INDEX (stories follow)
from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by firstname.lastname@example.org (Democracy Now!)
- United Nations Begins Emergency Aid Airlifts in Somalia
- House GOP to Force Debt Ceiling Vote
- IMF: Debt Deal Failure Would Have “Far Reaching” Consequences
- Constituents Flood Lawmakers With Concerns on Debt Impasse
- Afghan Mayor Killed in Suicide Attack
- U.S. Soldier Convicted in Murder of Afghan Civilian
- Britain Expels Libyan Diplomats, Recognizes Rebels
- Double Bombing Kills 12, Wounds 28 in Iraq
- Reports: Mubarak Refusing Food Ahead of Trial
- Supporters: California Prisoners Have Ended Hunger Strike
- Mother of Child Killed in Hit-and-Run Sentenced to Probation
- U.S. Study Claims No Link Between 9/11 Rubble and Cancer; Treatment Not To Be Covered in Healthcare
- Attorney: Audiotape of Dominique Strauss-Kahn Accuser Misrepresented
- Democrat Rep. David Wu Resigns Over Sex Allegations
Yona Avrushmi, assassin of Peace Now’s Emil Grunzweig (Motti Kimche)
Maariv has scored the first media interview (Hebrew) with Yona Avrushmi, the murderer of Peace Now co-founder, Emil Grunzweig. Avrumi was freed from prison several months ago after serving his full 27 year sentence for the assassination that shocked all Israel for its brazenness. In the interview Avrushmi argues that he single-handedly began the campaign that destroyed the Israeli left. Though exaggerated, there is much truth to the fact that the Israeli extreme right’s willingness to use homicidal violence (and the threat of it) against Jews and Palestinians alike has been a key element in its political ascendancy.
The amount of duplicity and evil inherent in Avrushmi’s comments is breathtaking. He is an unreconstructed Jewish terrorist, proud of murdering Grunzweig. The idea that Israelis are kissing his hand for killing a fellow Israeli Jew (after all and unfortunately, one can imagine many Israelis who might kiss his hand if he’d killed a Palestinian) is monstrous. But he is a perfect mirror of the state of the latter-day Israeli nationalist camp. Willing to do whatever it takes to destroy their domestic enemies, and then willing to use whatever subterfuge necessary to avoid responsibility for their actions.
In some ways, this reminds me of the 1920s assassinations during the Weimar period by German rightists of their political enemies (like Rosa Luxembourg), which set the stage for the Nazi ascendancy. It was through a combination of political intimidation, blackmail, coercion and legitimate political support that the Nazis came to power. Though the Likud and most settlers are not Nazis, their tactics during the phases of their rise to power share some similarities. One only hopes that the outcome in Israel’s case will be different than in the German one. [Forewarning: I suggest anyone in the comment thread seeking to critique this paragraph should do so very carefully based on what I’ve actually written here and not based on what you believe I said.]
I can also imagine, had he known of him, that Anders Breivik would heartily approve of Avrushmi, both for the murder and the lies he used in his attempt to earn parole.
The article below was translated by George Talent for Occupation Magazine (italics are mine):
Yona Avrushmi: Thanks to Me the Israeli Left Disappeared
In his first interview since he was released from prison…the murderer of Emil Grunzweig expresses his opinions: “people want to kiss my hand.”
By Sarah Liebowitz-Dar – July 26, 2011
When Yohah Avrushmi appeared before the Prisons Service parole board, he expressed sorrow and remorse over the murder of Emil Grunzweig, of blessed memory, in a Peace Now demonstration in February 1983 in Jerusalem. He also condemned the act in many newspaper interviews over the course of the 27 years during which he was incarcerated. In some cases he even held right-wing politicians responsible.
The latter, he alleged, had created an atmosphere of incitement with their hyperbole, which motivated him to throw the grenade. Now, free from the constraints of prison and without fear of the parole board, the 53 year-old Avrushmi speaks differently.
“There is no more Peace Now, nobody listens to them. There is no Left in Israel. After what I did, many people understood what the Israeli Left is.”
Q: Would you do it again?
“Why should I attack leftists? They’ve already disappeared anyway. Why should I take the trouble to attack them?
Avrushmi, who now squats in an abandoned house in the Hatikvah neighbourhood in Tel Aviv, without electricity or telephone, considered joining the tent city protest for affordable housing on Rothschild Boulevard this week. In the interview he tells about the decision to throw the grenade at Peace Now demonstrators at the famous demonstration on the streets of Jerusalem during the First Lebanon War.
“It was a Mizrahi act,” he says. “Take note that there are no Mizrahi leftists. There’s only one Tali Fahima, most of the leftists are Ashkenazis. I thought about it a long time in advance. I didn’t like the leftists, I thought they were collaborators and traitors. I worked in a settlement and those were the opinions I heard around me. I didn’t intend to kill. The grenade is the kind that fragments into big pieces, but grenades don’t kill, they just drive people away with the shock.”
In February 1995, President Ezer Weizmann commuted his sentence to 27 years. Four times Avrushmi appealed to the parole board in an effort to have his sentence reduced by a third, and every time he was refused. The State Prosecution Service repeatedly claimed that the early release of the murderer of Emil Grinzweig would compromise the public’s confidence in the justice system and that Avrushmi still constituted a danger to the public.
“I demonstrated for Arik Sharon. In order to help him,” Avrushmi says today. “But when I needed his help, he didn’t help me. Arik Sharon betrayed me, his principles and the people who loved him. What happened to him happened because of the injustice he did. It was Yitzhak Rabin, who came from the Left, who took action to have my sentence reduced.”
At the end of January of this year, Avrushmi was released from the Rimonim prison in the Sharon. Many photographers and journalists swarmed around him when he emerged from the prison gates, but he refused to say a word, forcibly pushed the cameras aside and even tried to slap the photographers who approached him. Since then he has been silent. Now he feels free to say what is on his mind. He is particularly proud of the appreciation he receives wherever he goes, according to him.
“People in the street want to kiss both my hands, the hand that pulled out the pin and the hand that threw the grenade. I go to synagogues all over the country, with friends and acquaintances, and I am greeted with admiration everywhere. Even Ashkenazis tell me, ‘congratulations, we admire you.’”
Until the assassination of Rabin Avrushmi was considered the biggest political murderer there has been here. Yigal Amir took that distinction from him. “How can you compare what I did with what he did? I wouldn’t dare assassinate a prime minister. Besides, Rabin wasn’t a leftist at all.”
from Mondoweiss by Adam Horowitz
The following press release was sent out by the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp:
Special Forces of the Israeli Army attacked the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp at approximately 03:30 this morning. Ahmad Nasser Matahen, a night guard and technician student at the theatre woke up by heavy blocks of stone being hurled at the entrance of the theatre.
As he opened the door he found masked and heavily armed Israeli Special Forces around the theatre. Ahmed says that the army threw heavy blocks of stone at the theatre, “they told me to open the door to the theatre. They told me to raise my hands and forced me to take my pants down. I thought my time had come, that they would kill me. My brother that was with me was handcuffed.“
The location manager of The Freedom Theatre, Adnan Naghnaghiye was arrested and taken away to an unknown location together with Bilal Saadi, a member of the board of The Freedom Theatre. When the general manager of the theatre Jacob Gough from UK and the co-founder of the theatre Jonatan Stanczak from Sweden arrived to the scene they were forced to squat next to a family with four small children surrounded by about 50 heavily armed Israeli soldiers.
Jonatan says: “Whenever we tried to tell them that they are attacking a cultural venue and arresting members of the theatre we were told to shut up and they threatened to kick us, I tried to contact the civil administration of the army to clarify the matter but the person in charge hung up on me.“
Freedom Theater, Jenin
Not content to wage war on armed militants (of whom there are very few these days in the West Bank), earlier today the famed special forces of the Israeli army staged a daring raid on Jenin’s Freedom Theater. In a bold tactical stroke, they woke up a night watchman at 3:30AM by throwing hunks of concrete at the theater entrance. They then strip searched him and made him afraid for his life. Those bold national heroes then arrested a Theater board member and abused the theater general manager, a British citizen. When he called the Israeli civil administration, which has sometimes been known to intercede in the most egregious situations, they hung up on him.
I can’t figure out what’s so dangerous about the Theater’s work. Perhaps the performances of Orwell’s Animal Farm in France? Or The Magic Flute? Is there a message of subversion and a call for insurrection I missed in them? Or perhaps they didn’t like the message of support for the Gaza flotilla on its website?
Given that the founder of Freedom Theater, Juliano Mer-Khamis was assassinated outside the venue a few months ago, this comes as a brutish insult from the Israeli authorities. First the Occupation criminalizes resistance through violence. Then resistance through non-violence. Then they criminalize art and expression.
Everyday Israelis believe that somehow these acts of oppression are located far from them. What they don’t understand is that this rot infects from the outside and works its way in. There will come a time, and not very long, when they’ll criminalize artistic expression inside Israel and Israeli Jewish theater managers will be arrested for expressing themselves. That is, if Israeli cultural institutions haven’t become so co-opted that they no longer offer an alternative to the prevailing nationalist consensus.
from Jews sans frontieres by Levi9909
The state filed a law suit on Tuesday against the residents of the Bedouin village Al-Arakib, claiming that razing the illegal outpost multiple times has cost it NIS 1,790,000 ($527,050).The law suit comes exactly one year after a major demolition operation destroyed the town. The residents have been marking the anniversary with protests and renewed construction.
Well in the past they’ve paid with absentee property and with lives so now it’s hard cash
from The Only Democracy? by Jesse Bacon
Video of the Jully 22nd protest in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh.
Part 1 of an account of that day’s protest from our source A. is here.
Her story continues…
After a while, my paramedic friend and a young man from the village led me once again through back-roads and fields back to Leila’s, where people were happy I hadn’t been arrested (and Nour was back to laughing). It sounded like soldiers might reappear, though, so the family and friends advised us internationals to hide in the bedroom in the back. Because I just about escaped arrest at this same house and had supposedly left the village, I took off my shoes and got in the bed (where Hala was trying to sleep to stop crying), and two other girls sat on the floor, listening to the sounds of soldiers nearby. Usaid came into the room and said “stay calm, they are coming into the house”.
While the women stood up to the soldiers and tried to prevent them from coming in, Usaid sat next to me on the bed, typing on a laptop. We heared the commander asking if there was anyone in the house, and the women yelling there wasn’t and that they should leave (very strong, these women). Suddenly the room filled with soldiers, the women managing to stand between them and us as shields and continuing to argue with them. We had not turned on the light, and the army took this occasion to make use of the strong lights on their rifles, pointing them at our faces. The commander screamed at the women “You lied to me! You lied to me“ (like they had cheated on him) and threatened the two girls with arrest unless they leave (so they left). I was pretending to be sick, so I barely reacted to the scene around me – which REALLY feelt shitty.
When the two girls leave, more lights and rifles are pointed at me (I don’t turn my head to look), I am ordered to leave, I tell them I can’t, the women say I am sick, and suddenly the soldiers turn on Usaid!
They corner him against the cupboard next to me, the women still try to shield him, the commander asks for Usaid’s ID, and suddenly and for no reason at all, they arrest Usaid (who is 19 years old, I think). They drag him away, the women are screaming hysterically and trying to get him out of their grips, while still protecting me, telling the soldier to let me sleep.
I am left lying in bed, with an even more shitty feeling, let me tell you. When I dare to go out, the family is trying to calm down (again!) and we speculate if they are going to release Usaid soon or keep him for months, and what could have been done differently to prevent the arrest. The father is angry at Usaid for not having stayed on the porch, as he had told him. He thinks he might not have gotten arrested had he not been in the back room with us. In Usaid’s case, it is very clear that his arrest was random, and I am thinking he was arrested because of us, because he was hiding us. To keep myself busy, I guess, I write angry text messages to friends while I’m sitting with his now very distressed parents – who’ve seen two of their sons and a nephew arrested from their homes in the last few hours and are still waiting for their other son to get out of prison and for his jaw to heal – and I’m feeling the familiar mix of disbelief, powerlessness, guilt, worry, sadness, and whoknowswhatelse. We don’t speak.
I heard later that one of the best-equipped armies of the world had also stormed another house in what sounds like a military operation, pointing rifles and a hand-gun at the heads of internationals and Israelis who were sitting around, to violently arrest Sami, another young man (in this case, it sounds like the arrest was not random).
In the course of the evening and night, all but Nidal got released (Nidal was released Sunday evening), none of them charged with anything. Amir and Mustapha had been beaten very badly, ordered to kneel in the sun for hours, and refused water to drink. Sami got subpoenad and has to present himself on Monday (at the military base, if I remember correctly – we can’t really make out what that is supposed to mean).
When she wasn’t running after soldiers who were arresting her family members, Hala, Nidal’s wife, tried to sleep in order to stop crying. While it was getting dark, the army was still shooting tear gas, including into homes with little children. During the entire day, people kept running in and out of houses to take cover from tear gas (while cooking, while chatting, while resting, while…) Only the night before, soldiers had invaded the village and shot life ammunition at the protest tent.
By night-time, we were all invited to dinner in one or more of the various homes out of which the sons had been arrested (I ended up eating three dinners), the families, Nour, Hala, Leila, and later even Usaid, Mustapha, Sami, Amir, Ibrahim and Qasim hosting us, joking, urging us to eat more, making us feel comfortable, again.
There seems to be no end to the Israeli army’s sick creativity, and Nabi Saleh in particular seems a favorite target. I am not sure how many are currently in jail, but over 10% of the villagers have been detained over the past year and a half for exercising their right to protest against the ongoing illegal annexation of their lands. Like so many communities in Palestine, the inhabitants of Nabi Saleh have seen family members arrested and looked away for weeks, months or years in unproportionately threatening and violent night raids on their homes; during demonstrations, their sons (and sometimes daughters) were detained, and occasionally released the same day without charges. Yet, raiding and storming houses in the middle of the day, in the presence of tens of international and Israeli activists, to arrest young men at gun-point without arrest warrants and only to release them hours later without charges – this seems unusual even for the Israeli army’s regular aggression towards this village. I imagine that the next weeks will show what this means.
In the meantime, I keep thinking of something I said jokingly:„Maybe next Friday, you should send your sons away from the village“. I keep thinking:„Are the inhabitants of the village not allowed to have visitors any more?“, „Is there ANYthing the sons daughters of Nabi Saleh can do to stay safe from arrests?“ and „Is there NOTHING their friends and family can do to protect them?“ Rethorical questions, of course, but in my mind, I keep asking them, keep shaking my head in disbelief.
On the long run, of course, what we can do to protect the people of Nabi Saleh and of Palestine as a whole is to step up our efforts to expose Israel’s past and ongoing crimes and to pressure organisations and political institutions/governments to sanction Israel until it respects international law and the human rights of all Palestinians.
Israeli Foreign Ministry launches social media hasbara campaign featuring cute yellow puppet called ‘Hans von Puppet’
from Mondoweiss by Eleanor Kilroy
The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs enlarged its budget for the “Brand Israel” campaign last year to an unprecedented 100 million Shekels (over $26,260,000). In an article entitled “Will we conquer the world?”, translated by PULSE media, Globes found out that the Ministry’s PR activity would focus on the internet, especially on social networks.
Is.Real 2011 has its own website and Facebook page, and purports to show the “real and authentic Israel”. It is a “project initiated by a select group of students from Tel Aviv University who participate in the StandWithUs Fellowship”. The Fellowship program “works on behalf of StandWithUs in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Israeli Student Union.” StandWithUs then have the gall to add that they are a-political and non-partisan. The StandWithUs organisation most recently released its ‘Flotilla Facts’ about the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza that include typical hasbara such as, “The flotilla organizers intend to aid and support Hamas” and this nugget, “International statistics indicate that Gazans have a higher standard of living than people in nearly all of Africa, including South Africa”.
One of the participants of Is.Real 2011 is a Christian Arab Israeli (Palestinian citizen of Israel), Ayman, who was “born and raised in the village of Yassif”, is into fashion, and is unashamedly camp. Also crucially, there is a gorgeous blonde: Savannah is an Australian singer-songwriter who made Aliya to Israel, while Yair grew up in a religious family in the illegal West Bank settlement of Beit Horon. Meanwhile, Shay, “the most prominent and successful female basketball player in Israel” is the perfect cultural ambassador for Israel. Indeed, they are all just that, as conveyed by the not-very-funny Professor Puppet (below). This is how you sell apartheid Israel to an increasingly critical foreign traveller and international viewer, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs knows it. That is why the docu-reality series appears to be either in, or subtitled in English.
from Mondoweiss by Philip Weiss
You can say it’s a year or so late, that Haaretz was on this a long time ago (or that Bronner privileges Israeli voices over Palestinians ones), but big deal: Hat’s off to Ethan Bronner for publishing a big story in the New York Times about Israeli women’s illegal smuggling of Palestinians from the West Bank to Tel Aviv to go to the beach. The piece ends with an invocation of Rosa Parks and includes a description of the hateful segregation of Palestinians as the work of “colonialist bureaucrats.” It even offers a glint of a vision of equality and does not include the words “suicide bombers.” And it includes facts about the cruel imprisonment of so many Palestinians for resisting these hateful conditions. Did I repeat the word hateful? Thanks to the New York Times for inspiring me with a horrifying story! Last paragraph:
Ms. [Hagit] Aharoni was asked her thoughts. She replied: “For 44 years, we have occupied another country. I am 53, which means most of my life I have been an occupier. I don’t want to be an occupier. I am engaged in an illegal act of disobedience. I am not Rosa Parks, but I admire her, because she had the courage to break a law that was not right.”
Hints of democracy, information about imprisonment:
The Palestinian visitors came with complicated histories. In most of their families the men have been locked up at some point. For example, Manal, who had never been to the sea before, is 36, the mother of three and pregnant; five of her brothers are in Israeli prisons, and another was killed when he entered a settler religious academy armed with a knife.
She brought with her an unsurprising stridency. “This is all ours,” she said in Tel Aviv. She did not go home a Zionist, but in the course of the day her views seemed to grow more textured — or less certain — as she found comfort in the company of Israeli women who said that they, too, had a home on this land.
from Mondoweiss by David Landy
I was in London, interviewing a very sharp, very funny elderly lady; one of the leading members of the British group Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Since she’d been critiquing Palestinian solidarity, I asked her mischievously; ‘So what scope is there for critical solidarity’. The answer was decisive, not a trace of hesitation: ‘there’s none’, and to dispel any doubt, ‘there really isn’t any.’
So what scope is there for a book on Jewish opposition to Israel, one that’s critical and yet in solidarity with this movement? Here, I’d very respectfully disagree with my interviewee, wanting my recent book on the topic, Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights, to strike such a balance.
The book tracks the development of diaspora Jewish opposition to Israel. With so much bad news about Israel/Palestine, it’s a pleasure to report a success story. Over the last decade this activism has developed from a few isolated individuals and grouplets in a few countries to a fully-fledged and growing movement, active throughout the Western world. It’s still a small movement and stronger in some places than others (for instance, the movement hasn’t yet taken off in Latin America), with the expansion in the diaspora Jewish heartland of North America being probably the most exciting recent development. But even when weak, this movement has enabled the automatic correspondence between Judaism and Zionism to be challenged, both by Jews and non-Jews. These days there’s always a Jewish group able to declare, as the banner of the British group J-BIG has it, ‘It’s kosher to boycott Israeli goods’.
The organization of the movement gives food for thought. In country after country, groups were established as ‘big tent’ or ‘umbrella’ organizations, designed to contain a diversity of opinions. However this diversity has best been achieved by the multiplicity of groups that have sprung up in most countries, organizations which usually exist in friendly co-operation with each other. The big tent is a more patchwork affair than originally envisioned. But it is no less effective for that; and more, as an organizational form it reflects and prefigures the diverse Jewish community that many within these groups are struggling for, alongside working for justice for Palestinians.
During my research, I was fascinated by how activists negotiated their relations with fellow Jews as well as with Jewishness. The movement often creatively draws upon Jewish traditions, with many members seeking a reconstitution of diaspora Jewish identity so it revolves around their interest in justice, human rights and universalism. This then leads to the question about the relationship with Palestinians – is this movement, as some critics have argued, simply about Jews trying to feel good about themselves, with Palestinians being incidental to this identity politics?
The answer is complicated (of course). Some members, seeing themselves as refuges from Zionism, described by one interviewee as ‘the largest mindless solidarity organization in the world’ are reluctant to be drawn back into solidarity again, this time with Palestinians. Others, understanding their work as part of a broader anti-racist movement (especially in North America) or anti-colonial movement (a strong motivation for French activists), have no such qualms with solidarity. But everywhere there is a tension between the identity of the activist and the demands of Palestinians. In order to make themselves heard in their local fields, many groups do engage in a certain muffling of Palestinian subjectivity, a tendency to see Palestinians as victims.
This is not just a feature of Jewish groups – as an active member of the Palestine solidarity movement in Ireland, I’m well aware of this. Viewing the objects of solidarity as no more than objects may well be a tendency of all distant issue activism. But more interesting than the persistence of this tendency, is how groups do manage to challenge it. This is the other way Jewish groups have developed over the last decade – they have not just grown in size, there is also a growing appreciation of the Palestinian point of view and support for their political demands. As a member of the Dutch group, EAJG (A Different Jewish Voice) put it, greater contacts with Palestinians and greater understanding of the situation leads to what he termed ‘a greater consideration of the other’. Critical solidarity, you could possibly call it.
The promise and one of the aims of the movement is that one day this understanding will not be antagonistic to a sense of diaspora Jewishness, but a central part of it.
David Landy is a lecturer in Trinity College Dublin, and the former chair of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign. His book, Jewish Identity and Palestinian Rights has recently been published by Zed Books.
from Mondoweiss by Yasmin Qureshi
A trip to Eastern European cities cannot be complete without visiting the Jewish quarters. The beautifully inscribed names of Bohemian and Moravian Holocaust victims on the inner walls of the serene Pinkas Synagogue in Prague brought tears to my eyes. The text of the inscriptions was compiled from card indexes, drawn up shortly after the war on the basis of extant transport papers to ghettos and extermination camps, registration lists and survivor’s accounts. Most of the sites were destroyed during the World War and the Nazi invasion and were rebuilt, many revived in the post Communist era with funding from American-Jewish organizations or private donors.
A room upstairs had drawings of children from the Terezín concentration camp. As I looked at the children’s drawings during my visit in March, my thoughts went to the drawings I saw at the Dehesiah refugee camp in the West Bank and an exhibition of paintings from children of Gaza. Children’s expressions of their constrained and hostile environment were quite similar, with images of soldiers with guns, tanks and airplanes surrounding their homes.
Krakow, the historical capital of Poland with a rich Jewish history, was my next stop. A few kilometers from Auschwitz, it is also known for Schindler’s factory seen in Spielberg’s film Schindler’s List. The old Jewish quarter has beautiful buildings with empty once-vibrant open markets.
Tourism opened up in Poland only after the end of the Communist rule in 1989. Today, Jewish heritage tourism, also called “roots tourism” is a thriving business, revived by American Jewish foundations, the two most significant being The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation and The Taube Foundation. Tourists, mostly from Israel and the US, come to visit the Jewish quarters and concentration camps. Permits to be a tourist guide are given only to Polish citizens but Israelis have been granted an exception.
In 1987, Ronald Lauder, son of Estee Lauder, established the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, a philanthropic organization that is dedicated to rebuilding Jewish communities in Central and Eastern Europe. The foundation supports student exchange programs between New York and various capitals in Central and Eastern Europe. Lauder is also President of World Jewish Congress.
The Taube Foundation, founded by Tad Taube, originally from Poland, established the Jewish Heritage Initiative in Poland (JHIP) in 2004. Taube was chairman of Koracorp Industries and serves on the boards of a variety of nonprofits, including the Hoover Institution, the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research and the Stanford Athletic Board. The Initiative aims to nurture the revival of Jewish life in Poland, bring further awareness of this resurgence among Jews and non-Jews and foster positive interest in Poland and Polish Jews among American Jews.
Part of the revival project is an annual Jewish Cultural Festival in Krakow where thousands of people come from all over the world. According to Taube in an interview in Philanthropy Roundtable in 2009, around 300,000 Americans go to Poland every year. He believes that when the Museum for the History of Polish Jews opens in Warsaw, we’ll see one million foreign visitors per year to that museum alone.
The Holocaust educational tours take young girls and boys to ghettos and death camps with the tour leader recreating the horrors and details about how Jews were exterminated. The objective is to not only revive the past but also bring awareness and prepare the young generation to fight anti-Semitism today’s world.
“Auschwitz is special to us too,” said a local 40 year old tourist guide who prefers to remain anonymous. “Before the German Nazis targeted the Jews, they exterminated Poles. Fifty percent of the people killed by Nazis were non-Jewish Poles,” she said. “Many of my clients are Jews who have come here to trace their roots and find the location of their buried ancestors”, she explained. “I understand their trauma. But sometimes I wonder if it is psychologically healthy to continuously think about being a victim and revisit history.”
When Poland lost six million people it was, according to Professor Richard Lukas, author of The Forgotten Holocaust, the highest ratio of losses to population of any country in Europe. The country was devastated and almost destroyed. Poland, in effect, became a Holocaust survivor — a pathetic skeleton of a country, soon to be further ravaged by the Communists:
“The genocidal policies of the Nazis resulted in the deaths of as many Polish Gentiles as Polish Jews, thus making them co-victims in a Forgotten Holocaust. This Holocaust has been largely ignored because historians who have written on the subject of the Holocaust have chosen to interpret the tragedy in exclusivistic terms–namely, as the most tragic period in the history of the Jewish Diaspora. To them, the Holocaust was unique to the Jews, and they therefore have had little or nothing to say about the nine million Gentiles, including three million Poles, who also perished in the greatest tragedy the world has ever known. Little wonder that many people who experienced these events share the feeling of Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz, anxious when the meaning of the word Holocaust undergoes gradual modifications, so that the word begins to belong to the history of the Jews exclusively, as if among the victims there were not also millions of Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, and prisoners of other nationalities.” — Richard C. Lukas, preface to The Forgotten Holocaust: The Poles under German Occupation 1939-1944
“A Jewish guide confronted me on using the word extermination for non-Jews,” said Andrzej Bajek, another tourist guide. “Why should the term holocaust and extermination only be used for Jews?” he asked. “We don’t want to diminish their tragedy but why should the killing of non-Jewish Poles during World War II not be recognized the way same way as Jews?” he asked.
“News articles in the United States and Western Europe including Germany label concentration camps set up by German Nazis as Polish concentration camps falsely implying it was a Polish policy and tactic of the World War II,” said 26 year old Anna Malinowska, who grew up in Poland and now lives in the United States. “Many Jewish people lived in Poland since the 13th century. Yes there was anti-Semitism before World War II started but just as much as in France, Britain or other European countries. What is missing today is a dialogue between the young generation of Poles and Jews to learn about one another that could lead to a better future,” she continued.
“Israelis who come to see our country only visit the Holocaust sights. They don’t visit museums, parks, castles or churches. They are not allowed by their guardians to have free time in the city to go to a disco club or concert. If we can’t see them in the natural environment where can we learn about them? Israel is not interested in conducting international exchanges for school kids. I think this is where we are very different. Polish people have a much bigger curiosity to learn about Jews than they have to learn about Poles,” said 30 year old Karina Tomczyk, a specialist in Jewish heritage tours studying Jewish religion, culture and history. “For the world’s Jews this is a dead end road, a graveyard, nothing else except a place of despair. Every day I try to bring hope to these people,” she continued.
Tomczyk also talked about the present and the disappointment with the Allies saying, “I think we are angrier about today than of the past. The USA wants to put in here their anti-missile shields; they want our soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are there for everyone and still not appreciated. We never were and are still not considered a partner.”
Public discourse in the post World War II era has not given other genocides the same acknowledgment as that of the Jews. Often, the politically motivated Zionist narrative uses generations of persecution of the Jewish community in Europe to justify and continue its ideology, making it difficult for people to differentiate between the Jewish community and the state of Israel. Criticism of Israel is equated to anti-Semitism and often leads to confusion between Zionism and Judaism.
I asked a young Israeli girl now studying in New York standing in line to buy tickets to the synagogues in Prague what she thought of the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. “Their suffering is nothing compared to ours. They may be segregated and live in bad conditions but it is not as bad as the ghettos. We get trained to think no one’s pain is comparable to ours so it dehumanizes us from their pain,” she shrugged.
Dr Mona elFarra, a physician, human rights and women’s rights activist living in Gaza Strip described the living conditions in her blog, From Gaza, With Love on February 26, 2010, “The small piece of land that is Gaza is surrounded by electrical wires and closed borders, where 1.6 million live from one day to another with all sorts of hardships and no political outlet, exacerbated not only by the occupation but also the internal division.”
The Israeli navy’s attacks on the Mavi Marmara boat sailing from international waters into Gaza in 2010 to break the siege of Gaza, organized by the Free Gaza Movement is a proof of Gaza’s occupation where even the waters are not free. Today Israel is working at the highest diplomatic level, pressurizing governments to disallow boats to sail from their countries. The West Bank is not any better with Jewish settlements, special roads for Jews, checkpoints and walls shrinking Palestinian land.
My trip to East Europe left me disturbed not only with Europe’s brutal past but also the world we live in today. The only way forward seems to be to acknowledge the past, move away from its shackles and work towards a world based on equality, justice and freedom from racism and prejudice.
Yasmin Qureshi is a human rights activist involved in social justice movements in South Asia and Palestine.
from Max Blumenthal by Max
Last week I attended a discussion on the Palestinian Authority’s statehood bid at the UN by Susan Akram, a Boston University School of Law professor who is a leading expert on refugee issues and international law. Akram delivered a withering assessment of the PA’s statehood campaign at the UN. She focused her lecture on contrasting the PA’s strategy with Namibia’s, demonstrating how Nambia managed to achieve independence despite its initial designation by the UN to be one of the least likely colonial mandates to attain the status necessary for statehood, and despite a prolonged occupation by apartheid South Africa. Nambia and its supporters filed a steady stream of submissions to the International Court of Justice, winning decisions that confirmed the illegality of South Africa’s occupation while demanding sanctions on South Africa. Thus Nambia established a legal framework guaranteeing that any UN resolution granting it statehood would also establish its full independence.
In contrast, the PLO and PA accepted the formula of a negotiated land for peace, allowing the UN Security Council to relegate Resolution 194, the right of return resolution that guarantees individual, inalienable Palestinian rights, to “final status” talks (the UN’s acceptance of Israel as a member state in 1949 was contingent on its fulfillment of Res 194). Since Israel’s occupation of Palestine began, the Palestinian Authority has made only one request for an advisory opinion from the ICJ, when in 2004 it challenged Israel’s right to build the separation wall across the Green Line. Though the PA received a favorable ruling, it did nothing to enforce the ruling — no mobilization of civil society or demand for sanctions. In fact, despite the ICJ’s recommendation, the PA rejected the Palestinian civil society call to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel.
Akram said the PA’s failure to enact a strategy of “soft and hard law” had left an array of questions about the upcoming Palestinian statehood resolution unresolved, casting serious doubt on the whole endeavor. She enumerated some the key unresolved issues:
1. What do the 150 UN member states who vote for the resolution do with the recommendation? Do they afford Palestine full representation or representative status? Where will their embassies be? Since Israel will refuse to allow foreign embassies in East Jerusalem, will they instead be in Ramallah, and if so, does that mean that Ramallah is the future capitol of a Palestinian state? Will passports be issued to Palestinians and will they receive full consular intervention if they require it abroad?
2. What will be the recognized population of Palestine? Will it include Palestinians in the diaspora? In the West Bank and Gaza? Inside Israel? The refugees? If it does not include the refugees, do they then lose the legal right to return to their property and land confiscated by the state of Israel? None of these questions have been answered and the consequences are enormous.
3. If Palestine will be considered a legitimate state on the diplomatic front, it will not have relations with states that refused to recognize it. That means it would not have relations with the United States. How does that impact Palestine’s status at the International Court of Justice or the UN, where the US and Israel could prevent its admission to the Human Rights Council?
4. What can Palestine do to enforce the withdrawal of Israeli settlements and its territorial integrity in the absence of Israeli withdrawal and the backing of the US? The issue of enforcement has not been addressed through the statehood resolution.
5. Even if new avenues open for legal recourse against the Israeli occupation, Israel does not recognize the International Court of Justice’s authority and the United States will block any efforts to bring Israeli defendants to the ICJ for crimes they committed against Palestinians. So in real terms, what can Palestine do? Further, if Palestine becomes a member of the UN, it could table and introduce resolutions, but does this represent a change in the observer status the PLO has enjoyed since 1974? It does not.
6. Do Palestine’s security forces become a legitimate military force with all the benefits that it entails? Can they purchase arms as all state military forces do? If Israel refuses to accept members of the Palestinian military as legitimate soldiers than the status quo of captured Palestinian soldiers being treated as terrorists remains.
The consequences of statehood without real independence are enormous, Akram said. In the absence of a strategy based on hard and soft law, the PA’s statehood resolution bid could be an exercise in futility. While Namibia relied on a protracted legal battle for 40 years along with armed struggle and a political/media strategy to lay the foundation for its independence, Akram warned that the outcome for Palestine is highly uncertain.