Saturday, 7 March 2009

Arquitectos pela paz: o mapa das construções de colonatos em Jerusalém

A APJP (Architects and Planners for Justice in Palestine) tem estudado a política urbanística de Israel nos territórios ocupados, bem como as suas consequências para a população palestiniana.
Este mapa mostra de que forma o traçado urbano da Cidade Velha tem sido alterado com a construção de colonatos e novos bairros a serem habitados exclusivamente por judeus.

Israel e a anexação de Jerusalém-Este

Ao contrário de muitos, eu acredito que Israel quer a paz. Mas não agora. A paz virá tão somente quando Israel conseguir espoliar os palestinianos daquilo que consideram ser o seu território. Israel quer a paz que lhe convém, não a paz justa.

Se alguém ainda tinha dúvidas do desejo de deitar as mãos a toda Jerusalém, a União Europeia vem agora confirmar que a parte oriental da cidade santa tem sido sistematicamente purgada dos seus habitantes não-judeus. Quantas mais provas é que o mundo precisa para se decidir a intervir?

Israel annexing East Jerusalem, says EU

• Confidential report attacks 'illegal' house demolitions
• Government accused of damaging peace prospects

House Demolitions in East Jerusalem

40-year-old Palestinian Mahmoud al-Abbasi stands amid the rubble of his home after it was demolished by the Jerusalem municipality in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan. Photograph: Gali Tibbon

A confidential EU report accuses the Israeli government of using settlement expansion, house demolitions, discriminatory housing policies and the West Bank barrier as a way of "actively pursuing the illegal annexation" of East Jerusalem.

The document says Israel has accelerated its plans for East Jerusalem, and is undermining the Palestinian Authority's credibility and weakening support for peace talks. "Israel's actions in and around Jerusalem constitute one of the most acute challenges to Israeli-Palestinian peace-making," says the document, EU Heads of Mission Report on East Jerusalem.

The report, obtained by the Guardian, is dated 15 December 2008. It acknowledges Israel's legitimate security concerns in Jerusalem, but adds: "Many of its current illegal actions in and around the city have limited security justifications."

"Israeli 'facts on the ground' - including new settlements, construction of the barrier, discriminatory housing policies, house demolitions, restrictive permit regime and continued closure of Palestinian institutions - increase Jewish Israeli presence in East Jerusalem, weaken the Palestinian community in the city, impede Palestinian urban development and separate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank," the report says.

The document has emerged at a time of mounting concern over Israeli policies in East Jerusalem. Two houses were demolished on Monday just before the arrival of the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, and a further 88 are scheduled for demolition, all for lack of permits. Clinton described the demolitions as "unhelpful", noting that they violated Israel's obligations under the US "road map" for peace.

The EU report goes further, saying that the demolitions are "illegal under international law, serve no obvious purpose, have severe humanitarian effects, and fuel bitterness and extremism." The EU raised its concern in a formal diplomatic representation on December 1, it says.

It notes that although Palestinians in the east represent 34% of the city's residents, only 5%-10% of the municipal budget is spent in their areas, leaving them with poor services and infrastructure.

Israel issues fewer than 200 permits a year for Palestinian homes and leaves only 12% of East Jerusalem available for Palestinian residential use. As a result many homes are built without Israeli permits. About 400 houses have been demolished since 2004 and a further 1,000 demolition orders have yet to be carried out, it said.

City officials dismissed criticisms of its housing policy as "a disinformation campaign". "Mayor Nir Barkat continues to promote investments in infrastructure, construction and education in East Jerusalem, while at the same time upholding the law throughout West and East Jerusalem equally without bias," the mayor's office said after Clinton's visit.

However, the EU says the fourth Geneva convention prevents an occupying power extending its jurisdiction to occupied territory. Israel occupied the east of the city in the 1967 six day war and later annexed it. The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

The EU says settlement are being built in the east of the city at a "rapid pace". Since the Annapolis peace talks began in late 2007, nearly 5,500 new settlement housing units have been submitted for public review, with 3,000 so far approved, the report says. There are now about 470,000 settlers in the occupied territories, including 190,000 in East Jerusalem.

The EU is particularly concerned about settlements inside the Old City, where there were plans to build a Jewish settlement of 35 housing units in the Muslim quarter, as well as expansion plans for Silwan, just outside the Old City walls.

The goal, it says, is to "create territorial contiguity" between East Jerusalem settlements and the Old City and to "sever" East Jerusalem and its settlement blocks from the West Bank.

There are plans for 3,500 housing units, an industrial park, two police stations and other infrastructure in a controversial area known as E1, between East Jerusalem and the West Bank settlement of Ma'ale Adumim, home to 31,000 settlers. Israeli measures in E1 were "one of the most significant challenges to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process", the report says.

Mark Regev, spokesman for the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, said conditions for Palestinians living in East Jerusalem were better than in the West Bank. "East Jerusalem residents are under Israeli law and they were offered full Israeli citizenship after that law was passed in 1967," he said. "We are committed to the continued development of the city for the benefit of all its population."

Fonte: The Guardian

Friday, 6 March 2009

O Hamas e a Mossad.


Was Hamas the Work of the Israeli Mossad?

'The notion - that Hamas is the brainchild of Israel - is simply incorrect.'

By Ramzy Baroud

While various Western governments are struggling to define a possible relationship with the Palestinian movement Hamas, some progressive and leftist circles are also uneasy regarding their own perception of the Islamic movement.

Some have even made the claim that Hamas is, more or less, an Israeli concoction. In fact, the accusation that Hamas was created by Israeli intelligence has become so commonplace that it often requires no serious substantiation. While the claim, as it stands, is erroneous, there is certainly a reason and history behind it. But was Hamas, in fact the work of the Israeli Mossad?

The mere suggestion is consequential, for not only does it discredit one single faction, but implies that Palestinians are deceived into thinking that they actually have some control over their collective destiny. This notion - that Hamas is the brainchild of Israel - is simply incorrect.

It could very well be complicated for one to grasp how such a movement could take a foothold and flourish with such popular support if one has no familiarity with the social, economic and religious history of the Gaza Strip, the birthplace of Hamas.

It is true that for years, Palestinians have suffered poverty, hunger and humiliation under the Israeli occupation. And while the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) has played a major role in representing and speaking on behalf of the Palestinian people abroad, its role in the occupied territories has been, at best, lacking.

There are reasons for that, not least because the PLO had its own complex regional and international priorities, and that it lacked the grassroots leverage enjoyed by the Islamic movement. It was only a natural response for the religious institution to fill the gap of an absent government, a role that it took seriously. But let's look a bit more carefully into the evolution and growth of Hamas in Gaza in particular, a presence that was making a strong impact as early as 1967.

In the early years of the occupation, the Islamic movement in Gaza strategized an effort that would require a strong and well-established foundation. Initially, the movement refuted the notion of armed-struggle and was often criticized and ridiculed by secular liberation movements for masking their weak nature as "pacifism".

The truth is, the Islamic movement in Gaza didn't disregard armed struggle in and of itself; it felt that this nation of mostly refugees was in a vulnerable state and would need years of preparation before they could actually become a force to be reckoned with. For this reason, they invested decades to strengthening social bonds in Gazan society, by building mosques, childcare centers, hospitals, schools and so forth.

The years between 1967 to 1975 were designated by the Islamic movement as the phase of "mosque building". The mosque was the central institution that galvanized Islamic societies in Gaza. It was not simply a place of worship but also a hub for education, social and cultural interaction, and later political organization.

In the period between 1967 to 1987, the number of mosques in Gaza tripled, rising from 200 to 600 mosques. The years between 1975 well into the 1980s were dubbed the phase of "social institution building", which included the formation of Islamic clubs, charitable organizations, student societies, etc, which all served as meeting points for Muslim youth.

In 1973, the Islamic Center was established in Gaza, the actual body that served as the heart of all the movement's activities. It was widely understood that the center was an extension of the Egypt-influenced Muslim Brotherhood of the past. Israel purposely did little to halt the establishment of the organization, as it also did little to assist in its growth.

Israel's curious attitude could be explained as part of its policy of reward and punishment. Since the Islamists had - at that particular time - renounced armed struggle, and were providing services, which spared the Israeli budget many millions, there seemed little need to discontinue what at the time may have seemed innocuous activities. But more importantly, Israel was wary of the augmentation of PLO institutions abroad and growing influence on Palestinian societies in the occupied territories.

More, the growing bitterness between other liberation movements in Gaza and the Islamic movement, led by Sheikh Ahmad Yassin gave Israel hope that growing hostilities would result in the pacifying and paralysis of all respective groups, sparing Israel the rigorous task of reining them in. One could argue that any Israeli interference to halt the growth and evolvement of the Islamic movement in Gaza, in that period, would have merely sped up its radicalization, as opposed to annihilating it altogether.

The 1970s and the 1980s were years of growing turmoil for Palestinians with the Camp David Accords, the Israeli invasion of Lebanon and the many massacres committed by Israel, killings that came to a pinnacle with the 1982 massacres by a Lebanese Forces Christian militia group in Sabra and Shatilla in Lebanon.

It was during this time that the Islamic movement in Gaza was undergoing a tremendous metamorphosis. Decades of groundwork would now be put to the test as the movement evolved to embrace armed struggle. It was certainly not an immediate transformation, but in fact had been evolving since as early as 1967.

Whether religious trends are rational in their very narratives or otherwise, the fact was the growth, shifts and evolvement of the Palestinian Islamic movement, in all of its manifestations in the Gaza Strip, followed a rational process that was unique to Gaza and its history.

No other place in Palestine was as qualified to spawn a major Islamic movement as was the Gaza Strip. The Strip was desperately poor, its population mostly composed of refugees and their descendants. Islamist leaders were themselves refugees and were mostly refugee camp dwellers.

So it was that "Hamas" finally made its official appearance in 1987, taking the transformation of the Islamic movement in Gaza one step further, with the birth of the first Palestinian Intifada. Nearly two decades later, Hamas enjoyed a landslide victory in Palestinian elections, another testimony to its phased and calculated growth.

Instead of trying to understand and appreciate the history behind the popular movement, Western countries responded by sanctions, blockades, and a protracted and suffocating siege by Israel that came to a head with the bloodiest massacre of defenseless Palestinian civilians since 1948.

Analysts, politicians, critics and third-parties alike can squabble about the origins and history of this movement that has among many things given a large segment of Palestinian society a sense of self-respect and feeling of leverage with their occupiers; but to advocate that Hamas was cooked up by some Israeli agents hell-bent on the demise of the Palestinians is simply hogwash.

- Ramzy Baroud ( is an author and editor of His work has been published in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His latest book is, The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).

Manter a solidariedade global após a guerra de Gaza


Sustaining global solidarity after Gaza
Jamal Juma', The Electronic Intifada, 3 March 2009

This time, anger flared up by Israel's latest attack is being channeled into a sustained campaign. (Matthew Cassel)

The Israeli invasion of Gaza, which has now claimed more than 1,400 lives, generated serious popular backlash the world over. The overwhelmingly weak official positions and statements, especially in the Arab world, stood in stark contrast to the outpouring of rage that was witnessed in the streets of capitals, cities, and towns across the globe. However, this recent wave of protests has a particular quality that differentiates it from past mobilizations: the initial flare-up of energy is being channeled into effective grassroots political action, primarily in the form of an ongoing campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).

The tangible victories and rise of BDS activism immediately following Gaza are a direct result of the many years of often little-acknowledged organizing, building and mobilizing that was undertaken following the 2005 call from Palestinian civil society. It is important to look at these last four years in order to make sure that we continue to build on these victories. We have moved beyond questioning the efficacy of BDS and must now work to incorporate the growing numbers of people who, while outraged at the events in Gaza, are not yet connected to the BDS movement. We also must expand the actors and struggles involved in BDS by linking the Palestinian cause to other similar fights for social, economic and political justice.

A number of commentators have already noted the mass mobilizations that occurred in response to Israel's invasion of Gaza. Demonstrations and protests were undertaken on every inhabited continent involving millions of people across hundreds of cities. In the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Western Europe, where pro-Palestine demonstrations are typically strong, the numbers of participants and scale of actions were astronomical.

In the Middle East, particularly in Jordan and Egypt, the disconnect between the stance of US-backed regimes and their people vis-a-vis Israel was laid bare. In Egypt, the regime's army of riot police was often unable to suppress demonstrations, which on many occasions numbered well into the tens of thousands. Similar scenes took place in Jordan, where thousands of protestors in Amman hurled stones at state police who blocked the street to the Israeli embassy.

Latin America, on the other hand, is the only region wherein popular anger was more or less reflected in official discourse and action. It is no coincidence that Bolivia and Venezuela, the two countries in the region that cut diplomatic ties with Israel, are also the two states whose governments operate, both in principle and in practice, according to the needs of the majority.

Palestine has developed into a global litmus test for democracy. While more progressive states in Latin America stood up for Palestine and BDS, repressive Middle Eastern regimes did their best to crush popular mobilization. The EU governments stood somewhere in the middle, giving further proof of their special form of "democracy" wherein people are allowed to express their opinions but not influence government decisions.

Regardless of governmental political leanings, the mobilizations evidence a considerable and growing popular support for the Palestinian people. Yet, these protests, while encouraging, do not guarantee longer-term political gains. The most recent and sobering example of this were the record numbers of people who turned out to protest the most recent invasion of Iraq and the subsequent problems that have plagued the creation of an effective anti-war movement.

Instead, we should look to the concrete BDS victories that followed Gaza as evidence of lasting political change. The actions of South African workers and Latin American social movements, to mention only a few examples, represent not only anger over Gaza, but also its effective channeling into an organized movement that far predates this most recent atrocity. They indicate that we have managed to build, in a short period of time, an effective focal point for uniting international solidarity and support for the Palestinian cause.

Immediately following Gaza, South African trade unions took action against Israel. The South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU), part of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) declared that they would no longer handle Israeli ships. Things came to a head when the Johanna Russ, a ship operated by the Zim Israel Navigation Company, attempted to dock in the Durban port. Despite pressure and threats, SATAWU workers refused to handle the cargo or to allow scab labor to unload the ship.

This victory can be traced back to the early work of the Palestine Solidarity Committee, which, since its founding at the beginning of the second Palestinian intifada, has been active in promoting a South African boycott of Israel. The 2005 call from Palestinian civil society bolstered the movement, and, over the past four years, organizers have built up considerable support for BDS within South African trade unions, movements, churches, and institutions. In a 2006 speech in the UK to the Palestine Solidarity Campaign's trade union conference, Willy Madisha of COSATU endorsed the BDS call and stated that "the trade union movement must move beyond resolutions, otherwise history will look back on us and spit on our graves."

The movement has continued to move forward, and in 2008, COSATU promised to take "drastic action to disrupt" a government deal with the Israeli firm, Orsus Solutions Israel Ltd., which had been awarded a $5 million contract to upgrade the South African transportation system. With the Johanna Russ, the union took their first concrete action. Furthermore, COSATU has scored successes in gaining influence within the governing African National Congress party during the past several years. While these kinds of overall political dynamics have so far not stopped South Africa's trade with Israel from growing yearly, they have laid the groundwork for a possible turnaround in national politics that would place moral responsibility for the implementation of BDS at the diplomatic level.

In South America, serious pressure is building against the Israel-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement (FTA), threatening to derail it entirely. South American social movements, who have years of experience fighting against free trade, have integrated Palestine solidarity into their general work. Following the 2009 World Social Forum in Brazil, key organizations in the country, including the MST (the Landless Rural Workers' Movement), CUT (the chief union federation in Brazil), and other smaller social movements are organizing actions on the popular level against the agreement. Further, a number of members of the ruling party are supportive of these efforts, and are working on the official level to promote the rejection of the FTA.

This campaign is also based on the call from Palestinian civil society. In 2006, when the agreement was first placed on the agenda of the Mercosur, the outrage created by Israel's 2006 war on Lebanon pushed the social movements into action. They raised the issue at the Mercosur counter summit, and officials silently dropped the agreement from the agenda. Later, taking advantage of a lull in mobilization, the FTA was silently pressed through but is still undergoing the ratification process. In Brazil, social movements, unions, Arab organizations and Palestine solidarity groups organized in a broad coalition and escalated their campaign against the Israel -- Mercosur FTA. This coalition has done work on several levels, including mobilizing popular resistance, while simultaneously working and meeting with elected officials.

These successes provide us with a framework with which to ensure the sustainability of expanding Palestine solidarity. This solidarity, which in many cases is not new, became more visible and vocal during Gaza and must be integrated into the global BDS movement. One way to incorporate this expanding support is through a focus on common struggles and on mutual solidarity and interest. We can look to South Africa and Brazil for inspiration, where activists have been keen on tying BDS with local struggles and histories. Fights against racism, colonialism and economic exploitation as well as more specific campaigns for housing, land, water and educational rights are critical across the global south as well as in marginalized communities in the global north.

Links can also be established on a more specific level, for instance, against individual firms that benefit from perpetuating apartheid and occupation in Palestine and are involved in similar practices abroad. One such company is the Israeli Elbit Systems, which supplies the Israeli military and is key in constructing Israel's wall in the West Bank. Abroad, the company is responsible for supplying drones to British and American occupation forces and erecting the wall on the US-Mexico border. This approach has already seen some exciting developments, for example activists fighting against racism in the US have drawn interesting parallels between the violence and racism as experienced in Oakland and Gaza as well as in New Orleans.

In places where comparable shared experiences or histories may not exist, activists have found other ways to link the Palestinian cause to the broader community. University activism, for instance, effectively uses the situation of Palestinian students and universities to connect with the student community and build support for BDS. Students' calls for divestment from Israel and academic boycott are clearly linked with the call for more involvement in the universities' decision-making processes and financial transparency. The work over the last few years has set the stage for the various actions that we have witnessed in the universities, including the wave of direct action that took place in the UK, the push for divestment at Hampshire College, and growing interest in the academic boycott in Europe, the US and Canada.

Israel has lost this most recent war on all fronts. In addition to failing to crush the resistance within Gaza, it was unable to control dissent in any of the territories under its military control. This defeat was mirrored on the international level, despite a massive public relations effort coupled with an attempt to control the flow of images and information coming out of Gaza, Israel was unable to shape public understanding and discourse. A growing majority has openly condemned the operation for what it was -- a massacre -- and joined the BDS movement. The most recent victories of the movement have shown that the global struggle for genuine democracy and justice is not only a common ground on which the support for Palestinian rights is based, but a crucial precondition for effective solidarity. Our task now is to channel popular outrage into coordinated, collective action.

Jamal Juma' is the coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (

os refugiados palestinos do Iraque de volta a zero


Iraq's Palestinian refugees back at square one
Anaheed Al-Hardan writing from Syria, Live from Palestine, 5 March 2009

"Word is that the Palestinians will be hosted in tent-camps in the afterlife," al-Tanf refugee camp, January 2007. (J. Wreford/UNHCR)

When images and news of the new border tent-camps that the Palestinian refugees from Iraq fled to after the US invasion began to spread through Arabic-language media, a concurrent anecdote began to circulate: "Word is that the Palestinians will even be hosted in tent-camps in the afterlife." The nightmare of the approximately 25,000 to 30,000 Palestinians whose families sought refuge in Iraq in 1948 is but the latest manifestation of the ongoing tragedy of Palestinian stateless refugeehood. This is a story of multiple uprootings and dispossessions since 1948 by both Israel as well as Arab host states that have turned what is known as the Nakba of 1948 into a persistent and ever-present condition that has led to, and allowed for, multiple post-1948 Nakbas.

The central reason for this condition has been the lack of a resolution and restitution for the Nakba of 1948, leaving the Palestinians refugees in a peculiar hereditary refugee-stateless politico-legal status. Its peculiarity lies in the fact that it was supposed to be both transitional as well as temporary whereas after six decades it seems to have become an ad infinitum status. Their right to return to their homeland has thus far been withheld by Israel, under whose territorial jurisdiction their homeland now lies. At the same time, Israel by definition and in praxis ethnically excludes the indigenous inhabitants of the land on which it was established. The Palestinian refugees are therefore simultaneously stateless, denied their homeland as well as the right to return. Since 1948, this reality has left the Palestinians expelled beyond the borders of historic Palestine vulnerable to the fate and at times even whims of their Arab host-states as they have nowhere to return to.

During my extended doctoral fieldwork stay in Damascus, Syria, I met and interviewed a group of Palestinian refugee women from Iraq whose memory of the Nakba was painstakingly present. "In short, we are back at 1948," as Suhaila, one of my interviewees, explained. Like her sister Suhaila, Umm Nawras is also considered one of the more "fortunate" Palestinian refugees from Iraq owing to her legal right of abode in Syria. This right is based on her citizenship from her deceased husband's country in a time when the world has closed all doors in the faces of Palestinians who hold refugee travel documents from Iraq despite the onslaught to which they have been subjected in the new reality of US-occupied Iraq.

Umm Nawras's fortune, however, is entirely relative to and perhaps quite telling of the calamity that has befallen the Palestinians from Iraq when one takes into consideration that she fled Baghdad a widow and the sole carer for her two young children after the double kidnapping and murder of her husband and her brother as well as the repeated raids and threats by militias on the Palestinian housing complex in al-Durra, Baghdad, where she lived. The story, however, does not end here, as a large number of her immediate family -- including her elderly mother and two of her married brothers and their families -- now live in tents in al-Tanf camp as they await third country resettlement because they cannot go back to Iraq, enter a neighboring state or return to their place of origin.

From Palestine to Iraq

Umm Nawras generously invited me to her home where I was introduced to Suhaila as well as Amira, their nine-months-pregnant sister-in-law. Amira is a current resident of al-Tanf camp who was given temporary permission to enter Syria in order to give birth and then return to her tent home in al-Tanf as there are no medical facilities in the camp. The family histories of these women are similar to many Palestinians refugees from Iraq.

Like most Palestinian refugees in Iraq, their families were originally from villages in the Haifa district that were ethnically cleansed between May and July 1948 and later wiped off the face of the earth. Furthermore, their families too had first sought refuge in the Jenin, Nablus and Tulkarm areas in the West areas before the retreating Iraqi army withdrew with approximately 5,000 refugees in 1949. However, unlike the fate of the villages of most of the refugees who found themselves in Iraq, Umm Nawras and Suhaila's families hail from a village that was not demolished owing to its architectural appeal to some in the unit that occupied it: Ayn Hawd today is an "artists' colony." The implications and injustice of 1948 could not be crueler, especially when some of the original inhabitants of Ayn Hawd as well as their descendants are languishing in tent-camps yet again.

"When they first brought them to Iraq from Palestine, they put them in Basra, in a place they used to call al-Shuaybah camp," Umm Nawras explained, referring to where her family, alongside the rest of the new Palestinian arrivals, were first placed in Iraq. Shuaybah was an abandoned British military barrack in the desert south of Basra where the Palestinians were placed under military jurisdiction. Two years later they came under civil jurisdiction and their welfare was relegated to the newly-created Refugee Affairs Department of the Ministry of Interior. They were issued Iraqi travel documents for Palestinian refugees and allowed equal access to health, education and public sector employment. These conditions were generally consistent, with a few exceptions during the various regime changes of Iraq's post-independence history.

Under civil jurisdiction, the Palestinians were moved between Mosul, Basra and Baghdad, although the overwhelming majority then, as in 2003, were placed in the capital. In Baghdad, the Palestinians were housed in various public buildings until most were placed in complexes: al-Baladiyyat and al-Durra in the 1970s and 1980s, respectively. Some families did remain in the various public buildings and the more affluent rented at their own expense. Later on, the housing issue would be one of the main catalysts of Iraqi resentment toward Palestinians that exploded after 2003 due to their perceived preferential treatment under Saddam Hussein's regime.

"I came of age in [the area of] al-Za'faraniyya where we used to live in huge blind peoples' homes ... It was a huge complex with many rooms; it had huge halls around which every family was allocated a room," Umm Nawras told me after I probed about life in pre-2003 Iraq. "I remember that whenever we would write our postal address, we would write: the former blind peoples' homes, the Palestinians' houses." In the late 1980s, the women's families were allocated a private apartment in the purpose-built al-Durra complex and shared the fate of other residents of the country who lived through the Iran-Iraq war and later the UN-imposed siege after the first Gulf War.

Post-US invasion Iraq

"After the fall of the regime [in 2003], we lived on but of course it was difficult for us to come to terms with the idea that the regime had fallen and that the country was falling apart," Umm Nawras explained. She added, "We lived on as there was no other option but to live on. The material circumstances improved a little when compared to how things were before, meaning that the sanctions were no longer there." Suhaila added to her sister's thoughts by explaining that "during the first year after the fall of the [former] regime, we weren't affected at all." "A year later," Umm Nawras continued, "we would hear a Palestinian was kidnapped here, a Palestinian was killed there. It was happening both randomly and sparsely -- it wasn't a continuous and a targeted onslaught. So those of us who were in different areas weren't necessarily affected by these distant events."

In fact, as early as July 2003, the United Nations Higher Committee for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated that some 1,000 Palestinian families in Baghdad, or some 4,000 individuals, had already been internally displaced and lived in makeshift camps in the city after they were forcibly evicted from their houses by landlords who saw the general lawlessness that engulfed the country as an opportunity to reclaim their property. Human Rights Watch reported that as early as late March 2003, fleeing Palestinians were already stuck on the Jordan-Iraq border. In a one-off concession, they were admitted to a camp in the beginning of May that was established near al-Ruwaished in the Jordanian desert in internment-like conditions.

"It began in earnest in 2005, and by 2006 things simply exploded," Suhaila added. "In 2005 the state itself began to target Palestinians, they put Palestinian men on TV and blamed them for bombings."

Before meeting the women, I interviewed the director of the Committee for the Relief of Palestinians from Iraq. During our interview, the director also noted Suhaila's account of the impact of the actions of powerful actors in post-invasion Iraq on Palestinian refugees. After a bombing in May 2005, the notorious al-Dib Brigade of the militia-infested Ministry of Interior (MOI) raided al-Baladiyyat and arrested four men, including three brothers. They were later paraded on TV with visible signs of torture and made a public confession with regards to their responsibility for the bombing.

"People started looking at us differently," Suhaila said, referring to the storm that swept the Palestinians. "The general perception was that you [Palestinians] live amongst us and dare to bomb us?" Referring to the introduction of a residency permit system for the Palestinian refugees by the powerful MOI, Suhaila explained that "it was during that same time that the Immigration and Passports Department [of the MOI] began to demand residency permits from us. First, they demanded a renewal on a monthly basis and then increased it two months and in the end it was three months. It involved a lengthy bureaucratic process in which we had to sit out and wait in the sun while we were out there as an easy [Palestinian] target. It was a way in which they could register all the young men firstly and foremost." Amira added that "In the end we stopped taking the risk of renewing our residency permits -- the journey to the ministry was dangerous and it was in the dangerous Green Zone. I saw with my own eyes how they would use this opportunity to register the names of the young men."

The MOI-initiated persecution had thus far been carried out on a wave of resentment of Palestinians for their perceived Saddam loyalty as well as former regime benefaction. The bombing of the al-Askari Mosque in Samarra in February 2006 added a new dimension to the fate of the Palestinians as sectarianism now openly came to the fore. Thus, Palestinians were seen as former benefactors of the regime and Saddam loyalists, but moreover, they were now also seen as "Sunnis" or recently-arrived terrorists responsible for atrocities like the al-Askari bombing or a combination of both. It was shortly after this pivotal bombing that armed militia men came to Amira's sister's house in Madina al-Hurriyya and explicitly threatened to rape her daughter if she didn't leave her house immediately.

It was after Samarra too that Umm Nawras's husband and brother were rounded up from their place of work in a privately-owned mill factory by militia men patrolling the area under the guise of "economic security." The militia men, self-proclaimed members of the Jaish al-Mahdi militia, released the Shia factory owner whom they had threatened to blow up alongside his factory after he had attempted to intervene on their behalf. Umm Nawras's husband and brother were summarily executed. "We didn't know these details for eight days," Suhaila told me as she tried to explain the extent of the family's torment. The family spent the next eight days mediating with what seems to have been criminal offices that operated under the banner of the Jaish al-Mahdi militia. "Part of their demands was a formal televised apology from the Palestinian Authority's foreign minister for a demonstration in which the recently killed [Musab] al-Zarqawi was proclaimed as the martyr of the Islamic nation." She added, "But they had already killed them by then, these were just all excuses, it was a coincidence that their kidnapping had coincided with his death and this demonstration."

"After what happened we were overwhelmed by a pressing need to leave Baghdad," Umm Nawras explained. "My husband and my brother were killed and so members of my extended family began fearing for their men as well -- so did our neighbors. Everyone knew that they were innocent and that their murder was therefore solely based on their identity cards. Jordan didn't accept any Palestinians -- Ruwaished camp was closed at this stage. So how were we supposed to leave? Syria didn't allow any Palestinians in as well and this is how al-Tanf camp was eventually established [in 2006]."

It appears that the kidnapping and killing of the men was the beginning of the infiltration of al-Durra and the targeting of its Palestinian inhabitants by elements of the same militias who went on criminal rampages. Umm Nawras remarked that "shortly after what happened [to us] al-Durra was raided, and during those raids they would yell, 'You Palestinians, you takfiriyyin [those who denounce a Shia person for blasphemy], leave, get out of here, you Saddamists, what are you still doing here?' The men began sitting at home [for fear of being killed] and the women would run the errands."

"The presence of the militias got deeper [in al-Durra] after what happened," Suhaila explained. Amira added that "They would put an X on people's homes meaning that if you didn't leave within a day or two you would be killed." The final straw for Umm Nawras and Suhaila was the kidnapping of their Palestinian neighbor who had gone to settle his business accounts with his associates as a precursor to leaving Baghdad. His kidnappers called his family and demanded a $50,000 ransom which the family could not deliver. After managing to raise some $13,000, the kidnappers took the money and disappeared. The family eventually fled Baghdad without being able to locate their son's corpse.

I asked Amira about her last months in Baghdad, when her family fled al-Durra and opted to stay with relatives in what they thought would be a safer area, al-Baladiyyat. "They started attacking us with mortar rockets because it was a big and strong area and they therefore couldn't just enter it [like they entered other areas] ... So they began to shell us instead. Three or four days after our arrival in al-Baldiyyat we were bombarded with unbelievable ferocity. That day a rocket directly hit my sister's brother-in-law ... and immediately killed him."

In search of a second refuge

By 2006, fleeing to the border was the only option for Palestinians who couldn't otherwise afford forged passports, and this is where the tale of the border camps begins. Amira described the experience, stating that "Imagine that you lived a normal life and then you were put in a tent all of a sudden. The elderly Palestinians, like my father and my mother, used to live a very basic life in Palestine; they didn't even have electricity, yet they found the experience of living in tents very difficult [in 1948]. So how can the same repeated experience be for someone who is used to a life in which there are computers and the Internet and universities?"

After I asked her about the possibility of being resettled in a country as far away as Brazil, like some in al-Ruwaished camp eventually were, Amira replied, "My priority is a house, I want a house first and foremost. I will give birth soon and my son may die from the wind or from the snow or from fire because all the tents are next to each other. This has happened before, and is very likely to happen during winter; there was a time when 50 tents burned down and after that you start from zero all over again." I asked if an Arab country would be a better option because of the cultural affinity and to be closer to kin and family, to which she answered, "We in fact argue over this a lot in the camp." Amira added, "during their first year in al-Tanf, they [the residents] used to prefer being resettled in an Arab country, but after all the bitterness they have lived through -- sometimes the UNHCR would only come once every two months, you feel like no one cares about you, and not a single Arab country has opened its borders. They can at least take those who are skilled and can benefit their country. So when a country like Chile that is very far away offers to admit Palestinians, the resentment towards Arab states deepens."

"I don't want a house or anything," Suhaila explained. "I just want citizenship, a document which forces others to respect me." Amira agreed to this, and highlighted that defining characteristic of Palestinian stateless-refugeehood, that "the problem [is also] of needing a document with which you can travel and with which you can be respected. Because, in the end, what is a [Palestinian refugee] travel document [worth]?"

Before I leave, I ask the sisters about the prospect of being allowed to go back to Ayn Hawd. Suhaila immediately exclaimed, "I wish!" and then quickly added, "but they would never allow us."

The names of interviewees in this article have been changed for their safety.

Anaheed Al-Hardan is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Trinity College (University of Dublin) where she is researching memories of the 1948 Nakba. She can be reached at alhardaa A T tcd D O T ie.

Thursday, 5 March 2009

uma família e o assassinato de seu menino


Family grieves killing of 13-year-old
Report, PCHR, 5 March 2009

The only surviving photograph of 13-year-old Hammad Silmiya, taken when he was seven.

On 14 February 2009, almost a month after Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza, 13-year-old Hammad Silmiya was grazing his sheep and goats in northeast Gaza, about 500 meters from the border with Israel. An Israeli military jeep patrolling the border opened fire on him and his teenage friends. Hammad was shot in the head and he died almost instantly.

Hammad's death barely made the news -- just another casualty in the Gaza Strip, where civilian injuries and deaths continue to mount daily. His family had already endured the killing of Hammad's grandmother, his two cousins, aged four and 18 months, and the destruction of their homes and livestock during Israel's offensive.

"It was Saturday morning and Hammad woke up at six," says Hammad's aunt Jomaia, 40. "He left with his brother and a couple of young friends to graze the animals. At around ten in the morning Hammad was preparing some breakfast in the field like he always did. An Israeli military vehicle fired at them and shot him in the head."

Jomaia pulls out a plastic bag from the folds of her black shawl and unties the knot. Inside a small envelope is the only remaining photograph they have of Hammad, taken when he was seven years old. More recent photographs of him were lost in the rubble of their home.

"Hammad was like a beloved son to me because I have no children of my own and he always slept beside me," says Jomaia. "Whenever he needed anything, he would ask me. They used to say Hammad didn't have just one mother, he had two -- his real mother, and I. Hammad owned a part of my heart and it went with him when he died."

Hammad had left school just a few months ago to work full-time as a shepherd and help his family. "I tried to force him to go back to school but all he cared about was working with the goats and riding his donkey," says Jomaia. "He was so good with animals. Whenever he came home from school, he'd throw his bag in the house and run to be with the animals. The night before Hammad was killed I dreamt about a wedding ceremony, which in our culture is a bad omen. When they told me Hammad was injured I knew that he had been killed because I had seen him as a bridegroom in my dream."

Hammad's aunt Jomaia (left) and mother Salma.

Hammad's mother Salma sits beside Jomaia in the makeshift shelter the family has set up beside the remains of their homes in Hay al-Salama, northeastern Gaza. All around them are scenes of utter devastation. This Bedouin family came to Gaza as refugees from Beersheva (then called Bir al-Saba) in 1948 and settled in the Hay al-Salama area. Prior to the latest Israeli offensive they had concrete homes and livestock farms beside the buffer zone, which was the first area to be hit during Israel's ground offensive in January 2009.

"Tanks began firing at the area at two in the morning on the 5 of January," recalls Jomaia. "The first bomb hit our house and I ran to my mother's room because she is 80 years old and bedridden. Then a second shell hit the house and we had to run, leaving her behind. We were like scared goats whose stable door had been opened. We fled to Jabaliya and then to Zeitoun where we sheltered in schools. Every day I begged ambulances and medics to help me go and evacuate my mother. I even said I would walk in front of the ambulance, carrying a white flag, but it was too dangerous and they refused."

When the Silmiya family returned to the area on 18 January, they found their row of houses had been flattened by F-16 air strikes and it took them three days to uncover Hammad's grandmother from the rubble. Hammad was buried next to his grandmother just a few weeks later.

Due to this area's proximity to the border, few donors have come to assess the damage or provide assistance. The nearest refugee tent camp is unsuitable for the Silmiyas because they need to be near their animals and Bedouin families prefer to live alone.

"The war is not over," says Hammad's mother Salma. "There is no quiet time in Gaza and we often see F-16s in the sky. But Hammad was never afraid. He was strong and full of energy. His younger brother says he wishes the Israelis had killed him instead because everybody loved Hammad. He also refuses to take any food or tea with him now when he goes shepherding because Hammad was making breakfast when they shot him."

Hammad's father Barrak Salem Salaam Silmiya, surrounded by the carcasses of his livestock and the remains of his home.

In the days before his death Hammad had been upset about his donkey that was killed during the Israeli ground invasion along with sixty goats and three cows belonging to his father Barrak Salem Salaam Silmiya, whose three surnames are all derivatives of the word "peace" in Arabic. "We want peace, but where is it? Where are human rights in Gaza?" asks 47-year-old Barrak as he shows us the animal remains still floating in the mud around the ruins of his house.

"Hammad was 13 years old. In anyone's eyes he looked like a child, but they still shot him. He was very bright and he was great with animals. He even used to sell our milk and cheese in the market. What more can I tell the world about my son? How can I speak about him? Big countries can't even stop Israel so what can I do? I feel like I'm nothing. This area was just houses and a street. Were these goats fighters? There's nothing left."

As Barrak turns to walk away Hammad's mother Salma rises to her feet: "These 15 days since Hammad died have felt like 500. Hammad was dark, and he was beautiful. Food has no taste anymore."

"Everybody who saw Hammad that morning before he was killed said his face had looked particularly beautiful," adds his aunt Jomaia. "This is not a war against a strong government or country. Israel kills us like we are animals and dogs and nobody stands with us."

All images by Sarah Malian/PCHR.

This report is part of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights series "Aftermath" that looks at the aftermath of Israel's 22-day offensive on the Gaza Strip, and the ongoing impact it is having on the civilian population.

os crimes de Israel em Gaza


Israel's crimes in Gaza
Reem Salahi writing from the United States, Live from Palestine, 3 March 2009

Muhammad Shurrab holds pictures of his son Kassab (left) and Ibrahim, killed during Israel's siege of Gaza. (Reem Salahi)

Having returned from Gaza, I am trying to come to terms with what I saw, what I heard and honestly, what I don't think I will ever understand -- the justification. While Israel's recent offensive has been the most egregious of any historical attack upon the Palestinians in Gaza, it is just that, one of many. Gaza has been under Israeli bombardment and sanctions for decades. Prior to the Israeli pullout in 2005, Gaza was under complete Israeli control and occupation. Nearly 8,000 Israeli settlers occupied 40 percent of Gaza while the 1.5 million Palestinians occupied the remaining 60 percent. Settlements were located on the most fertile lands and along Gaza's beautiful coastal regions and checkpoints prevented Palestinian mobility. Despite being one-fifth the size of Rhode Island, 25 miles long and 4 to 7.5 miles wide, Gaza was divided into three sections and Palestinians had to pass through multiple checkpoints to get from one section to the next. Often Israeli forces would close these checkpoints and not allow the Palestinians access to the other regions in Gaza as a form of collective punishment.

Yet with Israel's pullout in 2005, the Palestinian experience has not improved. Rather, it has become even more unpredictable and isolated. Palestinians who celebrated the exodus of the Israeli settlers and the return of some of their land could not have imagined what would follow and how Israel would subsequently unleash its brutal force against them. As the saying goes, nothing in life is free and the Palestinians have paid, and continue to pay, a dear and unforgivable price for Israel's withdrawal from their legally rightful land. Ironically, the majority of Palestinians living in Gaza are refugees who fled from their homes that were previously located in what has become Israel proper due to the influx of Zionist settlers. These refugees have yet to be restored their right to their original land and property. Now these Palestinians are even being denied their right to be refugees as Israel continues to bombard their homes in Gaza and destroy any livelihood they may have had.

Having been to both the West Bank and Gaza, I cannot begin to describe how different the two regions are despite their proximity. Unlike the West Bank, once inside Gaza, there is no fear of bumping into an Israeli soldier or waiting for hours at a checkpoint or having an Israeli soldier point an M-16 at your head while you show your identification card. Yet once inside Gaza, one is in constant fear and apprehension of what missile may fall from the skies or from the sea. The sound of Apache helicopters and drones are a constant reminder that Gaza remains at the mercy of the Israeli military.

After sunset, Gaza becomes a ghost town as Palestinians lock their doors and often sit without electricity, fearing to roam the streets. If a Palestinian is to be killed by an Israeli missile, he would rather be killed together with his family and not alone on the streets. Yet, as seen by the recent offensive, when Israel wishes to attack, it is not prevented from doing so by the time of day or by the location.

From the first moments of Israel's military campaign on 27 December, Israel's indifference to civilian casualties was clear. Its first attacks started at around 11:30am, at a time when children leave the morning session of school and the afternoon students arrive. The streets were packed with civilians -- children no less. Within moments, hundreds of Palestinians were killed and even more Palestinians were injured (at least 280 Palestinians were killed on the first day, and 700 wounded, including more than a dozen policemen attending a graduation ceremony at the Gaza City police station). A little girl in Jabaliya told me that she was in school when the attacks started. She fainted from the overwhelming fear and was not able to go home and see her family for days. When she did go home, she remembers seeing dead and injured bodies stranded all over street and hearing the thundering sound of missiles falling.

In its offensive, Israel attacked the warehouses of the UN agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), schools, mosques, civilian neighborhoods, businesses, factories, hospitals, universities and the media center. Its attacks took place during the day, night, during temporary ceasefires, and often without any notice or warning. I would ask the Palestinians I met who had lost loved ones in the recent incursion whether they were warned about an oncoming attack by some flyer or radio announcement. The majority would laugh at my question. "Why would I stay in my home if I knew that it was going to be attacked? Do you think I want to die? Do you think I would want to put my family and children in danger?" Most of the Palestinians had no notice that they were going to be attacked and bombarded until it was too late, and at that point, all they could do was stay in their homes, far from any window or door, and pray that their house would not be next.

Those, like Majid Fathi Abd al-Aziz al-Najjar, who were warned, tended to flee to "safer" areas. Majid and his wife and children resided in a border town in Khan Younis. Shortly after the start of its incursion, the Israeli military dropped flyers on his town, a copy of which he showed me. It said in Arabic that militants had entered the area and as a result the Israeli army was forced to react and attack this area. Yet these flyers were only dropped in the center of town and Majid did not even realize that they were dropped until after the attacks on his way to see the rubble that used to be his home. Realizing that Israeli tanks were planning on entering Gaza and would destroy anything that would block their entry, Majid packed his family and fled to a relative's home far from the border, in an area deemed safe. Yet, at 10pm on 3 January 2009, a white phosphorus missile strayed off course and rammed right into the home that Majid and his family had taken refuge in, along with 15 to 20 other Palestinians. The missile came through the roof and killed Majid's wife, Hanan Abd al-Ghani al-Najjar, instantly. Six or seven others, including Hanan's elderly mother and Hanan and Majid's daughter, were severely injured by shrapnel and rushed to the hospital. Whereas Majid thought he had fled from certain death in his home on the border, death followed him to his place of refuge. Yet the sad reality is that no matter where Majid fled, no place in Gaza was safe. Hanan's death was not the unpredictable result of a misguided missile, but rather the predictable consequence of a one-sided war waged by one of the world's most powerful armies against a population that is trapped within a prison and weakened by decades of occupation and years of blockade.

While Israel has perfected its many excuses in justifying innocent Palestinian death and destruction ("there were militants present," or "we thought there were militants present," "we warned them but they did not to leave," "missiles were being fired from that (insert location here)," "we are investigating this attack," "it was an accident"). Israel has fallen short of providing actual evidence to substantiate killing people like Hanan Abd al-Ghani al-Najjar, Kassab Shurrab, Ibrahim Shurrab, Mahmoud Masharrawi, Amal Abed Rabu, Suaad Abed Rabu, Farah al-Helo, Halima Badwan and the majority of others killed. After attacking the UN-operated al-Fakhura school in Jabaliya on 6 January, where many families had taken refuge and killing at least 40 innocent women and children and injuring dozens more, Israel made a rare attempt to actually justify its attacks. Not only did Israel use one of its staple excuses ("militants were firing from inside the school"), but it actually showed a video of militants firing mortars from the school. However, the video was dated to summer 2006 -- during Israel's last major invasion into Gaza -- and until now, it has not provided another staple excuse of why, more than two years later, the al-Fakhura school was attacked and the hundreds of Palestinian civilians taking shelter there were killed and injured.

The bombed American school in Gaza. (Reem Salahi)

But let us play the devil's advocate and agree that the majority of Israel's attacks were completely reactionary and only consequent to Palestinian militant firing. Let us assume that Israel was justified in its attacks against al-Fakhura school, in its demolition of the American School, the best school in Gaza, in its destruction of the UNRWA warehouses which housed tons of humanitarian aid, in its shelling of the Palestine Red Crescent Society, in its obliteration of the Samouni home in the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City where hundreds of family members had taken refuge after being directed to do so by the Israeli military, resulting in the killing of 48 to 70 members of the same family (I visited this area during the mass memorial for the Samouni family and it still reeked of rotting bodies and phosphorus), in its eradication of the Gaza City police station, in its shooting at UN cars, clearly marked with the large blue letters, and at ambulance drivers, in its destruction of the Islamic University of Gaza on 28 December, in its bombing of the Gaza media building, and the list goes on and on. Yet, let us momentarily assume that Israel was the victim in all of this madness, as it claims it was, and that in fact the Palestinians are the ones to blame.

How then, does Israel explain the executions, the shooting of Palestinians point blank in cold blood? How does it justify Israeli soldiers shooting Kassab Shurrab with seven bullets across the chest as he came out of his car with his hands to his side, especially as one of the Palestinian hostages sitting blindfolded by the soldiers heard the commander tell the soldier in Hebrew to shoot the civilians that were driving down the road. What about the two daughters of Khaled Abed Rabu, Amal, two years old, and Suaad, seven years old, murdered by an Israeli soldier using a semi-automatic rifle before their father's eyes as the other Israeli soldiers ate chips and chocolate?

Or Sameer Rashid Mohammad Mohammad, a 43-year-old UNRWA worker, who was separated from his family by Israeli soldiers and taken to a separate room and shot in the chest? For four days after killing Sameer, Israeli soldiers held his family hostage and would make the family prepare the murdered Sameer food. Only when the Israeli soldiers left their home, did Sameer's children see that their father was executed and by their father's dead and bleeding body were piles of food.

How about Farah al-Helo, 18 months old, shot in the stomach when her family was forced to evacuate from their home at 6:30pm by Israeli soldiers who assured them of their safety? Only 50 meters down the road they were shot at by other Israeli soldiers. Farah, with her intestines spilling from her stomach, died on the side of the road a few hours later as the same soldiers that had assured their safety watched.

Further, how can Israel explain its use of the Palestinians as human shields? Upon entering a village, Israeli soldiers would separate the men from the women. Sami Rashid Mohammad Mohammad, Sameer's brother, was taken as a hostage and forced to accompany the Israeli soldiers for four days. He was handcuffed and blindfolded and made to walk in front of the Israeli tanks and soldiers as bullets would whiz by. At other times, he was made to sit on his knees in an open field for hours while Israeli soldiers would shoot from behind him and often at his feet. These Palestinians were nothing more than entertainment for the soldiers, a child's play toy. When I asked Sami whether he saw any Palestinian militants during his time as a human shield, he laughed and said that he only saw Israeli soldiers with their blackened faces and camouflage outfits.

Additionally, how can Israel explain the humiliating tactics it used against the Palestinians such as forcing Palestinian ambulance drivers to abandon their ambulance cars and drive donkey carts to pick up the dead and wounded as if to equate Palestinians with donkeys? The soldiers would grant the ambulance drivers half an hour to clear the area using donkey carts and threatened to shoot after half an hour. And what about the racist remarks painted on the walls of Palestinian homes? One of my co-delegates took pictures of the Hebrew writings graffitied on the walls of some of the homes we visited in Zeitoun and had a friend translate them. Among the things written were: "Death to Arabs," "War now between Arabs and Jews," "An Arab brave is an Arab in a grave," "Bad to the Arab = good for me," "He who dreams Givati [Israeli infantry brigade] does not expel Jews. He who dreams Givati kills Arabs!!!"

The reality is that Israel cannot explain or justify any of these things, nor does it even care to do so. When Israel's staple excuses are not readily consumed or when they are examined under a critical lens, Israel applies another tactic: threat and demonization. Israel has created one of the strongest lobby organizations in the US, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), which actively demonizes any opponent or criticizer of the State of Israel. Due to UNRWA director John Ging's open opposition to Israel's attacks in Gaza and his call for an investigation into the attacks on UN buildings, he has been demonized and AIPAC recently introduced to the House Foreign Affairs Committee House Resolution 29 attacking UNRWA and alleging that it supports terrorists. Even I have received a few threatening emails upon the issuance of the National Lawyers Guild's Press Report which documented some of our findings. One of the emails indicated that I, along with the other attorneys, will have our careers followed. As the email stated, "Israel is smart not stupid, and will continue to do what they must as will America to survive even over the bodies of their leaders if necessary."

Now that I have left Gaza, I wonder what it will take to depoliticize the situation in Gaza and for the Palestinians, and make it into a human rights and humanitarian issue. Before entering the Rafah border crossing, I spoke with someone from Amnesty International. He had waited at the crossing for three days and was still denied entry. I asked him what was the most difficult area he had visited. He told me that Palestine, and Gaza specifically, was the most politically difficult area to advocate on behalf of in his decades-long career as a human rights advocate.

Almost every Palestinian I met in Gaza believes that Israel's recent attack will only be followed by another bloodier and more deadly attack on Gaza that will exterminate the Palestinians once and for all. Considering the history of attacks on Gaza, the level of atrocities recently committed in Gaza and the lack of international redress, I do not think that these statements are mere paranoia. Israel must be held accountable for its crimes in Gaza lest it commit larger and more egregious crimes in the future. As one who has been trained in the legal profession, I demand that Israel engage the legal arena and provide the international community with real evidence, and not just staple excuses and dated videos, that can justify every single civilian murder and the widespread destruction of Palestinian civil society. Until Israel is able to do so, the evidence in Gaza leads anyone willing to visit to the inevitable conclusion that Israel has committed war crimes.

Reem Salahi is a lawyer and Bridge Fellow in the National Security and Immigrants' Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California. She recently traveled with six other attorneys and one law student to Gaza in the National Lawyers Guild delegation. This article is based on what she saw and experienced during her time in Gaza.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Documentario III

Este documentado, filmado aparentemente no início dos anos 90 (não consegui descobrir a data exacta), mostra de que modo a ocupação israelita modificou a vida dos palestinianos logo depois da primeira intifada. Vemos aqui como Jerusalém foi separada da Cisjordânia, como o IDF discrimina as populações consoante a matrícula do carro ( de cores diferentes consoante se é colono judeu ou palestiniano, para facilitar o trabalho) e como o dinheiro americano tem sido usado para a aplicação deste sistema.

Israel em 1948.


Poised for Expansion

Israel in 1948


“The Achilles’ heel of the Arab coalition is Lebanon. Muslim supremacy in this country is artificial and can easily be overthrown. A Christian State ought to be set up there, with its southern frontier on the river Litani. We should sign a treaty of alliance with this State. Then, when we have broken the strength of the Arab Legion and bombed Amman, we could wipe out Transjordan; after that Syria would fall. And if Egypt dared to make war on us, we would bomb Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo. We should thus end the war, and would have settled the account with Egypt, Assyria and Chaldea on behalf of our ancestors.”

David Ben-Gurion, 1948

In their first test of strength with the ‘natives’ in 1948, the Zionists had gained control of nearly four-fifths of Palestine, expelled most of the Palestinians from these territories, and repulsed the combined forces of five Arab proto-states.

Yet, the Zionists were not about to rest on their laurels: their interests did not lie in making peace with the Arabs. The events of 1948 had demonstrated what they could achieve; with minor losses of their own, they had obliterated Palestinian society and handily beaten back the Arabs.

This was a historic moment, a messianic moment, that would be seen by many as the fulfillment of ancient prophecies. This was no time to seek peace by making amends to a weak, defeated enemy.

Their stunning military victory would only encourage the Zionists to aim for their maximalist goals, which now appeared attainable. The Zionists would augment their numbers, expand their territory, and strive to become the dominant power in the Middle East.

* * *

In 1948, the Jewish colonization of Palestine had only just begun. At this point, Israel contained some 650,000 Jews, who made up only four percent of the world’s Jewish population.

If Israel aspired to house half the world’s Jewry, its population would have to expand more than ten-fold. Israel’s share of world Jewry would have to rise dramatically because this was an imperative of Zionist ideology, which promised that Israel would be a safe haven for the world’s Jews. It would be embarrassing for the Zionists if this Jewish ‘safe haven’ housed only a small fraction of the world’s Jews.

In addition, Israel would be driven towards demographic expansion by two other objectives: the Zionist goal of territorial expansionism and the need to maintain a crushing military advantage over its neighbors.

With only “seven hundred thousand Jews,” Ben-Gurion insisted, Israel “cannot be the climax of a vigil kept unbroken through the generations and down the patient centuries.” Even if Israel did not face any external threats to its security, “so empty a state would be little justified, for it would not change the destiny of Jewry, or fulfill our historic covenant.”

As a result, soon after 1948 – indeed even before 1948 – the Zionists were working to bring millions of Jews into Israel. In the calculation of Zionists, a demographic expansion of this magnitude was not only desirable: it was also necessary and attainable.

Zionist ambitions would carry Israel beyond the territories it had conquered in 1948. “Zionist mainstream thought,” writes Benny Morris “had always regarded a Jewish state from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River as its ultimate goal.”

* * *

At various times, Zionists had made more expansive territorial claims that included – besides Palestine – Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and the Sinai.

In October 1936, even while accepting the recommendations of the Peel Commission to partition Palestine, Ben-Gurion had explained, “We do not suggest that we announce now our final aim which is far reaching – even more so than the Revisionists who oppose Partition.”

In another speech in 1938, Ben-Gurion revealed that his vision of a Jewish state included Cis-Jordan [the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean], southern Lebanon, southern Syria, today’s Jordan, and the Sinai. Ten years later, he spoke, grandiosely, of settling “the account with Egypt, Assyria and Chaldea on behalf of our ancestors.“

Again, in October 1956, at a secret meeting in Sèvres (France), attended by Israel, France and Britain, Ben-Gurion proposed a ‘fantastic’ plan – his own words – to change once again the map of the Middle East. Under this plan, Israel would occupy the Gaza Strip and Sinai, the West Bank (while Iraq would annex the East Bank of the Jordan), and southern Lebanon up to the Litani River (so that Lebanon could become a more compact Christian state). Little Israel's ambitions knew no bounds.

* * *

The Israelis could not be generous – if they were so inclined – because they knew that the Palestinians and neighboring Arabs would seek to reverse their gains.

In 1948, at one fell swoop, the Zionists appear to have obliterated Palestinian society; but this was partly illusory. Unlike the white colonists in the United States, the Israelis had displaced the indigenous population, not exterminated them.

Concentrated in territories that shared borders with Israel – in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon – the Palestinians living in squalid refugee camps were not about to forget their dispossession. Over time, as they suffered the deep sting of their losses, as they gained the support of kindred Arabs and Muslims, as they organized, and as their numbers grew, they would resume their struggle against the Jewish colonists.

Indeed, Israel would bring their resistance home in June 1967 by conquering the remaining Palestinian territories.

In addition, over the long haul, even with renewed Jewish immigration into Israel, the Palestinian still inside Israel would pose a demographic challenge to the exclusively Jewish character of the Israeli state.

* * *

Israel would face resistance from neighboring Arab states too.

The Arabs could not recognize the existence of a colonial-settler state in Palestine: not because the settlers were Jewish, but because they were invaders who had arrived on the backs of imperialist powers and taken their country from them.

If the Arab proto-states capitulated – as they did all too quickly after the defeat of June 1967 – the peoples of the region would continue to oppose Israel. The Zionists understood this; they were well aware of the traumatic wounds they had inflicted on the Islamic and Arab psyche.

If Israel was to survive, the Zionists could not allow this collective trauma to find political expression. The Israelis would do everything in their power to destroy the Arab nationalist movement before it gained strength; and they had little time to loose.

Quickly, they would have to acquire massive military superiority over the Arab states, and demonstrate it decisively – as they did, in 1956 and 1967 – to force the dominant political classes in the Arab world to accept Israel on Israeli terms.

In order to acquire this military power, and no less the ability to demonstrate it repeatedly – in violation of international laws – Israel would have to forge a ‘special relationship’ with the United States.

* * *

Israel's conflict with the Arabs is not a dispute over borders.

Stripped of the legal chicanery supporting its creation, the Zionist project is a declaration of war by a powerful segment of Western Jews, with support from Western powers, against the Arabs. This is no ordinary war either. As a pure settler-colonialism, the Zionists had smashed Palestinian society and dramatically altered the demographic character of an important part of the Islamic heartlands.

The impact of Israel would not be local because it was an affront and a challenge to the larger Islamicate world.

In consequence, as the Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims – in growing circles – would slowly mobilize to resist this colonial insertion, the Zionists would also galvanize Jews and Christian Zionists in the Western world, but especially in the United States.

The Zionists would work tirelessly to convert a settler-colonial project into a civilizational conflict between the United States, leading the ‘Judeo-Christian’ West, and the Islamicate. Indeed, this was their strategy for sustaining for perpetuating their assault on the Palestinians and their hegemony over the Middle East.

M. Shahid Alam is professor of economics at Northeastern University. He is author of Challenging the New Orientalism (2007). Send comments to

Visit his website at:

Gaza descartadas e a ocupação continua. Os médicos herois.


Gaza Stripped, Occupation Remains

Middle East Medical Mission Heroes


The Obama Administration should help the victims of war and occupation receive humanitarian assistance, and they should help the injured travel abroad for medical care. Moreover, the Obama Administration should help all medical professionals who travel to war torn areas, so they can care for the victims and train local doctors.

Recently, the Human Rights Program of the University of Chicago, Amnesty, along with Students for Justice in Palestine hosted a panel discussion of medical professionals who care for the victims of war and occupation.

The panel included: Dr. Ra-id Abdulla, a pediatric cardiologist from Rush Hospital in Chicago, who led several missions to Iraq and Palestine over ten years. As a volunteer, he screened hundreds of children, many who had life-saving, cardiac surgery; and he developed a formal, training program for Iraqi doctors in his specialty. Dr. Scott Eggener, a urologist and assistant professor at the University of Chicago, is an active member of IVUMed (International Volunteers in Urology). He participated in volunteer educational and surgical missions to Cuba, Honduras, Morocco, Myanmar, Rwanda, and Palestine; Dr. Imran Qureshi, an interventional radiologist at Rush-Copley Medical Center, was one of nine, American doctors who traveled to Gaza after Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead;” and Steve Sosebee, President & CEO of Palestine Children Relief Fund. For nearly two decades his organization has sent over 800 children overseas for surgery and medical care.

“I’ve seen the slow deterioration of Gaza over the past, 20 years,” Sosebee said. He explained that the purpose of creating the PCRF was to address the humanitarian needs of kids living under occupation and not having access to adequate health care. His full-time staff identify kids who need surgery and medical treatment relief. “We’ve identified 15 kids to send outside and we can’t get them out…we can’t get Israel or Egypt to permit them outside,” he added.

In the recent invasion of Gaza, nearly 6,000 people were injured and over 1,300 people killed, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Nearly 1,900 of the injured were children and out of the more than 1,300 killed, 410 were children.

Sosebee explained that many children who experienced head and neurological injuries live with permanent, brain injuries. Also, children who lost their limbs and are in need of prosthetic limbs and rehabilitative services are confined to wheelchairs now. With permanent disabilities these children have no future because there are no rehabilitative services to provide lifelong assistance for them in Gaza.

“We’re trying to do something on a positive level,” Sosebee said. “This is a human issue…we need to use energy in a positive way…surgery, humanitarian aid is an appropriate response.”

Volunteer Medical Teams and Humanitarian Aid

Dr. Qureshi gave a visual and qualitative, slideshow presentation of his recent visit to Gaza. He showed photos of destroyed civil and residential buildings, including the rubble of the Catholic Relief Services’ medical center. Overturned cement trucks and inoperable, damaged ambulances only prolongs rebuilding the Gaza Strip.

On March 1st Human Rights Watch issued the press release: Israel/Gaza: Donors Should Press Israel to End Blockade. They explained: “International donors to Gaza's reconstruction and development should call on Israel to end its punishing blockade of the territory and to allow needed humanitarian assistance and normal commerce to resume.”

Their findings have been released one-day ahead of the high-level conference for Gaza reconstruction, in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt. The organization emphasizes that the number of humanitarian and commercial truckloads needed to sustain the 1.5 M people living in Gaza are in-park at the border crossings. Therefore, the number of trucks allowed to cross over the border do not meet the peoples’ daily needs.

Last week the media reported the US would be donating US $900 M at tomorrow‘s international donors conference, where US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is scheduled to speak.

Is it Enough? Gaza Stripped, Occupation Remains

Out of the 1.5 M refugees living in Gaza, an estimated 100,000 are homeless. They live in a white sea of tents, with 25 people living in each tent. After surviving the recent invasion, these people struggle in cold weather. They do not have heat, electricity, running water, and few belongings.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency is supporting an estimated 700,000 Palestinians living in Gaza. In their recent report, “Quick-Response Plan to Restore Critical Services to Refugees in Gaza,” UNRWA estimates their budget needs for January through September 2009 is an estimated $346 M.

Is it enough? Qureshi showed photos of the destroyed Palestinian Ministry of Health and Agriculture buildings. As an interventional radiologist, Quereshi’s medical specialties include: biopsies, fibroid embolization, hepatobiliary intervention, as well as vascular and interventional procedures. When he worked in Al-Shifa Hospital, the largest hospital in Gaza, the hospital has a capacity of 80-100 beds. Yet, there were over 400 patients in the hospital. He said the hospital lacked medical equipment and sterile supplies.

“I used tape to tape up some of the equipment,” he said, showing the slide of his repairs. Then he showed a slide of modernized, medical equipment - in typical use throughout the US or Europe. The stark contrast was obvious. Without financial, logistical and training aid, Al-Shifa Hospital does not have the resources to modernize itself.

Originally, Al Amal Orphan Society had 250 orphans. Now they have 2000 new orphans, with few funds and supplies to handle the influx of kids. A building that was under construction to be a new UN school will house the orphanage. At present, it is a bare, cement floor with pillars supporting the ceiling.

Training Local Doctors

Abdulla started going on medical missions to Iraq over ten years ago. Although there are only 42 pediatric cardiology fellowship programs in the US, he was not aware of any Arab country that had formal training for their doctors. As a result, he brought a team of Belgium cardiologists and physicians into Iraq. Together, they developed a formal training program in Iraq, along with a pediatric cardiac center. “I spent a lot of time and effort,” he added.

In 2003, the US invaded Iraq. Looters stole medical equipment from the ICUs and set fire to the hospitals. He thought all of the efforts he made over the years had gone to waste. Yet, the important training he provided the Iraqi doctors came to life. They rebuilt their centers.

“That’s when I realized the importance of the small contribution I was doing…it was the infrastructure we were able to leave behind, what we were able to teach them,” Abdulla said.

Medical professionals of diverse backgrounds have demonstrated that their volunteer surgery and medical initiatives are imperative for the people on the receiving end of war and occupation. It is up to individuals in the international community to continue making contributions that aid people in their time of need.

Political leadership’s role is to help victims rehabilitate in every way possible so they can lead normal lives.

Our children - no matter who they are or where they are from - should not be left to fend for themselves.

Sonia Nettnin is a journalist who writes about social, political, economic, and cultural issues. Her focus is the Middle East.

Jayyus, uma aldeia presa


Jayyus, a village trapped
Mel Frykberg, The Electronic Intifada, 1 March 2009

Palestinians protest the Israeli separation wall in the West Bank village of Jayyus, July 2008. (Khaleel Reash/MaanImages)

RAMALLAH (IPS) - "They started smashing down doors at 2am last Wednesday before moving through homes and destroying property," says the mayor of Jayyus, Muhammed Taher Shamasni.

"Residents were assaulted, money was stolen, computers confiscated, over 60 young men arrested and the village placed under curfew. The Israeli soldiers came into my home and threw the contents of cupboards and closets on to the floor," Shamasni told IPS. Jayyus, an agricultural community of 3,500 inhabitants, located in the Qalqiliya district of the northern Palestinian West Bank, was invaded by Israeli soldiers using police dogs and backed by military helicopters.

The village has been the scene of frequent clashes between local youths, their Israeli supporters and international sympathizers on the one hand, and the Israeli army on the other. Dozens protesting Israel's continued expropriation of village land were injured last Friday by Israeli soldiers firing live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.

Israel started building a separation barrier (a combination of walls, ditches and fences), most of it on Palestinian land, in 2002 to separate the Jewish state from the West Bank. This followed a wave of suicide bombings carried out by Palestinian militants, some of them originating from the West Bank.

While Israel has argued that the wall is primarily for security reasons, Palestinians and human rights organizations accuse Israel of using security as a pretext for both a massive land grab for the benefit of illegal Israeli settlements, and continual human rights abuses.

The route of the barrier deviates significantly from the internationally recognized green line marking the boundary between Israel and the West Bank, veering off repeatedly into the West Bank where it has swallowed enormous swathes of fertile Palestinian land.

The barrier's total length is 725 km, more than twice the length of the green line. When completed, approximately 14 percent of the barrier will be constructed on the green line or in Israel, and 86 percent inside the West Bank.

Prior to the building of the wall approximately 30 percent of the West Bank was expropriated for Israeli settlements, military zones and nature reserves. Another 10 percent was confiscated and declared a closed military zone in 2002 as construction on the barrier began.

Approximately 10,000 Palestinians are trapped in the pockets of territory between the Green Line and the separation barrier. Most Palestinians are unable to cross the Green Line to enter Israel where thousands used to earn a living as well as sell their produce.

Furthermore, many Palestinians in the enclaves are either unable, or have great difficulty, accessing the rest of the West Bank for educational, business, medical or family reasons. They are also required to get permits from the Israelis in order to stay in their homes.

Additionally, the majority of farmers to the east of the barrier are unable to access their agricultural lands in the enclaves between the green line and the barrier as the Israelis have refused to issue the requisite permits, on security grounds, needed to reach the land.

The economy of Jayyus has been decimated. Most of the villagers are dependent on the tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, bell peppers, avocados, guavas, olives and citrus produce grown there for their livelihoods.

The barrier near Jayyus deviates six kilometers from the green line. During its construction the Israelis uprooted 4,000 olive and citrus trees and expropriated 8,600 dunams of land (1 dunam = 0.1 hectares) belonging to Jayyus.

The village's farmers are separated from 50,000 fruit and olive trees, most of its greenhouses and six ground water wells used for irrigation, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

"Seventy-five percent of our farm land has been confiscated. Only 18 percent of farmers in Jayyus have been given permits to cross the barrier and reach their land near the green line. The others were denied permits," Sharif Khalid, a farmers' representative, told IPS.

"Prior to the building of the barrier there were 136 greenhouses in the village. Today there are only 72. Millions of dollars have been lost and many farmers have been forced into bankruptcy," said Khalid.

Abdul Karim Khalid, a relative of Sharif Khalid, lost both of his greenhouses. With three children to support the family have been dependent on his wife's salary as a teacher. Women in Jayyus like elsewhere in the Palestinian territories have been forced to earn money in whatever capacity possible.

"The security situation, high rates of unemployment and poverty have forced many women to become the bread winners for their families due to many Palestinian men being killed, imprisoned for political offenses or losing their jobs," said Reem Abboushi, executive director of The Palestinian Business Women's Association.

The Israeli settlement Zufin was constructed on land belonging to Jayyus in 1989. Another Israeli settlement Nofei Zufin is being expanded on land confiscated from the village.

According to Israeli rights organization, B'Tselem, the routing of the separation barrier so far from the Green Line was primarily to "leave areas planned for the settlement's expansion and for a nearby industrial zone on the Israeli side of the barrier."

In June 2006, in response to a petition to the Israeli high court, the state admitted that plans for an industrial zone for Zufin had been taken into consideration in planning the route. The court subsequently ordered a revision of the south-east section of the current barrier route.

However, only 2,500 of the 8,600 dunams of land will be returned to Jayyus, and the re-routing of the wall will again destroy more agricultural land and orchards.

In 2003, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution calling for Israel to stop construction of the barrier. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague ruled in 2004 that "the infringements resulting from that route cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of security or public order."
Palestine Blogs - The Gazette Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.