing at it from foreign countries that happen also to speak Arabic but which treat them as aliens or (as in Jordan) second-class citizens.
In 1948, European Jewish settlers in British Mandate Palestine ethnically cleansed some 700,000 Palestinians, depriving them of the country promised them by the League of Nations in 1920 when it recognized Palestine as a Class A Mandate and charged Britain with bringing the new country into existence. (Syria and Iraq were also Class A Mandates, i.e. former Ottoman and Hapsburg territories now thought candidates for independent nationhood). Instead, Israel came into existence, born in a revolt against the British and a civil war with the Palestinians who formed over two-thirds of the population of Palestine.. Palestinians who had lived in what became Israel were forced by the Zionist military north to Lebanon, east to the West Bank, Syria and Jordan, and south into the Gaza Strip and Egypt. Most of those expelled from their homes were civilian non-combatants and some had informal peace agreements with inhabitants of neighboring Jewish settlements. There are now some 12 million Palestinians, given natural increase. About 1.5 million live in Israel and have a precarious citizenship, being only 20% of the population of an avowedly Jewish state. There are about 3.6 million in Jordan who have citizenship and another 140,000 or so (mainly from Gaza) who do not. The some 400,000 in Lebanon do not have citizenship, nor do the 450,000 in Syria. There are about 4 million in Gaza and the West Bank under Israeli military occupation who lack citizenship in a state.
Palestinians thus became a scattered, largely refugee people, lacking a state that would guarantee them basic rights and human dignity. In Lebanon, where I have done interviewing with them, they cannot own property, mostly cannot work, cannot get permission to travel to Syria or Jordan. Their camps have poor security and sometimes, as with Nahr al-Bared, come to host tiny outlaw groups that cause the whole camp to be attacked and destroyed. I talked to an old man in his 80s in Nahr al-Bared, living in UN temporary dwellings because the small city had been reduced to rubble in an attempt to destroy some 50 fighters of Fatah al-Islam. He recalled how in 1948 he was living with his mother in an apartment in Haifa when Zionists came and took it from them. They fled to the Lebanese border where they lived as refugees for a year. Then the UN workers put them on a train and took them up to Lebanon’s Tripoli in the north, settling them in a refugee camp. He had been there ever since. He could not own property. He had never been able to have a job. He took me by the hand and led me to a small room where there were two sick old ladies. “Look at them,” he said. “Is this any way to live?”
Israeli suggestions that Lebanon give them citizenship are an attempt to evade responsibility for the ethnic cleansing; Lebanon did not dispossess them, Israel did. Lebanon has a delicate balance of minorities, and giving hundreds of thousands of mostly Sunni Arab Palestinians citizenship would altogether upset it (it is only a country of 4 million anyway). But mainly, why should they? Why should not Israel have to clean up its own mess?
Since the Palestinians’ lack of a state is what allows them to be treated like dirt, to be further dispossessed at will, to be blockaded from basic staples, to be put in a condition of “food insecurity,” it follows that what they need above all is a state. I asked the twice-over refugees of Nahr al-Bared what they would do if President Obama succeeded in securing a two-state solution. They almost shouted. We’d be in Jericho tomorrow, they said. They’d go to the West Bank, where their citizenship would be recognized. They’d finally have a passport. They could get a job, own property, be proper human beings, escape the great Palestinian-Jail that the world community had placed them in for the sake of Israel. Mind you, they were from Haifa and the Galilee. They wouldn’t be going home. But they would be going to their nation-state and that was better than the nothing they now have.
The current Israeli government continues to steal land from the Palestinians and to attempt to blockade those in Gaza. It continues to deny responsibility for the millions in exile. It has never paid a dime in reparations for all the property it usurped from them. As long as Israeli policy looks like this, Israel will remain an insecure bunker on the fringes of the Middle East, a Middle East that has itself become fluid and subject to popular tsunamis.
I like Israel and Israelis, and I’d like to see them have normal, anxiety-free lives. But the policy of the present government toward the Palestinians is self-defeating. Self-defeating is one of those dead phrases that we don’t think about when we hear them. I mean really, self-defeating.
We saw the amazing capability of Twitter (and especially it’s fabulous hashtag function) during the mobilizations inside Tunisia, inside Egypt, inside Bahrain, etc. But all those were mobilizations within single countries/jurisdictions. The Palestinians, by contracts, have been deliberately scattered and chopped up by Israel, over the decades, into tens of different jurisdictions where they all operate under very different circumstances. There are the Palestinians resident in Occupied East Jerusalem, the residents of the rest of the West Bank, the residents of Gaza, the refugees in Jordan, the refugees in Syria, in Lebanon, in Egypt, in Gulf countries, in North Africa, many countries in Europe– and indeed, all around the world. And we should not forget the ethnic Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, who have large numbers of their own claims against the Israeli government, including many claims for the right to return to their own original properties, the right to political and socioeconomic equality, etc.
Right now, Palestinians in many of these jurisdictions are organizing activities around the 64th anniversary of their Nakba, which coincided with– or to be more accurate, temporally bracketed– Israel’s gaining of its Independence in 1948. So there are now three main hashtags operating there: #may15, #nakba, and #pror (Palestinian right of return.)
Different groups of Palestinians– and also, crucially, of supportive citizens in the states in which large numbers of Palestinian refugees live– are organizing different kinds of activities this weekend. Today, there are Egyptians (and perhaps also palestinians?) going to the #Rafah border post from #Tahrir Square. But if you check out the #Rafah entries, you’ll see the Egyptian army has been trying with some success to prevent or considerably tamp down that action. Tomorrow, there is a large mobilization planned for Lebanon. My great author @ramizurayk– whose book went up for sale on Amazon today!– is going to be livetweeting that. There have been actions in Jordan and inside 1948 Israel, and others are planned for London and numerous other spots around the world.
Different actions, yet their narratives can all be linked together through hashtags!
The hashtags also enable organizers to coordinate their actions with great speed and agility, as was evident during the height of the anti-Mubarak movement in #Tahrir Square.
… So what I was tweeting earlier this afternoon, was an observation on the contrast between this situation and the situation back in the mid-1970s, when I first went to Beirut. At that point, it was extremely hard for Palestinians to get news from one Arab country to another. The situation of the Palestinians inside Israel itself seemed as though it came from another planet… This was significant not just for political organizers, but for every single Palestinian family. Every single Palestinian family has been split up in one intimate and wounding way or another by the many catastrophes they’ve been subjected to since the 1940s– and also by the slow but relentless grinding of the ‘ethnic-cleansing-by-administrative-fiat’ that Israel has pursued unceasingly in all the territories that it controls.
The internet has changed all that, in ways that were unimaginable back in the 1970s. A large proportion of Palestinian grandparents around the world– like the rest of us– can now “see” their new grandchildren via internet-based video-phones. Palestinians can be electronically “present” at important family gatherings along with their far-flung close family members. They can learn significant background news about who’s doing what, and where, in the family. They can “tour” the homes and properties of sisters and cousins in other jurisdictions. They can keep alive a revived sense of the family and village lives that once seemed to have been just about smashed.
Back in the 1970s, Israel completely dominated transnational communication in the Middle East. I remember those long strings of wrenching audio messages that Kol Israel would regularly air– Palestinians from one jurisdiction sending hastily recorded messages of big family news over the Israeli airwaves (which were all there was!) to family members in other jurisdictions. The messages were hurried, unprofessional, heartwrenching if you thought about they represented. They would always end on a hurried note of palpably false good cheer: “Kullna tayibin, al-hamdulillah”– “We’re all okay, thank God”. I never really asked what the mechanism was whereby they got recorded and queued for broadcast. I imagine the ICRC probably played a role.
How far we have come. Now, Ali Abunimah (@avinunu), who may be in Jordan today (not sure) can Tweet something about what he’s involved in doing, and @tarekshalaby, who’s in Egypt, can read it and react in near-real time. Check it all out Twitter, it really seems to me, is where it’s all at these days.
Hosni Mubarak and Zein Elabidine Ben Ali probably hated what Twitter did to them. Now, I wonder what it’ll end up doing to the Israeli government’s ability to maintain control over the actions of all its neighbors? It will sure be interesting to see…
And then, there was the Carl Gershmann (NED)- financed, Astroturf-like “movement” in Gaza whose actions seemed designed above all to embarrass and undermine Hamas.
Now, it looks as if the civilian mass organizing is occurring within the Palestinian body politic, and among the Palestinians’ brothers and sisters who are citizens of other Arab states, in a new and significant way. This organizing is going on inside and outside the OPTs– including in Jordan, Egypt, and Lebanon— and the main theme in it (as articulated by the activists in Lebanon) is “The people demand the return to Palestine.” (Ash-sha3b yurid al-aw3da ila filas6een.)
This is a bit of a riff on the main– and stunningly successful!– slogan of the popular movements in Tunisia and Egypt: “The people demand the overthrow of the regime.” In both Jordan and Lebanon there are many hundreds of thousands of Palestinians whose internationally recognized (Univ. Dec. of Human Rts., etc) right to return to the land of their birth has has been prevented by Israel from 1948 until this day. Indeed, over recent decades, successive Israeli governments have refused even to allow the Palestinians to place their refugees’ “right of return” on the negotiating agenda in any meaningful way: Not only they can’t implement the return; they are not even allowed to talk about it!
For the 7-8 million Palestinians around the world who are currently prevented by Israel from returning to the land that they or their immediate forebears were exiled/”cleansed” from in 1948, the right of return has always been a central focus of longing and political activism. The PLO grew up in the Palestinian diaspora, and was organized centrally around the demand of the right of return. But with the 1993 Oslo Accord, PLO leaders Yasser Arafat, Mahmoud Abbas, and Co. traded their support of that demand for something that turned out to be no better than a mess of potage: their own personal “return”– but to Ramallah, not to Jerusalem; and that of a small number of their chosen followers. And the “right”– always heavily circumscribed, and sometimes simply quashed/rescinded, by Israel– to administer a few municipal-type things in and around Ramallah.
The demands and very burning needs of the Palestinian refugees whose support had boosted Arafat, Abbas, and Co. to political prominence were simply jettisoned. As were the demands and burning needs of the broad networks of Palestinians within the OPTs whose steadfast support for the exiled PLO leaders always successfully blocked the plans the U.S. and Israel had to groom an “alternative leadership” from within the OPTs. But once Arafat and Co. returned to Ramallah, they clamped down fast and hard on the till-then semi-autonomous networks of civilian activists that had run the First Palestinian Intifada (1987-93.)
And let us remember that that intifada– and the early weeks of the Second Intifada, in Sept.- Oct. of 2000, which like the First Initfada (uprising) were also overwhelmingly nonviolent and marked by the lengthy and widespread reliance on civilian mass organizing, though by the end of 2000, Israel’s terrible and lethal counter-violence successfully drove many of the shabab into the big tactical mistake of using their own violence, too.
Many of the young, pro-democracy activists in Egypt and Tunisia have said that the civilian mass organizing they saw the OPTs Palestinian engaging in during the First and second Intifadas was an inspiration for their own activism… And now, that kind of civilian mass organizing seems to be coming in a big way to the Palestinians of the immediate diaspora– acting in alliance with their sisters and brothers from the Arab states that have hosted them nigh these many decades. As I chronicled in great detail in the study of the PLO that I published in 1984 with Cambridge U.P., the earliest impulses of those who formed the guerrilla groups that took over (and became) the PLO in 1968-69 were all for armed action against Israel. It was the Palestinians of the OPTs who really pioneered civilian mass organizing.
Anyway, what is happening now is significant, and it may well end up being huge. Citizens of the Arab states that have seen the flowering of the Arab Spring never– as Tom Friedman and others claimed– “forgot” or turned their backs on the Palestinian issue… And now, with the promise that arose as a result of the recent Fateh-Hamas agreement, there is to be a democratization of the PLO’s internal governance, carried out among the entire Palestinian national community, worldwide. Stay tuned.