The Nation: ‘Israel’s man of conscience ‘

by Ezra Nawi

from The Nation

My name is Ezra Nawi. I am a Jewish citizen of Israel.

I will be sentenced on the first of July after being found guilty of assaulting two police officers in 2007 while struggling against the demolition of a Palestinian house in Um El Hir, located in the southern part of the West Bank.

Of course the policemen who accused me of assaulting them are lying. Indeed, lying has become common within the Israeli police force, military and among the Jewish settlers.

After close to 140,000 letters were sent to Israeli officials in support of my activities in the occupied West Bank, the Ministry of Justice responded that I “provoke local residents.”

This response reflects the culture of deceit that has taken over all official discourse relating to the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

After all, was I the one who poisoned and destroyed Palestinian water wells?

Was I the one who beat young Palestinian children?

Did I hit the elderly?

Did I poison the Palestinian residents’ sheep?

Did I demolish homes and destroy tractors?

Did I block roads and restrict movement?

Was I the one who prevented people from connecting their homes to running water and electricity?

Did I forbid Palestinians from building homes?

Over the past eight years, I have seen with my own two eyes hundreds of abuses such as these and exposed them to the public–therefore I am considered a provocateur. I can only say that I am proud to be a provoker.

Because I am a provoker, the police together with their allies have threatened me, beaten me and arrested me on numerous occasions. And when I continued to “provoke” them, they did not hesitate to out me as a gay man; indeed, they spread rumors among the Palestinians with whom I work that I have AIDS.

One of the reasons I have been singled out has to do with who I am. It is difficult to explain, but as a Mizrahi Jew (descended from Jewish communities in the Arab and Muslim world), a gay man and a plumber, I do not belong to the elite of Israeli society and do not fit the stereotype of the Israeli peacenik–namely, an intellectual Jew of Ashkenazi decent. Actually, the police officers who constantly arrest me and I are part of the same social strata. I was programmed like them, have a similar accent, know their jargon and our historical background is comparable. And yet, in their eyes I am on and for the other side, the Palestinian side.

This simple fact seems to disturb them so much that they have to vilify me; that is the only way their worldview will continue making sense. I threaten them precisely because I undermine the categories and stereotypes through which they understand the world.

But the policemen are only actors on this stage. The military, civil administration and the judicial system are all working with the police, and all of them together follow the commands of their masters, the Jewish settlers.

This unholy alliance is extremely dangerous, because for them the end–gaining full control of the Land of Israel–justifies the means. In order to advance this end they dehumanize the Palestinians; and because the Palestinians in their eyes are not human, everything is permitted. They can steal their land, demolish their homes, steal their water, imprison them for no reason and at times even kill them. In Hebrew we say damam mutar, taking their blood is permissible.

It is important to keep in mind, however, that the evil I confront every day in the West Bank could not have been carried out without the Israeli court system. Judge Eilata Ziskind not only mistakenly found me guilty but she instructed the court to invite a translator for the sentencing, as if I do not speak Hebrew; in her mind I, a Mizrahi Jew, am a Palestinian Arab–and Arabs are, almost by definition, guilty. My case is merely part of a pattern. All the crimes committed by the state and its proxies in the territories over the past four decades were made kosher by the Israeli courts. Therefore, the courts are just as much to blame for the ongoing cruelty.

Because I am a provoker the state subjects me to continuing harassment, and yet I have remained persistent. What strengthens me and gives me energy is the widespread and constant support I have always received from political allies. When I was beaten by settlers, when my car was stolen, when I was arrested, I never felt alone. I know that thousands of people, both in Israel and abroad, support what we in Ta’ayush (Jewish-Arab Partnership) are doing against the occupation.

“Ezra” in Hebrew means help, and I know that in times of trouble I can rely on my friends for help.

A fierce attack on the village of Bil’in

from International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

At around 4am soldiers from the Israeli military stormed the village of Bil’in by foot. They abducted Suleiman Sif, aged 16 years, from his home and dragged him to an unknown destination.

This raid is part of a broad campaign over the last two weeks by the army to strike terror into the villagers of Bil’in. It is meant to stop the people from continuing their peaceful, non violent resistance at a time when a major court case against nearby settlement builders is pending in Canada.

It is yet another case of collective punishment by the Israeli government which fears that the resistance in Bil’in is achieving results.

We Do Not Seek a Confrontation

from Free Gaza Movement


Activists aboard Gaza justice boat demand they be allowed to visit their friends & family in besieged Gaza, and deliver their cargo of medical supplies, children's toys, and reconstruction kits. They invite the world to join them.

(At Sea, 60km off the coast of the Gaza Strip) - Human Rights activists aboard the Free Gaza ship, the SPIRIT OF HUMANITY, today demanded that the Israeli Navy immediately stop threatening them.

“This aid is desperately needed by the people of Gaza,” said Mairead Maguire, winner of the Noble Peace Prize and Pacem in Terris Award for her work in Northern Ireland. “President Obama has called upon the Palestinians to abandon violence but Israel is denying them the right to non-violently resist the siege of Gaza.”

The unarmed justice ship departed Larnaca Port in Cyprus at 7:30am Monday with its crew of 21 human rights activists, humanitarian workers and journalists from 11 different countries, including Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The boat, a converted ferry, hopes to arrive in Gaza Tuesday afternoon, following a grueling 30 hour sea voyage.

At 1:30am, Israeli warships surrounded the small civilian boat and threatened to open fire if they did not turn around. When the activists refused to be intimidated, Israeli Occupation Forces began jamming their instrumentation, blocking their GPS, radar, and navigation systems. This jamming was in direct violation of international maritime law, threatening the welfare and safety of the civilian ship.

Responding to this intimidation, Congresswoman McKinney declared, "I am extremely angry. We demand that the Israeli government call off their attack dogs. We are unarmed civilians aboard an unarmed boat delivering medical and reconstruction aid to other human beings in Gaza. Why in God's name would Israel want to attack us?"

Huwaida Arraf, Chairperson of the Free Gaza movement and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage, said, "All we want is to reach Gaza. We want to visit our friends and deliver our cargo of medical supplies, children's toys, and reconstruction materials. Our ship was searched and received security clearance from the Port Authorities in Cyprus before we departed."

Arraf continued, "We do not seek a confrontation. We have traveled from Cypriot waters to international waters and will enter Gazan waters. We've never gone anywhere near Israel. Israel’s closure of Gaza is an act of collective punishment and a blatant violation of international law. We call upon our governments to take action to uphold their obligations under the Fourth Geneva Conventions. If they won’t or until they do, we will act. We will come to Gaza again and again until this brutal siege is broken. We invite the good people of the world to join us."

Free Gaza boats are the first international ships in 41 years to sail to the Gaza Strip. Since August 2008, the Free Gaza Movement has organized 8 sea missions, successfully arriving to Gaza on 5 separate occasions. One two earlier occasions, Israeli Occupation Forces used violence to stop the ships, physically ramming and almost sinking the DIGNITY boat in December 2008, and threatening to fire on and kill unarmed passengers in January 2008. The fate of this, the eighth mission to Gaza, is still uncertain.

For more information, please contact:
Greta Berlin (English/French) or Caoimhe Butterly (English/Arabic/Spanish) at 00357 99 081 767 / friends@freegaza.org This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


CALL or FAX Major Liebovitz from the Israeli Navy at:
Tel + 972 5 781 86248 or +972 3737 7777 or +972 3737 6242
Fax +972 3737 6123 or +972 3737 7175

CALL Mark Regev in the Prime Minister's office at:
Tel +972 2670 5354 or +972 5 0620 3264
mark.regev@it.pmo.gov.il This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CALL Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defence at:
Tel +972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
mediasar@mod.gov.il This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it


Free Gaza Movement
357 99 081 767

Panel to urge gov't to support Ainu through legislation

from The Associated Press

TOKYO, June 29 (Kyodo) — A government panel discussing policies concerning the Ainu people plans to urge the Japanese government to take legislative proceedings to support Ainu people's livelihoods, the panel's head said Monday.

The panel agreed to propose in a report, which will be issued at the end of July, to promote policies to enhance the livelihood of Ainu people, Koji Sato, a professor emeritus at Kyoto University, said at a news conference.

"Considering the history that the state policy promoting modernization resulted in causing great damage to the culture of indigenous Ainu people, it is necessary for the state to take initiative to draw up and implement policies with responsibility," Sato said.

The policies include promoting Ainu studies and culture, and beefing up understanding of Ainu people through enhanced education, Sato said, adding that the report is unlikely to mention detailed contents and timing of the legislation.

"We share a view that it is significant for the government to show the public how it will work with the issue with certain philosophy and stances through legislation," Sato said.

The panel also agreed to mention in the report the history of the Ainu people, who were driven into a position to become subject to the government's modernization policy and suffered from discrimination, Sato said.

The report is also expected to mention that there are still disparities between Ainu and other people in such areas as university advancement rates.

The Ainu people live primarily on the northern main island of Hokkaido and have their own language and culture. They suffered under the government's assimilation policy that deprived them of their land, language and customs.

The panel was set up after the central government recognized the Ainu as an "indigenous people" in June last year and pledged to work to "promote current Ainu policies and establish comprehensive measures" based on that recognition.

The recognition came after the United Nations adopted the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in September 2007, which outlines the collective and individual rights of an estimated 370 million indigenous people.

Japanese filmmakers persist with historic film

by Kathryn Marmon

Japanese volunteers filming “TOKYO Ainu” are still in production but a promotional short can be viewed on YouTube.The short documentary opens with scenes in Shiba Park, the site of the Hokkaido Aboriginal Training School where 38 Ainu were taken by force in 1872 from their homes in Hokkaido. The adjustment was great, and impossible for five souls who were unable to make the changes necessary to save their lives.
The Tokyo population is about 42 million. Among them, living undiscovered until recently, are about 5,000 Ainu. They have left Hokkaido, not all together willingly, but out of necessity to find jobs, acquire education and to avoid discrimination.
“We wanted to go back, but couldn’t afford to,” said one man in the film, who is not named.
Still, Ainu who moved to Tokyo found they were still the object of discrimination. Some became afraid to admit to their Ainu heritage. Despite opposition, even from close friends who tell them to give up, the Ainu people are persistent in their campaign to be recognized as an indigenous people. Some are beginning to believe they have made progress and are grateful to elders who set out on this quest for freedom. Young Ainu are anxious to learn about Ainu ways of living, preparing their food, and about their music, in order to become self-reliant.
The promotional documentary shows footage completed as recently as July 2008.
Yoshiko Kayano, “TOKYO Ainu” Film Production Committee member, recently agreed to an interview.

EX: Can you tell me about your progress? Has the film already been
YK: When the shooting of the film started in the spring of 2007, the focus was on an Ainu elder Haruzo Urakawa, who had been single-handedly building an Ainu cultural facility, and the tentative title was "Haruzo, an Ainu." As the shooting progressed, the film's focus was changed to include the whole Ainu community in Greater Tokyo and the title was also changed to "TOKYO Ainu." As a result, the completion of the film has been delayed. Now we hope to complete it by the spring 2010. One big problem we are facing is the financial one, because the production of the film has been financed only by supporters' purchase of cooperation vouchers and donations.

EX: Are they happy with the film, so far?

YK: They still need to shoot several more scenes and people and then start to edit them. So far, only the promotional footage was completed, but we all expect that this film is going to be a very important one.

EX: What further projects does the production company have planned?

YK: Not necessarily about the Ainu. This is not a production company. When an Ainu elderly woman made a passionate plea: "Please make an Ainu movie for us. Please document our voices for the future generation," the production committee was
established and found a director Hiroshi Moriya (a former TV director / now a freelance film director and a vegetable farmer). The committee consists of five members who all work volunteer for this film. The committee was established to make this film and currently don’t have any concrete plan to make another film, but we all hope to find a way to keep these filmed interview records as an archive and make available so that the following generations of the Ainu can learn from them.

EX: What is the name of the production company and do they have a website?

YK: The name of the committee is "TOKYO Ainu" Documentary Film Committee. The website in English is:
We hope many people will visit this website and learn about this film project, and give what they can.
Hiroshi Moriya: Director, Editor, Film
Produced by: “TOKYO Ainu” Film Production Committee

In defiance, Israel expands West Bank settlements

from The Palestine Telegraph

In a new move to expand illegal settlements of the occupied West Bank, Israel has ordered the registration of nearly 14-thousand hectares of land adjacent to its largest settlement.

The order published by Palestinian Al-Quds newspaper concerns some 13,900 hectares (about 34,348 acres) of land east of Maale Adumim, near the Dead Sea and the Jordan Valley. Based on the report, the Israeli military called on Arab residents living near the massive Maale Adumim settlement outside Jerusalem (al-Quds) to register their land within 45 days.

The region is mostly inhabited by Arab Bedouin tribes, who have been expelled during previous expansions of the settlement, the boundaries of which already extend to the Jordan Valley.

Israel has repeatedly been called to halt the construction of illegal settlements including the so-called "natural growth" in existing settlements in the occupied West Bank.

US President Barack Obama has recently pressed Tel Aviv to halt all settlement activities in order to re-launch stalled peace talks with the Palestinians.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, however, has ruled out the possibility of total settlement freeze, saying Tel Aviv will allow growth in existing ones, including Maale Adumim.

This is what occupation looks like: Bil’in invaded by Israeli soldiers

from Mondoweiss

We give a lot of attention to the weekly nonviolent protests in the village of Bil’in as they are an inspiring example of popular resistance in the face of Israeli repression. But the truth is that the village is under constant threat of attack from the Israeli military, not just during protests. The video below should be an international scandal, instead it’s just another night in the occupied territories. From the Friends of Freedom and Justice – Bilin:

At around 2:30am two groups of around 35 soldiers (70 total) descended on the village of Bi’lin. They raided several houses, detained their inhabitants, and searched the inside of the houses. When members of the ISM and the Popular Committee of Bi’lin confronted the soldiers, they called all of Bi’lin a closed military zone and threatened to arrest anyone out of their house or anyone on top of a house taking pictures. In the course of these house raids, they kidnapped a 16 year old boy (Mohsen Kateb) from his house and took him away into the night. And they kidnapped a 16 year old boy (Hamoda Yaseen)from his house and took him away into the night. Haitham al-Katib, a respected Palestinian activist in Bi’lin was video taping the raids when soldiers aggressively pushed him against a wall and threatened him with arrest. Two members of the ISM intervened on his behalf and were able to wrest him out of the grasp of the soldiers. They then raided the house of Iyad Burant, the head of the popular committee, and threatened his 9 year old son (Abdal kalik) with physical harm if he didn’t produce a camera he was holding. After several people including 2 internationals intervened by blocking the soldiers path, they were also threatened with arrest and were pushed by the soldiers. After repeated efforts, the soldiers gave up and left that particular house.

This raid follows on the heels of others that have happened almost every night for 2 weeks. Today’s arrest now brings the total to seven people, who have been arrested and taken away since the onset of the raids. Bi’lin currently is facing the loss of sixty percent of its farmland due to the construction of the apartheid wall and the illegal settlements that have followed in the wake of the wall.

Nablus area family served demolition order

from International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

Luban al-Sharqiya, Palestine – Khawla Abdel-Qader Ewes, her husband, sister, and 6 children are facing a daunting situation. They have been living in the village of Luban for their entire lives, and for the past 20 years, this life has consisted of a 7 square meter single room.

Luban al-Sharqiya is a village of approximately 3,500 people, 5 kilometers southeast of Nablus City. The village is completely surrounded by Area B and C land, while the village itself is Area A as defined by the Oslo Interim Agreement.

There are several illegal settlements in close proximity to the village. The only means Ewes had to improve her quality of life was to build upon the land bequeathed to her by her father, outside of the village. In order to finance building a new home she was forced to sell her jewelry as well as her current home. This 400 square meter plot of land is located in Area C.

A significant amount of work has already gone into the construction on this home, but last week Ewes received a demolition order from the neighboring government of Israel. The order states that she must go to court on July 2, 2009 in order to start the demolition process. Now Ewes finds herself forced to use the last of her funds to pay a lawyer in an attempt to save her new house. Meanwhile, she will be forced to leave the house her family currently occupies next month.

While in Luban, ISM representatives also met Anwar Ballouta whose house was demolished in 2005. He rebuilt it, and has been fighting a demolition order on the new house for several years now. His family’s case has reached the Israeli High Court. However, without the means to pay for a lawyer, Ewes’s case looks much grimmer.

Israeli forces invade four Awarta homes in the night

from International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

In the early morning hours of Wednesday, June 24, 2009, the Israeli Army invaded four houses in Awarta, a village south of Nablus. The soldiers claimed to be looking for weapons and caused mayhem in every room of these houses. They left after six hours without arresting anyone.

Between midnight and 6am on Wednesday morning, soldiers invaded four houses in Awarta village, one of which was not inhabited at the time. According to the villagers, some 50 soldiers entered the houses while another 50 encircled the houses. They had two dogs with them.

House 1: Said Salim Hassan Awad
The husband and father of this family was in Jericho at the time of the invasion. His wife and their children were sleeping when some 50 soldiers woke them up demanding that they open the door. They ordered everyone into one room and pointed their gun at the two-year old son, telling him that they would kill his brother if he did not tell them where the gun was. Although the family assured the soldiers that there were no weapons in the house, the soldiers searched every single room, throwing the furniture upside down, slitting chairs open. They destroyed wardrobes, light bulbs, and children’s toys, and threw vases full of flowers on the floor, shattering them. The interior of this house was in complete shambles and the children were still visibly frightened.

House 2: Abdul Kader Ahmed Ibrahim Abdad
The scenario was similar in this house. Around midnight, some 50 soldiers had demanded entry to the house. Here, too, the soldiers ordered all the family members (8 children and both parents) into one room. One soldier pointed his M-16 at the 4-year old girl and asked where the weapons were. As he saw a poster of Saddam Hussein on the wall, he asked her 10-year old brother who this was. When the boy told him that he liked Saddam, the soldier ripped the poster off the wall. While searching the house, they threw furniture around, pulled out drawers, and broke one of the children’s beds. This house has been invaded several times before, the last invasion having occurred four months ago. The soldiers left after six hours without arresting anyone.

House 3: Jewer Mahmud Derawish
Around 2 am, the family inside this house was woken up by shouts of soldiers who demanded entry to the house. Here, only women (8 in total) were at home at the time. Some 40 soldiers entered saying that they were looking for something. While searching the house, they tipped over the family’s food storage containers of rice and olive oil. Thereafter, they destroyed part of their wheat field.

House 4: The owners were not at home at the time
Since this house was not inhabited at the time of the invasion, the soldiers forced the door open, breaking the lock in the process. The footprint of a soldier’s boot is clearly visible on the door. Furniture was overturned, the doors of a small wardrobe were ripped off, a children’s bed was broken, and clothes were scattered everywhere on the floor.

According to the villagers, house invasions are frequent in Awarta.

Free Gaza Boat “Spirit of Humanity” departs Cyprus

from The Free Gaza Movement

The Free Gaza boat the “Spirit of Humanity” departed Cyprus at 7:30am on Monday, 29 July. Twenty-one human rights and solidarity workers representing eleven different countries were aboard. The passengers include Nobel laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. congresswoman Cynthia McKinney. The ship also carries three tons of medical aid, children’s toys, and rehabilitation and reconstruction kits for twenty family homes.

Over 2,400 homes were destroyed in Gaza during the Israeli massacre in December/January, 490 of them by F-16 airstrikes, as well as 30 mosques, 29 educational institutions, 29 medical centers, 10 charitable organizations, and 5 cement factories.

Each kit carries a small amount of supplies for a single family, representing sectors of civil society currently being blockaded by Israel: Agriculture, Building & Reconstruction, Education, Electricity, Health, and Water & Sanitation. Although over 4 billion dollars in aid was promised to Gaza in the aftermath of the Israeli onslaught, little humanitarian aid and no reconstruction supplies have been allowed in.

Photos of leaving this morning:



Mairead Maguire, co-winner of the 1977 Nobel Peace prize for her work in Northern Ireland:

“[The Palestinians of Gaza] must know that we have not and will not forget them.”

Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney:

“[T]he U.S. should send a message to Israel reiterating the reported White House position that the blockade of Gaza should be eased, and that medical supplies and building materials, including cement, should be allowed in … Will [President Obama] stand by his own words and allow us to provide relief for Gaza or will he back down?”

Huwaida Arraf, Chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement:

“Israel’s closure policy is a blatant violation of international law. We call upon our governments to take action to uphold their obligations under the Fourth Geneva Conventions. Until they do, we will act.

Passengers aboard the Spirit of Humanity include:

Khalad Abdelkader, Bahrain
Khalad is an engineer representing the Islamic Charitable Association of Bahrain.

Othman Abufalah, Jordan
Othman is a world-renowned journalist with al-Jazeera TV.

Khaled Al-Shenoo, Bahrain
Khaled is a lecturer with the University of Bahrain.

Mansour Al-Abi, Yemen
Mansour is a cameraman with Al-Jazeera TV.

Fatima Al-Attawi, Bahrain
Fatima is a relief worker and community activist from Bahrain.

Juhaina Alqaed, Bahrain
Juhaina is a journalist & human rights activist.

Huwaida Arraf, US
Huwaida is the Chair of the Free Gaza Movement and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Ishmahil Blagrove, UK
Ishmahil is a Jamaican-born journalist, documentary film maker and founder of the Rice & Peas film production company. His documentaries focus on international struggles for social justice.

Kaltham Ghloom, Bahrain
Kaltham is a community activist.

Derek Graham, Ireland
Derek Graham is an electrician, Free Gaza organizer, and first mate aboard the Spirit of Humanity.

Alex Harrison, UK
Alex is a solidarity worker from Britain. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Denis Healey, UK
Denis is Captain of the Spirit of Humanity. This will be his fifth voyage to Gaza.

Fathi Jaouadi, UK/Tunisia
Fathi is a British journalist, Free Gaza organizer, and delegation co-coordinator for this voyage.

Mairead Maguire, Ireland
Mairead is a Nobel laureate and renowned peace activist.

Lubna Masarwa, Palestine/Israel
Lubna is a Palestinian human rights activist and Free Gaza organizer.

Theresa McDermott, Scotland
Theresa is a solidarity worker from Scotland. She is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Cynthia McKinney, US
Cynthia McKinney is an outspoken advocate for human rights and social justice issues, as well as a former U.S. congressperson and presidential candidate.

Adnan Mormesh, UK
Adnan is a solidarity worker from Britain. He is traveling to Gaza to do long-term human rights monitoring.

Adam Qvist, Denmark
Adam is a solidarity worker from Denmark. He is traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

Adam Shapiro, US
Adam is an American documentary film maker and human rights activist.

Kathy Sheetz, US
Kathy is a nurse and film maker, traveling to Gaza to do human rights monitoring.

Israeli forces invade Bil’in, seize two teenagers

from Ma'an News Agency

Seventy Israeli soldiers invaded the West Bank village of Bil’in at 2:30am on Monday morning, raiding houses and eventually abducting two teenage boys.

According to Iyad Burnat of the village’s Popular Committee, local and international activists (with the International Solidarity Movement) confronted the soldiers, who then declared the entire village a “closed military zone,” threatening anyone who leaves their house with arrest.

Burnat said that 16-year-olds Mohsen Khatib and Hamoda Yasin were seized from their homes in the village, which is known for its persistent weekly demonstrations against the construction of the Israeli separation wall. The wall isolates the villagers from more than half of their land.

He also said that Palestinian activist Haitham Khatib was videotaping the raids when Israeli soldiers shoved him against a wall and threatened him with arrest. Two international activists were able to wrest him from the grasp of the solders.

Burnat added that the soldiers invaded his house, threatening to arrest his nine-year-old son if he did not hand over a camera. Several people, including two internationals, intervened, blocking the soldiers’ path, eventually compelling them to leave the house.

The Israeli military has said that it arrested 14 “wanted Palestinian terror suspects” during raids in the West Bank on Sunday night.

Israeli forces have raided the village nearly every night for the past two weeks, arresting seven people.


Demonising Iran conveniently hides uncomfortable truths for the West

by Robin Yassin-Kassab

THE MAINSTREAM media narrative of events unfolding in Iran has been set out for us as clear as a fairytale: an evil dictatorship has rigged elections and now violently suppresses its country's democrats, hysterically blaming foreign saboteurs the while. But the Twitter generation is on the right side of history (in Obama's words), and could bring Iran back within the regional circle of moderation. If only Iran becomes moderate, a whole set of regional conflicts will be solved.

I don't mean to minimise the importance of the Iranian protests or the brutality of their suppression, but I take issue with the West's selective blindness when it gazes at the Middle East. The "Iran narrative" contains a dangerous set of simplicities which bode ill for Obama's promised engagement, and which will be recognised beyond the West as rotten with hypocrisy.

Iran's claims of Western incitement for the protests are roundly scorned in our media, and of course Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei's scapegoating of foreigners and "terrorist groups" demonstrates an unhealthy denial of the very real polarisation within Iranian society.

Yet Iranians still have good reason to fear outside interference. It was, after all, British and American-orchestrated riots that brought down the elected Mossadeq government in 1953. And in 2007, Bush administration neocon John Bolton told the Telegraph that a US attack on Iran would be "a last option after economic sanctions and attempts to foment a popular revolution had failed".

According to veteran journalist Seymour Hersh, ongoing US special operations in Iran include funding ethnic-separatist terrorist groups such as the al-Qaeda-linked Jundallah in Baluchistan. With some honourable exceptions, this dimension has not been touched by the mainstream media.

And Mir Hossein Mousavi's vote-rigging allegations are accepted without scrutiny, despite there not yet being any hard evidence of organised cheating. The official result is similar to that in the second round of the 2005 elections, when Mahmoud Ahmadinejad received 61.7 % to former president Rafsanjani's 35.9%.Iran is troublesome not because it’s any more dictatorial than its neighbours but because it’s less submissive

A few weeks before the latest elections, a poll commissioned by the BBC and ABC News predicted a nationwide advantage of two-to-one for Ahmadinejad over Mousavi. Even Israel's Mossad chief Meir Dagan reported that there were no more irregularities in the Iranian vote than in elections in liberal democracies.

I visited Iran in 2006, with a backpack and guidebook-standard Farsi. I noticed two things. First, Iran is far freer, fairer, less littered, and more literate than any of its neighbours. Second, very many Iranians are unhappy with their corrupt rulers and, unlike people in nearby Arab states, they are not afraid to say so openly. To an extent, the revolution has been a victim of its own success, having transformed a largely feudal land into a highly educated urban society, creating along the way a swollen middle class and an idealistic youth which chafes against the petty oppression of dress codes and state-enforced morality. But everyone I spoke to favoured evolution of the existing system over counter-revolution.

The Islamic Republic has been a great - if seriously flawed - experiment in economic and strategic independence, its engines oiled by class consciousness and national pride as much as by religion. Iran is at least a semi-democracy, and has held 10 presidential elections in 30 years. Iranian women are obliged to cover their hair, true, but women in US-client Saudi Arabia are obliged to cover their faces. In Saudi Arabia of course there are never any elections to dispute - but there are US military bases, so we don't dwell on the issue.

Here's the nub of it. Iran opposes the US military presence in the region, and vigorously supports resistance to Israeli expansionism. On these two points, the Iranian regime is closer than any other to the true sentiments of Middle Easterners.

And this, fundamentally, is why Iran is imagined to be such a problem in the West: because it's a Venezuela or a Cuba of a country. Iran is troublesome not because it's any more obscurantist or dictatorial than its neighbours, but because it is less submissive.

The world worries about Iran's nuclear energy programme while keeping quiet about Israel's 200 nuclear weapons. Israel occupies Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian territory. Iran has not attacked another country in its modern history.

Iran is accused of backing terrorism because it helps to arm Hizbullah and Hamas, grassroots anti-occupation groups with a legitimate, even legal, cause. Both groups have targeted civilians (rarely, in Hizbullah's case) but not on as grand a scale as Israel, which is armed and funded by the United States. And Iran doesn't export Wahhabi-nihilist terrorists of the Taliban or al-Qaeda-in-Iraq variety. Again, that would be our ally Saudi Arabia.

President Obama recently chose to address the Muslim world from Cairo, seat of a client regime which has "pre-emptively" arrested hundreds of democrats in recent months, fearing they may demonstrate.

Commenting on Iran, Obama called the "democratic process" a "universal value". But obviously not quite universal enough to cover Egypt, or the elected Hamas government, what remains of it, in besieged Palestine.

Silences can be more significant than words. Is Obama also "deeply troubled" when Israel shoots unarmed protesters or arrests children as young as 12? Does he mourn "each and every innocent life that is lost" in Gaza as well as in the plusher streets of Tehran? If so, he still hasn't told us.

At present our opinion-formers are blithely simplifying and demonising a complex culture, allowing illusions and half-truths to become shining certainties in our minds. This is how we arrived in Iraq.

Robin Yassin-Kassab was born in Britain to a Syrian father and English mother. He worked as a journalist in Pakistan before moving to Oman where he taught English. He now lives in Scotland. His novel, The Road From Damascus, is published by Penguin, £8.99

Israeli incursion in Faraheen

from International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

Israeli forces have entered the village of Faraheen this morning and are still currently there using bulldozers to destroy farmland. According to local villagers there are now 2 graders, 4 tanks, 2 tanks armored with canons, 2 tractors and 4 bulldozers on the farmland. The army has also ignited a fire.

UN public hearing in Gaza broadcasts accounts of war victims

by Rory McCarthy

The UN has held an unprecedented public hearing in Gaza to broadcast live witness accounts from Palestinians who described seeing their relatives killed and injured during Israel’s January war.

One after another, they detailed Israeli rocket strikes and artillery shelling near a mosque, a UN school and on several homes across Gaza during the three-week war. The two-day hearing is part of an inquiry by the UN human rights council into the war led by the respected South African judge, Richard Goldstone.

Israel has refused entry for the inquiry team, accusing the UN council of an anti-Israel bias even though Goldstone himself is Jewish. But another round of hearings will be held in Geneva next week, for which some Israeli witnesses are expected to be flown in. They may include residents of Sderot, near Gaza, which has suffered repeated Palestinian rocket attacks.

“The purpose of the public hearings in Gaza and Geneva is to show the faces and broadcast the voices of victims – all of the victims,” Goldstone said last week. He had sat on South Africa’s constitutional court after the fall of apartheid and was a chief prosecutor on the UN criminal tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

Yesterday’s public hearing was the first in a UN fact-finding mission, though there is little chance it will lead to prosecutions. Up to 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed during the war.

Mousa Silawi, 91, described an explosion at the entrance to a mosque in the Jabaliya refugee camp late on 3 January, which killed 17 people, including three of his sons and two grandchildren.

“After evening prayer a huge shell hit the mosque,” he said. “It was absolutely incredible. We starting screaming and calling for God.” Silawi, who is blind, was led away to safety and was then told that his sons had died. “Where is law? Where is justice? I have lived 91 years. I have seen everything, but nothing of this sort. It was such a catastrophe,” he said. His son, Moteeh, the mosque’s sheikh, said there had been no warning before the missile struck. “People came to the mosque for safety and we saw bloodshed,” he said. “I was leading my father out when my own foot stepped on the head of a small child,” he said. “I saw people carrying decapitated heads and parts of bodies. I cannot describe what I saw … What crime did the children commit?”

In another case Ziad al-Deeb, a university student, described how an Israeli shell struck in the courtyard of his family home in Jabaliya on 6 January. The blast killed 11 of his relatives and sliced off both his legs. First he heard an explosion just outside the wall of the house and then moments later a second shell landed in their yard.

“In a single instant we had all of our joys replaced with blood,” he said. “There was a severe whistling in my ears and a pillar of smoke and dust and that obliterated what happened. When I looked up I found I had lost both my legs. I was sprawled over the body of my own brother. I looked for my father and others, and I found them motionless. Most of them were dead.”

He lost his father, grandfather, two brothers and a sister in the blast, which was one of several mortar shells that fell in quick succession that afternoon near a UN prep school being used as a shelter for those fleeing the fighting. Between 30 and 40 Palestinians were killed near the school. An earlier UN inquiry has already found Israel responsible for the shelling.

After hearing his evidence, Goldstone said: “We extend our deep condolences to you and your family for your terrible loss and it makes your coming here all the more painful for you.”

Yesterday’s hearing was held at a UN office in Gaza City and then broadcast live to a hall at a nearby cultural centre, deserted save for a handful of journalists. However, the hearing was broadcast on some television stations, including one al-Jazeera channel. The UN inquiry team will issue a final report in August.

The Wilful Killing of Aqel Srour Following a Ni’lin Demonstration against the Annexation Wall: a Deplorable Illustration of Impunity’s Slippery Slope

from Al-Haq

As a Palestinian human rights organisation dedicated to the promotion and protection of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), Al-Haq regrets once again having to draw attention to the deadly consequences of the pervasive culture of impunity among the ranks of the Israeli military establishment. The lack of accountability for Border Police who have employed excessive force to suppress civilian demonstrations against Israel’s illegal construction of the Annexation Wall in the OPT, is a scenario which has sadly become an archetypal example of this culture of impunity. The wilful killing by an Israeli Border Police officer of an unarmed civilian in Ni’lin village after the conclusion of a demonstration just over two weeks ago is a regrettable illustration of impunity’s slippery slope.


According to Al-Haq’s field information, the circumstances surrounding this wilful killing are the following:
On Friday, 5 June 2009, at approximately 2:30 pm, unarmed Palestinian demonstrators were dispersing after participating in the weekly protest against the construction of the Annexation Wall in the centre of the West Bank village of Ni’lin. The demonstration had been characterised by the use of force by Israeli Border Police against demonstrators, some of whom had thrown stones but who were otherwise unarmed and in no way posed a lethal threat to the policemen. One demonstrator was injured by live fire during the course of the demonstration.
At the conclusion of the demonstration, the Israeli Border Police unit drove away through one of the northern gates in the Wall. Following the departure of the military vehicles, five civilians dispersing from the demonstration approached the area of the northern gate. Unbeknownst to the five, one Border Police officer remained in the area, hidden behind a stone formation (formerly a well). A sixteen-year-old child, Mohammad Misleh Mousa, unwittingly approached the remaining officer, who shot Mohammed in the abdomen from a distance of 40 metres. Thirty-five-year-old Aqel Sadeq Dar Srour ran to assist Mohammad and was also shot in the chest by the officer. Immediately following these shootings and without calling for assistance, the officer left Ni’lin on foot through one of the northern gates in the Wall. Mohammad and Aqel were rushed to Ramallah Hospital. Aqel was pronounced dead upon arrival. Mohammad was hospitalised and underwent several operations and may be permanently paralysed as a result of a bullet’s penetration of his spine.

Legal Analysis

Any claim that the use of force against Mohammad and Aqel was lawfully employed in the context of a policing operation to quell a demonstration against the Wall and restore law and order must be discounted. The use of force by the police officer in this case cannot be directly correlated to the demonstration. As can be discerned from the fact that all of the Border Police left the area, with one exception, the demonstration was over.

The circumstances also preclude any claim that the Israeli officer acted in self-defence. The use of lethal force against an unarmed person posing no threat and who was completely unaware of the soldier’s presence is unjustifiable and constitutes arbitrary deprivation of life in contravention Israel, the Occupying Power’s, obligations under international human rights law.

Regrettably, the Israeli military’s rules of engagement have promoted arbitrary deprivation of life in the OPT since the outbreak of the Palestinian intifada in 2000. As the result of an expansive definition of “life threatening”, the rules allow military and security personnel to open fire on Palestinian civilians in non-life threatening circumstances, including situations in which protesters throw stones. Hence, the death and injury of numerous civilians at demonstration flashpoints related to the Annexation Wall, such as the villages of Bi’lin, Biddo and Ni’lin, is a result of Israel’s refusal to reconcile its rules of engagement with its international legal obligations. In highlighting the above, Al-Haq recalls the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Güleç v. Turkey. The ECHR held that despite the demonstrator’s use of stones, firearms and sticks against police officers, these circumstances did not render the resort by Turkish police to powerful live fire absolutely necessary. The resulting death of one demonstrator was therefore found to amount to a violation of the right to life.

Finally, in the case of Aqel, where the unlawful use of force by the officer resulted in death, the fact that live ammunition was employed, targeting sensitive parts of the body and without issuing any warning, strongly suggests ‘wilful killing’. Wilful killing is a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention for which the perpetrator is individually criminally responsible.

Al-Haq therefore joins the call by the Israeli human rights organisation B’Tselem for the Israeli Military Advocate General to initiate an independent and impartial investigation into the killing of Aqel Sadeq Dar Srour. Further, as a first step towards ending the culture of impunity, Al-Haq calls upon the Legal Advisor to the Israeli military to undertake a systematic review of the rules of engagement with a view to bringing them into compliance with Israel’s obligations under international law.

Lift the Closure-Give Life a Chance!

by Laila El-Haddad

Ah-the Shalit deal. On again. Off again. On again-and now, off again (according to Haaretz and Hamas both, it never existed to start with).

As though Shalit were the end all be all of the Palestinian problem. Nevermind the 1.5 million Palestinians trying to survive under siege. Nevermind the 11 thousand palestinian prisoners in israeli jails.

In any case, it appears that there was perhaps something in the works-and in an attempt to pressure Hamas to sign on, Egypt (already sealing Rafah Crossing in collusion with Israel for going on two years now) has hindered passage through Gaza's only land crossing to thousands of Palestinians yesterday and today. This, despite an announcement that they would open the crossing for 72 hours. Collective punishment.

Of the some 5000 Palestinians registered to cross, only 250 were allowed out of Gaza on the first day (a total of 5 buses), and only 4 buses scheduled to depart today.

My parents-on bus # 16, are waiting along with thousands of others. They registered to travel over 2 months ago, and keep checking whether their names have appeared on the list of the lucky on the website of the Ministry of the Interior, but nothing is ever guaranteed in Gaza.


Uri Avnery's Column: Between Tel Aviv and Tehran

by Uri Avnery

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of Iranian citizens pour into the streets in order to protest against their government! What a wonderful sight! Gideon Levy wrote in Haaretz that he envies the Iranians.

And indeed, anyone who tries these days to get Israelis in any numbers into the streets could die of envy. It is very difficult to get even hundreds of people to protest against the evil deeds or policies of our government – and not because everybody supports it. At the height of the war against Gaza, half a year ago, it was not easy to mobilize ten thousand protesters. Only once a year does the peace camp succeed in bringing a hundred thousand people to the square – and then only to commemorate the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.

The atmosphere in Israel is a mixture of indifference, fatigue and a “loss of the belief in the ability to change reality”, as a Supreme Court justice put it this week. A very dramatic change is needed in order to get masses of people to demonstrate for peace.

FOR MIR-HOSSEIN MOUSAVI hundreds of thousands have demonstrated, and hundreds of thousands have demonstrated for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. That says something about the people and about the regime.

Can anyone imagine a hundred thousand people gathering in Cairo’s Tahrir Square to protest against the official election results? The police would open fire before a thousand had assembled there.

Would even a thousand people be allowed to demonstrate in Amman against His Majesty? The very idea is absurd.

Some years ago, the Saudi security forces in Mecca opened fire on unruly pilgrims. In Saudi Arabia, there are never protests against election results – simply because there are no elections.

In Iran, however, there are elections, and how! They are more frequent than elections in the US, and Iranian presidents change more often than American ones. Indeed, the very protests and riots show how seriously the citizens there treat election results.

OF COURSE, the Iranian regime is not democratic in the way we understand democracy. There is a Supreme Guide who fixes the rules of the game. Religious bodies rule out candidates they do not like. Parliament cannot adopt laws that contradict religious law. And the laws of God are unchangeable - at most, their interpretation can change.

All this is not entirely foreign to Israelis. From the very beginning the religious camp has been trying to turn Israel into a religious state, in which religious law (called Halakha) would be above the civil law. Laws “revealed” thousands of years ago and regarded as unchangeable would take precedence over laws enacted by the democratically elected Knesset.

To understand Iran, we have only to look at one of the important Israeli parties: Shas. They, too, have a Supreme Guide, Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who decides everything. He appoints the party leadership, he selects the party’s Knesset candidates, he directs the party faction how to vote on every single issue. There are no elections in Shas. And in comparison with the frequent outbursts of Rabbi Ovadia, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a model of moderation.

ELECTIONS DIFFER from country to country. It is very difficult to compare the fairness of elections in one country with those in another.

At one end of the scale were the elections in the good old Soviet Union. There it was joked that a voter entered the ballot room, received a closed envelope from an official and was politely requested to put it into the ballot box.

“What, can’t I know who I am voting for?” the voter demanded.

The official was shocked. “Of course not! In the Soviet Union we have secret elections!”

At the other end of the scale there should stand that bastion of democracy, the USA. But in elections there, only nine years ago, the results were decided by the Supreme Court. The losers, who had voted for Al Gore, are convinced to this very day that the results were fraudulent.

In Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan and now, apparently, also in Egypt, rule is passed from father to son or from brother to brother. A family affair.

Our own elections are clean, more or less, even if after every election people claim that in the Orthodox Jewish quarters the dead also voted. Three and a half million inhabitants of the occupied Palestinian territories also held democratic elections in 2006, which former President Jimmy Carter described as exemplary, but Israel, the US and Europe refused to accept the results, because they did not like them.

So it seems that democracy is a matter of geography.

WERE THE election results in Iran falsified? Practically no one of us – in Tel Aviv, Washington or London – can know. We have no idea, because none of us – and that includes the chiefs of all intelligence agencies – really knows what is happening in that country. We can only try to apply our common sense, based on the little information we have.

Clearly, hundreds of thousands of voters honestly believe that the results were faked. Otherwise, they would not have taken to the streets. But this is a quite normal among losers. During the intoxication of an election campaign, every party believes that it is about to win. When this does not happen, it is quite sure that the results are forged.

Some time ago, Germany’s excellent 3Sat television channel broadcast an arresting report about Tehran. The crew drove through the main street from the North of the city to the South, stopping frequently along the way, entering people’s homes, visiting mosques and nightclubs.

I learned that Tehran is largely similar to Tel Aviv at least in one respect: in the North there reside the rich and the well-to-do, in the South the poor and underprivileged. The Northerners imitate the US, go to prestigious universities and dance in the clubs. The women are liberated. The Southerners stick to tradition, revere the ayatollahs or the rabbis, and detest the shameless and corrupt North.

Mousavi is the candidate of the North, Ahmadinejad of the South. The villages and small towns – which we call the “periphery” – identify with the south and are alienated from the north.

In Tel Aviv, the South voted for Likud, Shas and the other right-wing parties. The North voted for Labor and Kadima. In our elections, a few months ago, the Right thus won a resounding victory.

It seems that something very similar happened in Iran. It is reasonable to assume that Ahmadinejad genuinely won.

The sole Western outfit that conducted a serious public opinion poll in Iran prior to the elections came up with figures that proved very close to the official results. It is hard to imagine huge forgeries, concerning many millions of votes, when thousands of polling station personnel are involved. In other words: it is entirely plausible that Ahmadinejad really won. If there were forgeries – and there is no reason to believe that there were not – they probably did not reach proportions that could sway the end result.

There is a simple test for the success of a revolution: has the revolutionary spirit penetrated the army? Since the French Revolution, no revolution has succeeded when the army was steadfast in support of the existing regime. Both the 1917 February and October revolutions in Russia succeeded because the army was in a state of dissolution. In 1918, much the same happened in Germany. Mussolini and Hitler took great pains not to challenge the army, and came to power with its support.

In many revolutions, the decisive moment arrives when the crowds in the street confront the soldiers and policemen, and the question arises: will they open fire on their own people? When the soldiers refuse, the revolution wins. When they shoot, that is the end of the matter.

When Boris Yeltsin climbed on the tank, the solders refused to shoot and he won. The Berlin wall fell because one East-German police officer refused at the decisive moment to give the order to open fire. In Iran, Khomeini won when, in the final test, the soldiers of the Shah refused to shoot. That did not happen this time. The security forces were ready to shoot. They were not infected by the revolutionary spirit. The way it looks now, that was the end of the affair.

I AM not an admirer of Ahmadinejad. Mousavi appeals to me much more.

I do not like leaders who are in direct contact with God, who make speeches to the masses from a balcony, who use demagogic and provocative language, who ride on the waves of hatred and fear. His denial of the holocaust – an idiotic exercise in itself – only adds to Ahmadinejad’s image as a primitive or cynical leader.

No doubt, he is a sworn enemy of the state of Israel or – as he prefers to call it – the “Zionist regime”. Even if he did not promise to wipe it out himself, as erroneously reported, but only expressed his belief that it would “disappear from the map”, this does not set my mind at rest.

It is an open question whether Mousavi, if elected, would have made a difference as far as we are concerned. Would Iran have abandoned its efforts to produce nuclear weapons? Would it have reduced its support of the Palestinian resistance? The answer is negative.

It is an open secret that our leaders hoped that Ahmadinejad would win, exacerbate the hatred of the Western world against himself and make reconciliation with America more difficult.

All through the crisis, Barack Obama has behaved with admirable restraint. American and Western public opinion, as well as the supporters of the Israeli government, called upon him to raise his voice, identify with the protesters, wear a green tie in their honor, condemn the Ayatollahs and Ahmadinejad in no uncertain terms. But except for minimal criticism, he did not do so, displaying both wisdom and political courage.

Iran is what it is. The US must negotiate with it, for its own sake and for our sake, too. Only this way – if at all – is it possible to prevent or hold up its development of nuclear weapons. And if we are condemned to live under the shadow of an Iranian nuclear bomb, in a classic situation of a balance of terror, it would be better if the bomb were in the hands of an Iranian leadership that keeps up a dialogue with the American president. And of course, it would be good for us if - before reaching that point - we could achieve, with the friendly support of Obama, full peace with the Palestinian people, thus removing the main justification for Iran’s hostility towards Israel.

The revolt of the Northerners in Iran will remain, so it seems, a passing episode. It may, hopefully, have an impact in the long run, beneath the surface. But in the meantime, it makes no sense to deny the victory of the Iranian denier.

Germaine Greer on 'On Rage'

from ABC News

"I don't have any right to any rage. I'm one of the world's most fortunate people... I make a living explaining my position. I have a platform. I can use it, really, whenever I want to."

That's Germaine Greer speaking about On Rage, her essay for a new series described as "little books on big themes".

It's an apt description - Greer's essay of only around 10,000 words tackles the issue of violence and suicide by Aboriginal men.

Germaine details what she says is the one time she was ever enraged - her fiftieth birthday party. The host of the party had invited his cousin, a foreign television presenter who is identified in the essay only as Guy. She writes that this guest "decided to amuse himself by a little light mockery of us both for being concerned about the rights of indigenous peoples".

"He was baiting me and amusing the company who were all having a lovely time laughing at these racist observations," says Germaine. "When he saw that he was upsetting me he didn't stop."

Finally Germaine couldn't take it anymore. She had to vent her rage.

"I spoke for about ten minutes." she says. "I'm not sure if I'd made any sense at all."

"I couldn't be effective, I was spluttering," says Germaine. "My head was sort of booming and my eyes were pricking as if somebody was putting hot needles in them.

"I suddenly realised that rage disables you - it's like a fit, it's awful."

Greer's assertion is that a far more potent form of this disabling rage is driving Aboriginal men to self - and socially - destructive behaviour.

"People who suffer from disabling rage are generally people who are inarticulate, who cannot get it out," says Germaine. "So it stays within them, it becomes implosive and it becomes an aspect of passive resistance and passive resistance tears people to pieces it's extremely damaging."

In On Rage Germaine Greer goes into some harrowing details of white Australia's interactions with the Aboriginal population, especially when it comes to the rape and prostitution of Aboriginal women and girls. This is not something that only happened years ago. It's a practice that started with the first settlers and continues today.

The loss of their land, their women and their language, writes Greer, leaves Aboriginal men with nothing but their rage - impotent, self destructive rage. It's this rage which leads the men to suicide, domestic violence and child abuse.

She fears that the Federal Government "intervention" may tear communities apart, saying the women who supported the intervention may be "seen as having coluded with the enemy" by Aboriginal men.

Celebrated Aboriginal academic and activist Marcia Langton, who is cited in the essay as supporting the intervention, has hit back. She's called Greer's essay a "panoply of protest slogans deployed as social theory" and "a cleverly disguised but nonetheless racist attack on Aboriginal people" in an article she wrote for the Australian.

"Perpetrators of violence and abuse should take responsibility for their behavior," writes Marcia Langton. "We are not in the mood for failed leftist excuses for the rising levels of homicide, femicide and suicide."

None the less, Germaine Greer is insistent that alcoholism, drug abuse and violence can not be treated symptomatically.

"It's not the substances that are the problem, it's the rage which is the problem," she says.

She says the current attitude from most Australians is that "they just better get over it and they just better get mortgages, get jobs, enter into the debt cycle and DIY and become like the rest of us".

The rage exhibited by Aboriginal men, she says, is a form of passive resistance.

So what can be done?

"There may not be an answer because we are very late on this," says Greer. "We had people reporting syphilis in small Aboriginal children in the 1920s."

"The difficulty is we don't know what Aboriginal men want because they're not telling us," says Germaine.

Aboriginal men are at the opposite end of the spectrum to Germaine's fortune position of having a platform she can use whenever she wants to.

"If I say that rage is the murderous child of inarticulacy one of the things you have to do is try to develop a way of articulating the situation," she says. "We really need the treaty."

"We need the treaty because it's something you can talk to in a negotiating situation in which you don't have to assume the posture of a victim," says Germaine. "I think we might end up with hundreds of treaties because we have to have different treaties for all the different groups."

"You use the treaty as a way of beginning the discourse, and in the context of the treaty you might actually begin to hear where the passive resistance is coming from."

A Journalist Beaten -- One Year Later

by Mohammed Omer

from Agence Global

June 26, 2008 is a day I will never forget. For the events of that day irrevocably changed my life. That day I was detained, interrogated, strip searched, and tortured while attempting to return home from a European speaking tour, which culminated in independent American journalist Dahr Jamil and I sharing the Martha Gellhorn Journalism Prize in London -- an award given to journalists who expose propaganda which often masks egregious human rights abuses.

I want to address the denials from Israel and the inaccurate reporting by a few journalists in addition to requesting state of Israel to acknowledge what it did to me, prosecute the members of the Shin Bet responsible for it and put in place procedures that protect other journalists from such treatment.

Since 2003, I’ve been the voice to the voiceless in the besieged Gaza Strip for a number of publications and news programs ranging from The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs to the BBC and, Morgenbladet in Norway as well as Democracy Now! These stories exposed a carefully-crafted fiction continuing control and exploitation of five-million people. Their impact, coupled with the reporting of others served to change public opinion in the United States and Europe concerning the dynamics of Israel and its occupation of Palestine .

After receiving the Martha Gellhorn prize I returned home through the Allenby Bridge Crossing in the Occupied West Bank between Jordan and Israel. It was here I was detained, interrogated, and tortured for several hours by Shin Bet and border officers. When it appeared I may be close to death an ambulance was called to transport me to a hospital. From that day my life has been a year of continued medical treatments, pain -- and a search for justice.

Lisa Dvir from the Israeli Airport Authority (IAA), the agency responsible for controlling Israel's borders in an June 29th article by Mel Frykberg for the Inter Press Service stated, “the IAA was neither aware of Omer's journalist credentials nor of his coordination.”

The statement is wholly inaccurate and impossible on two counts. First, because I’m Palestinian, I am unable to enter Israel or leave Gaza , even through the Rafah border with Egypt , without Israeli permission, something quite difficult to get. Each time I’ve left Gaza for speaking tours required substantial lobbying and political maneuvering by several governments. In 2006, it was the American governments who ultimately won my visa. In 2007 the Dutch Parliament invited me back to speak to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and in 2008 when it was announced I won the Martha Gellhorn Prize, several European countries requested Israel grant me a visa but it was MP Hans Van Baalen of the Netherlands who, with great efforts, secured and guaranteed my passage out of Gaza and Israel, as well as the return for both the 2007 and 2008 trips on the condition I travel and be escorted by members of the Dutch Embassy in Tel Aviv while within Israel or the occupied West Bank. Therefore I was under diplomatic escort with the full knowledge of the Israeli government when I arrived at Allenby on June 26th. In fact Israeli security had blocked my re-entry for four days, causing me to miss a family wedding and wait in Jordan .

Secondly Dvir’s claim that the IAA didn’t know I was a journalist is proved false by the actions of the Shin Bet and border police. During the interrogation an Israeli security personnel searching my belongings repeatedly asked ‘Where’s the money from the prize, Mohammed?’ The prize is only given to journalists. Not only were they fully aware I am a journalist. They knew exactly how much I received, for what and where.

Dvir further perjured herself when she claimed, "We would like to know who Omer spoke to in regard to receiving coordination to pass through Allenby. We offer journalists a special service when passing through our border crossings, and had we known about his arrival this would not have happened.” Her denial shocked a Dutch diplomat in Tel Aviv who had confirmed with the state permission for me to cross on June 26. Again, I was traveling under diplomatic escort and when I asked to phone the escort -- waiting on the other side of the terminal -- Shin Bet’s response was they knew and didn’t care.

While not admitting that the interrogation and torture took place, Divr then dismissed any actions by the Shin Bet as out of her department’s control: "I'm not aware of the events that followed his detention, and we are not responsible for the behavior of the Shin Bet." But the Israeli Airport Authority, Divr’s department, like most port authorities, is responsible for border security and those who enforce that security in Israel are members of the army and the Shin Bet.

Unfortunately Dvir’s diversions were just the beginning. In the days following my detention and torture, the Israeli Government Press Office acknowledged that despite traveling under diplomatic escort I was searched "due to suspicion that he had been in contact with hostile elements and had been asked by them to deliver items to Judea and Samaria (Occupied West Bank).” This has been mentioned and quoted in different papers. Like everyone else entering, my bags were x-rayed and cleared multiple times excluding the possibility I was carrying some type of contraband. And I was traveling in the Dutch Embassy’s car directly to Erez crossing with Gaza , as communicated to the Israeli authorities. There was zero possibility of me delivering ‘items’ to anyone.

Confronted with the medical reports and injuries including bruised ribs Israeli officials told the BBC on July 1, 2008 that, “He lost balance and fell, for reasons unknown to us,” other officers suggest, “Mr. Omer had a nervous breakdown due to the high temperature.”

Despite the attempts at denials, the emergency medical technician who sat in the back of the ambulance with me reported, "We noted fingerprints on his neck and chest," the type bruising caused by excessive force often used in forensics to identify an attacker.

When Associated Press reporter Karin Laub called me on my cell phone for an interview after my ordeal, I detailed how I was stripped and held at gunpoint. Her reply? “Go on,” she stated. “This is normal about what we hear happening at Ben Gurion Airport . It’s nothing new.”

Torture, strip searches and holding award winning journalists or any other human beings at gun point is normal at Israel ’s largest airport? Ms. Laub’s apathy continued. In her article for the Associated Press on June 29th she wrote that she interviewed "Dr. Husseini who claims there were no signs of physical trauma."

There’s only one problem with this. This Dr. Husseini never treated me. The Minister of Health in Ramallah confirmed that Husseini never made any such statement to the AP reporter. For reasons known only to her, Ms. Laub appears to have fabricated this comment and purposely ignored the medical reports and the statements by the attending paramedics -- counter to journalistic ethics and standards upheld by the Associated Press. Despite this, no independent investigation toke place.

Meanwhile the Jerusalem correspondent for the Los Angles Times, Ashraf Khalil, conducted an investigation into my case and noted in his article on November 3, 2008, that my medical records describe: "Tenderness on the anterior part of the neck and upper back mainly along the right ribs moderate to severe pain," and "by examination the scrotum due to pain varicocele (varicose veins in the spermatic cord) at left side detected and surgery was decided later." Fevers and falls do not cause such distinctive marks. Kicks, punches and beatings do. Continuing Khalil explains that, “Paramedic Mahmoud Tararya arrived in a Palestinian Red Crescent Society ambulance and said he found Omer semiconscious with bruises on his neck and chest. Tararya said Israeli security officers were asking Omer to sign "some sort of form written in Hebrew. The paramedic said he intervened, separated Omer from the soldiers and loaded him into the ambulance, where he remained semiconscious for most of the trip to a hospital.”

Khalil notes in his article that Richard Falk, the U.N. human rights official wrote to Verhagen, the Minster of Foreign Affairs of The Netherlands and stated: "I have checked out Mr. Omer's credibility and narrative of events, and I find them fully credible and accurate."

Recovering mentally and physically from torture and interrogation is far from easy. This should not happen to anyone. My objective is for my case to focus attention on universal human rights, the right of freedom of expression and freedom of movement. There are places in this world where these freedoms do not exist. Israel insists it is not one of those places, but both the government and the complicity of individual journalists in covering up what they did to me prove otherwise. Ironically, the day the Shin Bet chose to detain, interrogate and torture me -- June 26 -- is the date set aside by human rights groups as the International Day Against Torture.

Mohammed Omer has reported for numerous media outlets, including the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, Pacifica Radio, Electronic Intifada, The Nation, and Inter Press Service; he also founded the Rafah Today blog. He was awarded the 2007 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism.

Copyright © 2009 Mohammed Omer -- distributed by Agence Global

Ni’lin demonstrates against the Apartheid Wall

from International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

Approximately one hundred and fifty Palestinian, Israeli and international protesters gathered in the hot sun for the weekly demonstration in Nilin. They marched together towards the separation barrier, chanting and waving Palestinian flags.

As the demonstrators reached the wall and started cutting the razor wire on the walls edge, Israeli armed forces opened fire with teargas. Their jeeps fired multiple rounds of teargas in an effort to blanket the whole area and they continued firing until the demonstration dispersed. Several of the protesters suffered from the effects of teargas, but no one was badly injured. The protest lasted for about one hour and a half and protesters succeeded in removing parts of the razor wire and damaging the fence.

Israeli forces arrest Israeli and international activists in Safa

from International Solidarity Movement (ISM)

27 June 2009: Israeli forces arrest 24 solidarity activists and 2 hired Palestinian Israeli drivers in the West Bank village of Saffa.

At 7.30am, 35 Israeli and 10 international solidarity activists joined 3 Palestinian families from Beit Ummar to harvest their land. As the group tried to go down to their lands, 50 soldiers and border policemen stopped them.

Before reaching the land, Israeli forces arrested 10 Israeli and international activists, under the premise that Saffa was under a Closed Military Zone*. The army was aggressive towards the group and used violence against them.

After pushing the group, border policemen arrested another 9 activists.

Yousef Abu Maria from the Palestine Solidarity Project, had his leg broken from the use of excessive force. Israeli soldiers tried to arrest him, but the solidarity activists negotiated for the soldiers to release him and allow him to be taken by an ambulance from the Palestinian Red Crescent. He is currently being treated at a Hebron hospital.

A female Israeli activist from Tayyoush was also injured and is currently at an Israeli hospital seeking treatment for a potentially broken hand.

As 2 cars with hired drivers were leaving the area with other activists, Israeli forces stopped them and arrested 5 more activists and the 2 Palestinian Israeli drivers.

The arrested were taken to the Israeli prison in the illegal settlement of Gush Etzion.

The activists are members from Palestine Solidarity Project, Tayyoush, Anarchists Against the Wall, and the International Solidarity Movement. They have been accompanying Palestinian farmers to document and deter violence from Israeli forces as the farmers harvest their land.

Last Saturday, 8 Israeli activists were arrested as they accompanied Palestinian farmers.

*Israeli forces have declared the area in Saffa a Closed Military Zone (CMZ), in direct violation of an Israeli Supreme Court decision. The Israeli Supreme Court determined that Closed Military Zones cannot be issued on Palestinian agricultural land, cutting off Palestinian farmers, or prolonged periods of time. However, Israeli forces have been regularly declaring a Closed Military Zone on farm land in Saffa since 2 April 2009.

UPDATE: 1pm, 27 June 2009, All the activists and drivers have been released.


Aid boats for Gaza blocked

from The Palestine Telegraph

The US-based Free Gaza movement was set to sail on its eighth mission to break Israel's ongoing siege of Gaza, setting off from Larnaca port in Cyprus with two boats.

But Israeli pressure means the Cypriot authorities have impounded the trip - dashing the hope of the voyage getting aid to those in need.

The Free Gaza and the Spirit of Humanity, was meant to depart from Larnaca Port on a 30-hour voyage, 240 miles to besieged Gaza, carrying 36 human rights activists who have travelled to Cyprus from all across the world for this journey, 3 tons of medical supplies, and 15 tons of badly needed concrete and reconstruction supplies such as cement. Also there were suitcases full of toys, crayons and colouring books for the Palestinian children.

That was their hope, but that is not what happened.

Instead, the ships were not given permission to leave today due to concerns about the crew's welfare and safety. The Cyprus authorities said the voyage to Gaza is too dangerous, and they are worried they will be harmed at sea.

In a statement released today the Free Gaza Movement said:

'Cyprus has been a wonderful home for the Free Gaza Movement over these last 10 months. Cypriots know first hand the terrible consequences of occupation. They too know what it is to suffer from violence, injustice, and exile. Since our first voyage to break through the siege of Gaza, the Cypriot authorities have been extremely helpful and understanding of the goals and intentions.

The journey to Gaza is dangerous. The Israeli navy rammed our flagship, the Dignity, when we attempted to deliver medical supplies to Gaza during their vicious assault in December/January. Israel has previously threatened to open fire on our unarmed ships, rather than allow us to deliver humanitarian and reconstruction supplies to the people of Gaza.

The risks we take on these trips are tiny compared to the risks imposed every day upon the people of Gaza.

The purpose of nonviolent direct action and civil resistance is to take risks - to put ourselves "in the way" of injustice. We take these risks well aware of what the possible consequences may be. We do so because the consequences of doing nothing are so much worse. Anytime we allow ourselves to be bullied, every time we pass by an evil and ignore it - we lower our standards and allow our world to be made that much harsher and unjust for us all.

In addition to the concerns expressed by our Cypriot friends today, the American consulate in Nicosia warned us not to go to Gaza, stating that:

"...[T]he Israeli Foreign Ministry informed U.S. officials at the American Embassy in Tel Aviv that Israel still considers Gaza an area of conflict and that any Free Gaza boats attempting to sail to the Gaza Strip will "not be permitted" to reach its destination."

Former U.S. Congresswoman & presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney responded to this warning by pointing out that, "The White House says that cement and medical supplies should get into Gaza and that's exactly what we are attempting to take to Gaza."

"Instead of quoting Israel policy to us," McKinney continued, "...the U.S. should send a message to Israel reiterating the reported White House position that the blockade of Gaza should be eased, that medical supplies and building materials, including cement, should be allowed in. The Free Gaza boats should be allowed to reach their destination, traveling from Cyprus territorial waters, through international waters, and straight into Gaza territorial waters."

"The State Department has chosen to advise us to take the Israeli notification seriously. Our question is, ‘Can we take President Obama seriously?' Will he stand by his own words and allow us to provide relief for Gaza or will he back down?"

Tomorrow the Free Gaza movement will deliver a waiver, signed by all going to Gaza, that they absolve Cyprus of all responsibility for their safety:

"We would like to tell our friends here in Cyprus that though we understand and appreciate their concerns, we will not back down to Israel's threats and intimidation."


Robert Fisk's World: The jury is out on the Iranian model of religion and politics

by Robert Fisk

So what of the famous revolution? Was it a return to the basic values of Shia Islam?

The most nauseous photograph to come out of the Iran tragedy was not the bloodied demonstrators in Tehran, but a Reuters picture of former Iranian Crown Prince Reza Pahlavi, "fighting back tears" in Washington as he declared that Neda Agha Sultan, the young woman shot dead by Ahmadinejad's thugs a week ago, "was now for ever in my pocket". I bet she is, by God! "I have added her to the list of my daughters," the son of the brutal and merciless late Shah, told the world.

Needless to say, the son of the Light of the Aryans did not add the many thousands of equally young and innocent women tortured to death by his father's sadistic secret police to his "list of daughters". Back in 1979, I met a man who had tortured and killed a woman by scorching her on a metal rack over gas burners. His name was Mohamed Sadafi, by profession a weightlifter. "You killed my daughter," the poor girl's father shrieked at Sadafi in front of me. "She was burned all over her flesh until she was paralysed. She was roasted." Sadafi told the man – without explaining why – that the girl had hanged herself after seven months in custody. But "there was not even a single sheet in Evin prison from which she could hang herself", the father replied in fury. Yes there was, Sadafi replied. He had himself seen the Evin laundry bills.

No, I don't think that Reza Shah has put this young woman "in his pocket". But nor would the Shia clergy, which reputedly backed the original Anglo-American coup against Mohammed Mossadeq, the democratically elected leader of Iran in 1953. At that time, a senior Tehran cleric was sent to Qom to persuade the leading Ayatollah of his time, Sayed Mohammad Hossein Boroujerdi, to issue a fatwa, calling for a holy war against the Tudeh party communists to whom Mossadeq was allied and give his support to religion and the throne. A certain Ruhollah Khomeini was rumoured to have urged Boroujerdi to adopt just such a step.

The CIA's own analysis of the overthrow – which, of course, has been recalled with ever increasing enthusiasm by Ahmadinejad and his chums over the past two weeks – includes a telling post-coup interview between Kermit Roosevelt, the CIA boss in Tehran, and Winston Churchill, who was living out his last months as British prime minister (reprinted now, by the way, by Ken Coates's ever intriguing The Spokesman books in Nottingham). "This was a most touching occasion," the CIA report said of the Roosevelt-Churchill meeting.

"The Prime Minister seemed to be in bad shape physically... He had great difficulty in hearing; occasional difficulty in articulating; and apparent difficulty in seeing to his left. In spite of this he could not have been more enthusiastic about the operation. He was good enough to express a wish that he had been "some years" younger and might have served under his (Roosevelt's) command. Our operation had given us a wonderful and unexpected opportunity which might change the whole picture in the Middle East." This was Condoleezza Rice-speak. Remember her "birth-pangs" of a new Middle East, when the Lebanese were being splattered with blood by Israeli bombs in 2006? But Churchill's "whole picture" did indeed change – in 1979.

So what of that famous revolution? Was it really a blossoming return to the basic values of Shia Islam, a return to the golden age of Ali and Hussein, when Islamic rule could never be set up alongside a secular government? This is the narrative that is now laid down in Tehran. This is the story that Ayatollah Khamenei purports to believe in; that Ayatollah Khomeini – whatever his advice to Boroujerdi in 1953 – took Iran back to the purity of Shia Islam's roots, when there was no attempt to separate religious from secular power.

By extraordinary chance, a new volume has just been published by Professor Nader Hashemi of the University of Denver that is probably the most pertinent book to read today about the latest dramatic events in Iran. With the awful obligations of academia, he has entitled his work Islam, Secularism, and Liberal Democracy: Toward a Democratic Theory for Muslim Societies – a real DO NOT READ title – but it is worth every page. Hashemi, I know well; he has a habit of putting visiting speakers through two lectures, three seminars and six interviews within an hour of crossing the Atlantic. This is absolutely true; I am one of his victims.

But here is a chilling Hashemi quotation from Khomeini, while the Ayatollah was in exile in the Iraqi city of Najaf in 1970. "This slogan of the separation of religion and politics and the demand that Islamic scholars not intervene in social and political affairs has been formulated and propagated by the imperialists; it is only the irreligious who repeat them. Were religion and politics separate in the time of the Prophet? Did there exist on one side a group of clerics, and opposite it, a group of politicians and leaders?"

Again, in 1999, Ayatollah Abolghassem Khazali, a tough former member of the Guardian Council, insisted that "when a jurisprudent like Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi" – by chance today a close supporter of Ahmadinejad with a strong desire to become Supreme Leader after Khamenei – "says something, you should say 'I shall listen and I shall obey'. If there is a danger, it is coming from the slogan of 'civil society's' and now the situation has reached the point when the existence of God is being debated at universities".

No wonder Tehran University was plundered and abused by the regime's Basij militia last week. No wonder Mir-Hossein Mousavi's "secular" imprint is now so dangerous to the regime. But as Hashemi observes – and here is the real shaky foundation of the Iranian regime – "There is a near consensus that Ayatollah Khomeini's doctrine of the 'rule of the Islamic jurist' marked a significant break with Shia tradition in terms of the relationship between religion and politics. Senior ayatollahs within the Shia world (including in Iran at the time) strongly objected to Khomeini's political doctrine because it was considered an innovation and a radical break with the historical quietist role played by the clergy in political society."

So there you have it. Khomeini invented the so-called "velayat-e faqih" (rule of the Supreme Leader); the Islamic Republic was never conceived of in Islamic history. It's a try-out, an experiment that may or may not continue. The past two weeks suggest it needs a lot of work to survive.

Meanwhile, let's remember what Mossadeq said 46 years ago: "No nation goes anywhere under the shadow of dictatorship."