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Sunday, January 29, 2012

Stolen Land

Stolen Land
Israel, Settlements and Democracy


January 27, 2012

As Israel continues to defy international law, including countless United Nations resolutions, and builds more and more settlement on land stolen from the Palestinians, its reputation as a model democracy is taking a well-deserved beating.
Last year, Israel took a dramatic step in violating whatever semblance of democracy it ever had. On July 11, 2011, the New York Times reported this: "The Israeli Parliament on Monday passed contentious legislation that effectively bans any public call for a boycott against the state of Israel or its West Bank settlements, making such action a punishable offense." While opponents say that this law compromises the freedom of expression, its supporters, ironically, say that it is necessary to fight the 'global delegitimization’ of Israel.
Shortly prior to the passage of this law, Israelis successfully brought down the price of cheese, by boycotting that industry. One wonders why the price of cheese is seen as a legitimate purpose for a boycott, but human rights is not.
There are a number of global initiatives to boycott Israel, and apparently they are all legal, except for any such efforts in Israel itself. The obvious question, 'What does Israel have to be afraid of,’ is too easily answered to even be asked.
But does the further eroding of democracy, such as it is, in Israel, really matter? Not so, according to the words of wisdom from one Benny Katzover, described as a 'veteran settler,’ having joined the first group of occupiers in the northern West Bank nearly forty years ago. Mr. Katzover makes no bones about Israel’s purpose. In a recent interview he said: "We didn’t come here to establish a democratic state, we came here to return the Jewish people to their land." He continued: "Across the country, these ideas, that democracy needs dramatic change, if not dismantling then at least dramatic change, these ideas are very widespread."
How Israel can be seen as a democracy when it has occupied another nation and oppressed its people for decades, after a policy of radical ethnic cleansing followed by one of gradual ethnic cleansing, is a mystery that only members of the U.S. Congress, who have been bought and paid for by the American Israeli Political Affairs Committee, can answer. When settlers, residing in homes that violate international law, can, with impunity, burn mosques, destroy orchards and burn cars, the concept of democracy is a distant one indeed.
But Mr. Katzover has pulled the veil back from the eyes of those not blinded by AIPAC dollars. A secure, democratic Israel is not now, and never has been, the goal. Returning the Jewish people to land that they have determined is rightfully theirs, regardless of the centuries during which another people has populated that land, is, and always has been, the goal. Depriving Palestinian farmers of their livelihood by destroying their orchards, or establishing such convoluted roadblocks that a 10-minute walk 'as the crow flies’ turns into an hours-long ordeal; preventing students from going to school by the same means; forbidding the injured and ill from obtaining medical services, do not promote national security, or demonstrate democratic principles. They are, simply, racist practices of an oppressive, imperial government dead set on the ethnic cleansing of the land they illegally occupy.
And what, one may reasonably ask, does that shining star, the world’s foremost beacon of peace and freedom (at least according to its own cheerleaders), have to say about this? What does the illustrious United States of American, the so-called land of the free and the home of the brave, say about the repression of the Palestinian people, and the continual murders of these truly brave people? Well, basically, not much. Without a powerful lobby, really, why should Congress or the President pay much attention? Can the Palestinian people pay for the votes of members of the U.S. Congress? Can they wield sufficient electoral influence to terrify the men and women who walk those hallowed halls? Do those members of Congress salivate to bow before some Palestinian lobby, as they do before AIPAC? Well, until these conditions are met, Israel’s constant, inhuman, shocking violations of the most basic human rights of the Palestinian people will be ignored by the U.S. government. Human rights, we must remember, are for the wealthy and influential.
Once again, so-called negotiations, this time at a very low level, have broken down. Israel claims it wants to 'negotiate’ with no pre-conditions, and the Palestinians want an end to new, illegal settlement activity before they will return to the negotiating table. It’s all pointless. Israel has always wanted all of Palestine, and has succeeded in seizing most of it in the last 60-plus years. Israel has one of the most powerful military machines in the world, and is sponsored by the most powerful government in the world. Why negotiate with a nation it has turned into a third world country? What do the Palestinians have that Israel cannot simply take? When was 'compromise’ ever wanted, if, as Mr. Katzover says, providing all the land of Palestine for the nation of Israel has always been the goal?
Any sense of fairness compels one to recognize the need for Israel to surrender this stolen land, so it can be returned to its rightful owners, people whose families have owned it for generations, not people who believe themselves promised it in the Bible.
But, one might ask, should the over half a million illegal settlers who now make their home in Palestine really be forced to leave? Wouldn’t that be a gross injustice? The answers to these two questions, this writer can categorically say, are yes, they should be forced to leave, and no, it wouldn’t be an injustice of any kind. One does not have to look far to see a precedent. In the time span of 1947 to 1948, more than half of Palestine’s native population, nearly 800,000 people, were uprooted, many of them killed, and over 500 villages were entirely destroyed. If Israel could cause that atrocity to occur, certainly the orderly, planned removal of half a million Israelis who are illegally occupying the land can and should be accomplished, with no concern about injustice.
The U.S. has proven to be a stumbling block to the rights of the Palestinian people to live in peace, dignity and freedom. President Mahmoud Abbas is right to petition the United Nations for recognition as a member state. It can only be hoped that that request is soon acted upon, so the suffering Palestinian people can begin to see a glimmer of hope for a free and independent nation.
Robert Fantina is author of Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006

Profile of a Rogue State

Profile of a Rogue State

by Stephen Lendman

January 27, 2012

America's unmatched globally. However, pound for pound, based on size, its policies, and regional threat, Israel stands out.

Daily, its crimes against humanity continue. On January 23, Jerusalem police arrested two Palestinian officials, Khaled Abu Arafeh and Mohammed Totah.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said both men were wanted for unspecified "Hamas activities" with no further comment.

Hamas, of course, is Palestine's legitimate government. Israel and America spuriously call it a terrorist organization. Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri said arresting both men was a "Zionist crime." Palestine's parliament hasn't functioned since Hamas and Fatah split in 2007.

Both men were arrested at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Sheikh Jarrah offices. For the past 18 months, they sought refuge there protesting Israel's illegal deportation orders after their ID cards were revoked.

Abu Arafah served as Hamas minister for Jerusalem affairs. Totah's a Hamas PLC representative. Months earlier, Hamas legislator Mahmoud Atoun was arrested. He also sought ICRC refuge.

Hamas parliamentarians are repeatedly targeted. Around two dozen remain imprisoned. Twenty are uncharged under administrative detention. At one time, 40 Hamas PLC members were lawlessly incarcerated for belonging to the wrong party, not any crimes they committed.

On January 19, Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) Aziz Dweik was arrested for alleged terrorist connections. Despite a thinly veiled lie, a military court on January 24 ordered him detained uncharged for six months.

On January 20, lawmaker Khaled Tafesh was arrested and detained at Ofer Prison.

The Palestinian Center for Human Rights (PCHR) condemned Israel's actions. It called them "a plan to undermine the results of the (January 2006) Palestinian legislative elections (and) to abort the Palestinian reconciliations efforts."

PCHR also called them Fourth Geneva-prohibited collective punishment. It demanded immediate release of those held, strongly condemned storming ICRC's office, and said doing so violated international humanitarian law.

Israel falsely claimed ICRC's office has no diplomatic status, making it fair game for Israeli lawlessness.

Israel's War on Hamas

On January 25, Jerusalem Post writer Khaled Abu Toameh headlined, "Israel has declared war on Hamas in West Bank," saying:

In the past few days alone, five Hamas PLC members were arrested. "Early Tuesday, IDF soldiers arrested Abdel Jabbar Fukaha, a Hamas legislator, in Ramallah and confiscated documents, a laptop and mobile phones from his home."

His wife said their son Mujahed was summoned to appear Sunday for interrogation. After serving a four-month sentence, Fukaha was released from Israeli prison in February 2011.

"In a related development, Hamas legislators in Tulkarm said on Tuesday that an Israeli security official phoned them and ordered them to close their office immediately. Fathi Qarawi and Riad Raddad said it was the second threat received in the past month."

It's part of an Israeli campaign to destroy Hamas, they believe, adding:

"Israel has declared war on Hamas. But we won’t be deterred and we will continue to fulfill our duties."

Hamas leaders believe Israel's trying to sabotage reconciliation with Fatah and foil planned May parliamentary and presidential elections. It wouldn't be the first time strong-arm Israeli tactics subverted Palestinian elections and other legitimate activities.

Hamas spokesman Mushir al-Masri denounced Israeli's scheme, saying:

"Israel thinks that the arrests will destroy Hamas' chances of winning the elections. On the contrary, these measures will only increase (our) popularity."

He also called on human rights organizations to intervene and pressure Israel to release lawlessly detained "legislators who were elected by the people in a democratic vote."

Lawless Home Demolitions, Land Theft and Dispossessions

Among other rogue policies, home demolitions and land theft define Israeli repression. On January 23, East Anata's bedouin compound was bulldozed and destroyed for the fifth time.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) calls it "a living symbol of resistance to Occupation and the desire for justice and peace."

ICAHD's Itay Ephshtain said:

"People are somber, traumatized and grief stricken. Nearly 100 people are out in the elements now on a cold night. Children, babies, mothers, fathers. Some of us from ICAHD did try to block the bulldozer, but were beaten back by soldiers."

In fact, Epshtain was personally beaten and sustained minor injuries.

Called Beit Arabiya, the site was home to Arabiya Shawemreh, her husband Salim and seven children. Their home was previously destroyed four times.

Each time, ICAHD, Palestinians, and international peace activists rebuilt it. Now it's again gone. On January 23 around 11PM, a bulldozer accompanied by soldiers arrived. Beit Arabiya as well as other residential and agricultural structures in Arab al-Jahalin Bedouin compound were destroyed.

Beit Arabiya initially got a demolition order in 1994. At issue was failing to get a building permit on their own land. ICAHD Director Jeff Halper vowed to help Salim and Arabiya rebuild, saying:

"We shall rebuild. We must rebuild forthwith as an act of political defiance of the occupation and protracted oppression of Palestinians."

"ICAHD is as determined as always to rebuild the home, and endure in its struggle to bring about justice and peace."

Salim and Arabiya dedicated their home to Rachael Corrie and Nuha Sweidan. Both women, an American and Palestinian, were murdered resisting Gaza home demolitions.

Weeks earlier on December 6, The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights called on Israel to cease house demolitions, forced evictions, and residency revocations.

ICAHD's publication "No Home, No Homeland" highlights the issue. It estimates about 26,000 Palestinian homes destroyed since June 1967 for "punitive, land clearing/military, and administrative" reasons.

On Occupied Palestinian land, doing so violates international law. Israel spurns it. As a result, Palestinian suffering continues. Women and children are especially affected. Forced displacement further harms them. ICAHD called 2011 a record year.

World leaders turn a blind eye. Israeli officials are green-lighted to commit crimes with impunity. They take full advantage.

Obama's "Ironclad" Commitment

In his January 24 State of the Union address, Obama highlighted his unwavering support, saying:

"Our ironclad commitment to Israel's security has meant the closest military cooperation between our two countries in history."

Among other ways, it's reflected in billions in military aid and regular increased amounts. In August 2007, Bush increased it by $6 billion over the next decade. Despite budget constraints, Obama added more.

In FY 2012 alone, an additional $236 million will help develop three Israeli missile programs: Arrow-2, David's Sling, and Arrow 3. Israel already gets over $3 billion annually, plus unknown add-ons if requested.

"If Americans knew" reports that while Israel gets "at least $8.2 million each day in military aid," Palestinians get zero.

A Final Comment

On January 22, London Guardian writer Harriet Sherwood headlined, "The Palestinian children - alone and bewildered - in Israel's Al Jalame" Prison, saying:

Young children are physically and verbally abused. It's nightmarish. Cell 36 and others like it are "where Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. One 16-year-old" said he'd been isolated for 65 days.

Cells are "barely wider than the thin, dirty mattress that covers the floor. Behind a low concrete wall is a squat toilet, the stench from which has no escape in the windowless room. The rough concrete walls deter idle leaning; the constant overhead light inhibits sleep."

Low-quality food arrives through door flaps, depriving children of human contact. Brutal interrogations break the monotony. Shackled hands and feet to a chair for hours, they're questioned.

Most often, their alleged "crime" is stone-throwing. Most deny doing it. Physical and verbal abuse follow. Many face sleep deprivation exhaustion. "Day after day they are fettered to the chair, then returned to solitary confinement. In the end, many sign confessions" in desperation. Later they say they were coerced.

As many as 700 Palestinian children are arrested annually. Some are 10 or younger. Mistreatment is extreme. Emotional trauma results.

According to Nader Abu Amsha, director of Beit Sahour's YMCA juvenile rehab program:

"(F)amilies think that when (their) child is released, it's the end of the problem. We tell them (it's only) the beginning. You see children who are totally broken. It's painful to see the pain of these children, to see how much they are squeezed by the Israeli system."

It's more evidence of rogue Israeli lawlessness. Imprisoned Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti told Maan News that conflict and abuses will continue until Israel ends occupation and withdraws to pre-1967 borders.

He believes Palestinian national unity and nonviolent resistance stand the best chance of achieving it.

Barghouti's a prisoner of conscience serving five consecutive life sentences plus 40 years for wanting to live free. Free or imprisoned, he symbolizes hope. Supporters hope he'll be freed one day to lead them.

Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.

Call me a Palestinian from Palestine

Call me a Palestinian from Palestine

Reham Alhelsi

January 27, 2012

Don’t call me homeless, because I have a home thousands of years old.

I have a home in Jrash which you demolished, erased from your map. I have a home whose stones still stand as witness to your crimes, still stand witness to what once was and to what will be. I have a home that will be rebuilt with the same stones and on the same spot where it originally was and where it should be. I have a home in Jerusalem which you occupy, a home that will be liberated. I have a home in Hebron which you closed, a home that will be reopened. I have a home in Gaza which you bombed, a home that will be rebuilt. I have a home carved in my heart. I have a home in An-Naqab, I have a home in Tabaria, I have a home in Bisan, I have a home in Jenin, I have a home in Jerusalem, I have a home in Safad. Every part of Palestine is my home; every olive field is my sitting room, every hilltop is my balcony, every meadow is my playground, every stone is my chair, every bit of shadow beneath a fig tree is my bed. The land of Palestine is my ground, the sky over Palestine is my roof. All of Palestine is my home, my one and only home.
Don’t call me homeless, because I have a home and it’s called Palestine.

Don’t call me voiceless, because I have a voice even if you don’t want to listen.

I have a voice that roars in the midst of the storm. I have a voice that breaks the silence of those who sing non-stop of humanity, of human rights to every other people and every other nation, but are blind, deaf and mute to the Zionist crimes. I have a voice that silences the lies, silences the hasbara. I have a voice that sings of freedom, of liberation and of return. I have a voice that is louder than the whips of oppression, louder than the bullets of the occupation. My voice is my heart that beats every second to write in blood the name of my beloved Palestine. My voice is my eyes that see Palestine as it will always be; one from the river to the sea. My voice is my body that stands steadfast, only armed with a belief in a just cause, to face your bulldozer, your bombs, your tanks and your war planes. My voice is my hand that plants the lands you so savagely murder, that waters the olive and the fig tree that you so mercilessly massacre. My voice is my fingers that draw Palestine free of occupation and colonization. My voice is the children who memorize the names of the villages you erased, and write these names in their hearts, in their copybooks and on their maps. My voice is the children who cherish the keys to their homes, hold on to them, dream of the homes that are theirs, the homes that once stood under the blue sky of Palestine, and wait for the day to return and rebuild them. My voice is the children who count the number of trees you uproot, and replant a thousand tree for every tree you kill. My voice are the children who wake up to the sound of your planes, go to school despite your tanks, play in the alley of Palestine despite your bombs, fly kites despite your F-16, face your machine gun with their slingshot. My voice is the children who continue to dream of freedom and return every day despite your terror, despite your killing machines. My voice is the parent who plants the love of Palestine in the hearts of children. My voice is the youth who raises the flag of Palestine in the face of oppression. My voice is the elderly who passes the heritage of Palestine to the future generations. My voice is the farmer who draws Palestine in every field, on every hilltop, on every flower and on every leaf. My home is the teacher who teachers the children a song about Palestine. My voice is the refugee who swears to return to Palestine.
Don’t call me voiceless, because every cell of me screams: Palestine.

Don’t call me a terrorist, because you are the one terrorizing my family and my homeland.

You occupy our home, colonize it with aliens and expel us from our birthplace. You kill our children while sitting in their classrooms, you kill our parents while on their way to work, you kill our friends while waiting at checkpoints. You bomb our schools during the day while we are at our desks, you bomb our homes at night while we are asleep, you bomb our streets while we play, you bomb our fields while we pick the olives, you bomb our ambulances while they rush us to hospital. You kidnap our siblings from their beds, from their schools and from their workplace, you torture our comrades and imprison them in dark cold dungeons. You demolish our homes over our heads, uproot our trees and destroy our fields to build colonies and roads for aliens who don’t speak the language of the land. You steal our drinking water, you starve our children and our olive trees to fill your swimming pools and to water you European exported flowers and trees. You walk our roads armed from head to toe, you burn our mosques and besiege our churches, you teach your children that "a good Arab is a dead Arab". You steal our homeland, steal our homes and fields, steal our heritage. You massacre our songs, our tales, our laughter, our books and our dances. You attack us with phosphorous bombs and F-16 and markavas. You shoot our pregnant mothers, our baby brothers, our children. You threaten our existence every day, every minute, every second.
Don’t call me a terrorist because it is you who is the personification of terrorism.

Don’t call me invented, because my roots in this land are as old as the land itself.
I am part of the land and the land is part of me. My blood and sweat have since the dawn of history watered this land, kept it green and blooming and gave the poppies their colour. I have a history in this land that is older than the history of your invented entity and older than the history of the colonial powers that support you. It is my homeland you stole in order to create an invented homeland for yourself. It is my cultural heritage you stole in order to create an invented identity for yourself. It is my history you twisted in order to create an invented history for yourself. It is my homes, my villages, my playgrounds you erased in order to create an invented home for yourself. It is my groves, my fields, my flowers you stole in order to invent for yourself a link to this land. It is my olive tree you uprooted and replanted in your colonies in order to invent a place for yourself in this land. You stole my land, you stole my home, you stole my field, you stole my Hannoun, you stole my olive tree. You stole my Yaffa, you stole my Haifa, you stole my Beisan, you stole my Ramlah, you stole my Tabaria, you stole my Tarshiha, you stole my Jrash. You stole my Dabkah, you stole my Dal’ouna, you stole my Thoub, you stole my food. You stole my books, you stole my history, you stole my tales, you stole my songs. You stole my identity and you call me invented? It is you who is invented, living in an invented entity, creating for yourself an invented identity.
Don’t call me invented because Palestine is as old as time itself and "Israel" is the invented entity.

Don’t call me Israeli Arab, because there is no such thing as an Israeli Arab.

I am a Palestinian from Palestinian Yaffa. I am a Palestinian from Palestinian Acca. I am a Palestinian from Palestinian Beisan. I am a Palestinian from Palestinian An-Naqab. I am a Palestinian from Palestinian Al-Jalil. I am a Palestinian from Palestinian Beir As-Sabi’. I am a Palestinian from Palestinian An-Nasirah. I am a Palestinian from Palestinian Al-Quds. This land has my features imprinted in every stone, every tree, every cloud, every flower and every creek. You can force me to speak your language, but the land I walk on, the sky above me, the wind and the rain and the rainbow whisper my name: Palestinian. You can force me to write my name in your alphabet, but engraved in the rocks, drawn in the sky, printed in the leaves of trees is one word in Arab: Palestinian. You can force me to carry the ID card of your entity, but the blood that runs in my veins screams I am from Palestine, Ana min Falasteen. You can force my tongue to sing your invented anthem, but my heart will always sing Palestine. You can force my hand to write "Israel" on the map, but my eyes will only see Palestine. You can force me to study the invented history of your entity, but my mind will repeat the massacres you committed, the villages you erased, the on-going Nakba you are causing. You come from the USA and you claim a right to my homeland. You come from Germany and you illegalize my existence, my heritage and my history in this land. You come from France and you lock me up in ghettos in my own homeland. You come from Russia and you silence my mosques and my churches. You come from Ukraine and you deny me my birthright and my rights. But listen, and listen carefully: I am a Palestinian from Palestine, this is my home and I am here to stay till the end of days.
Don’t call me Israeli Arab, because I am a Palestinian from Palestine.

Don’t call me a Palestinian of the Palestinian Territories because it is called Palestine.
Don’t give me a fraction of my homeland and call it a solution. Don’t give me oppression and call it peace. Don’t give me a Bantustan and call it a home. Don’t give me a prison and call it freedom. Don’t draw the borders of my existence according to your whims and interests and call it a state. My home is not a disfigured result of a till-death-do-us-part-marriage between the occupier and the champions of negotiators-for-life that yields a Bantustan on 20% of my homeland. My home is not a "lets legitimize the Zionist racist colonization of Palestine and hope they accept us and allow us to live with them one day" tale for the sake of fame and a shoulder pat from "conditional-supporters", while giving the Zionist usurpers a right to my land which they stole and continue to colonize… a right to my home which they destroyed and continue to destroy…. a right to my village which they ethnically cleansed and continue to do so to the rest of Palestine… a right to Palestine, the Palestine they raped and continue to rape for over 63 years, a rape they are proud of and celebrate very year while denying us even the tears and the memories and the names of the victims they massacred and the villages they erased. My Palestine is the home that is mine since the dawn of history till the end of history. My Palestine is the home of my ancestors, the home between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
Don’t call me a Palestinian of the Palestinian Territories, because I am a Palestinian from Palestine.

Don’t call me a dreamer, because I refuse to surrender and I know that one day Palestine will be free.
Don’t call me unrealistic, because I refuse to surrender and I know that one day Palestine will be free.

Don’t call me crazy, because I refuse to surrender and I know that one day Palestine will be free.

I know that one day, Zionism will be defeated. I know that one day, occupation will be history. I know that one day, justice will prevail. I know that one day, the sun will shine again over Palestinian famers working in Marj Ibin Amer. I know that one day, the sea will hear the whispers of Palestinian fishermen watching the sunset over Acca. I know that one day, the gentle breeze will race the laughter of Palestinian children along the streets of the old city of Jerusalem. I know that one day, Palestinian refugees will return to build their villages and their homes. I know that one day, Palestine will be free of the Zionist colonists, the cowards and racists that they are, for they don’t know justice, they don’t want justice, they fear justice and thus they have no place in this land. Those who destroy the land, will never be part of the land. Those for whom the land is the parent, the sibling, the child, the friend and the entire existence will always be part of the land.

Don’t act as if I don’t exist because I am here, and here I will stay, forever.

Don’t call me anything but Palestinian because there is only one home for me; Palestine.

Don’t call me anything but Palestinian because there is only one Palestine; from the River to the Sea.

Don’t call me anything but Palestinian because that is what I am: a Palestinian from Palestine.