Monday, May 31, 2010

Israeli 'special forces' kill at least 19 set for Gaza...

If true, words fail me right now...


Israel attacks Gaza aid fleet

Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country's siege on Gaza.

At least 19 people were killed and dozens injured when troops intercepted the convoy of ships dubbed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, Israeli radio reported.

The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast.

Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, confirmed that the attack took place in international waters, saying: "This happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves."

"Defend yourselves" against what exactly? Surely heads must now roll, starting with Leibovich for 'gross, grievous and aggravated stupidity'?

Bradley Burston sums it up, I think:

We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege, which is itself becoming Israel's Vietnam.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Israel to stop Gaza aid ships

Israel gets ready to shoot itself in the foot again over Gaza:


Israel says it will prevent, if necessary by force, a nine-ship flotilla [my link] of peace activists and humanitarian aid from reaching the Gaza Strip.

The Freedom Flotilla, is carrying around 700 pro-Palestinian activists from various countries, as well as 10,000 tonnes of aid.

It is by far the largest fleet of aid to try to reach Gaza since Israel imposed its siege on the coastal territory in 2007.

In accordance with the directions of the Israeli government, the Israel Defence Forces and the Israeli Navy are preparing to prevent the flotilla from reaching the Gaza shore," a military source said on Thursday.

The Israeli army also took journalists on a tour of a detention centre being prepared at Ashdod port for holding the aid activists.

Ma’ariv, an Israeli newspaper, said preparations were being made to provide the detainees with food, drink and medical treatment.

The paper said that Israelis on board would be arrested, Palestinians would be questioned by the Israeli secret service, and foreign nationals would be sent back to their countries.

'Message to Israel'

Hanin Zuabi, a member of the Israeli parliament who is on board the flotilla, told Al Jazeera that the activists intend to reach Gaza regardless of plans to stop them.

"If the Israelis try to stop us, this will be a huge diplomatic and political crises for them," Zuabi said.

"We have 50 states participating in this and are sending a very clear message to Israel - the international community is not accepting the siege on Gaza."

Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, on board the flotilla, said the activists travelling in the convoy included European parliamentarians, former US diplomats and Nobel peace laureates.

Organisers of the aid fleet said that they will ignore Israeli threats and head straight for Gaza's shores.

Three ships are from Turkey, two from the UK and one each from Ireland, Greece, Kuwait and Algeria.

'PR disaster'

"Israel should not be under any illusion whatsoever that their threats or intimidation will stop us or even that their violence against us will stop us," Huwaida Arraf, from the Free Gaza Movement, said.

Some Israeli officials see this as a disastrous public-relations situation.

"We can't win on this one in terms of PR," Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman, said.

"If we let them throw egg at us, we appear stupid with egg on our face. If we try to prevent them by force, we appear as brutes." [my emph.]

Israel says the blockade of Gaza aims to prevent Hamas, the political movement that controls Gaza, from acquiring weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

For the majority of Gaza's population of 1.5 million people, the result has been impoverished living conditions.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Solidarity ships set to reach Gaza


A new aid convoy is scheduled to be sent to the besieged Gaza strip by sea under the slogan of "Freedom is the Last Port."

The decision was made in meeting held by Turks, Arab and international activists in Istanbul on Friday.

According to the head of the Turkish Relief Foundation (IHH) Bulent Yildrim, a convoy consisting of 20 vessels will leave Turkey next month.

Yildrim further pointed out that the vessels will not stop till they reach Gaza.

And here:

The Rachel Corrie, a solidarity ship, sets sail from Ireland to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip which is struggling with a three-year Israeli-imposed blockade.

The 1,200-ton cargo ship -- part of an eight-vessel flotilla dubbed the "Freedom Flotilla" -- is also taking peace activists from nearly 40 countries, and will be joined by ships from Turkey and Greece.

The ship, which departed from Ireland on Saturday, will bring aid materials such as cement, paper, medical equipment, school supplies and several other materials to the Gazans.

An Israeli blockade, in place since June 2007, prevents even the most essential supplies from entering the Gaza Strip.

Israel says it will not allow solidarity ships to reach the Gaza coast. Media reports indicate that the Israeli Navy was ordered to prevent the humanitarian ships from reaching Gaza, even if this means using military force against the civilian ships and activists.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Usrael and The Iron Dome...


Barack Obama is to ask the US Congress for an extra $200m in military aid to help Israel get a short-range rocket defence system in place.

The system is designed to shoot down mortars and rockets from Gaza or Southern Lebanon with guided missiles.

The system, called Iron Dome, has gone through testing and installation will start later this year.

According to US State Department figures, direct military aid to Israel was $2.55bn in 2009.

This is set to increase to $3.15bn in 2018.

Easing tensions

A White House spokesman reaffirmed what he called the administration's "unshakeable commitment" to Israel's security - adding that Mr Obama recognised the threat posed by missiles and rockets fired by Hamas and Hezbollah.

I want to look on the bright side [cough!] of this one. Iron Dome will contribute to Israel's much craved for National security, a prerequisite it claims for being able to make peace.

Let's now also assume that Israel manages by whatever means (an aptly chosen term I feel) the 'threat' from Hamas and that the IC succeeds in turning Iran's uranium into ploughshares. Israel will then have nothing or no one to fear in this world. Do you think that new paradigm would make Israel any more amenable to making 'concessions', so necessary to make the advocated 'Two State' solution work? 'Malicious tongues' would have it that further fortifying Fortress Israel will allow the US/West to further project power in the Region. Answers on a postcard in the comment section, please...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Tel Aviv: Not the Gay Mecca after all?


Via Jews sans Frontieres.

At the recent 'Gay Olympics' - the World Outgames in Copenhagen, Denmark - Tel Aviv was crowned one of the exclusive gay capitals of the world and proudly celebrated by the Israeli ambassador in Denmark.

Five days later, a still unidentified gunman killed two people and wounded a dozen more in a gay drop-in center in that very same Tel Aviv.

The attack was followed by a myriad of articles on the homophobia haunting Israel and a Haaretz poll showing that nearly half of the Israeli population believes homosexuality is a perversion.

For Palestinian gay rights activist, Haneen Maikey, the latter events are an expression of the known reality in Israel.

"It´s really pathetic that the Israeli state has nothing besides gay rights to promote their liberal image," says Maikey. "Ridiculous, and in a sense hilarious, because there are no gay rights in Israel. There are specific court cases that, when won, allowed certain individuals for instance to adopt a child. What is worth noting is that these decisions are case-specific, in the sense that they are made for this specific case, for this specific child and for these two mothers. You cannot build a human rights campaign on court cases that are not ratified."

Maikey, a Palestinian citizen of Israel, is a 31-year-old feminist with a Master's degree in community organizations management and co-founder and director of Al-Qaws ("the rainbow" in Arabic) for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society.

As part of the World Outgames, Maikey participated in a conference bringing together queer activists from all over the Middle East. Activists from various Arab countries exchanged experiences and laid the foundation stones for the future struggle for liberation - one that has to be fought differently in each Arab country.

She deems it obvious that the State of Israel disapproves of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community, and believes it only uses it as a means of laundering the country's tainted image in the Western world.

She asks what other issues Israel is proactively promoting to fuel the process of goodwill: The feminist cause? The health care system? The moral army?

But the main problem, she says, remains that Israel presents itself abroad as a gay refuge, by exploiting tales of terror of oppressed Palestinians, thus increasing Israel's own sense of self-righteousness. In the words of the Israeli ambassador to Denmark:

"Most of us take for granted the equality of sexual minorities and the struggle for their rights. Unfortunately reality is different for the majority of homosexuals in most other places in the region (the Middle East), where gays and lesbians suffer from persecution, violence, and murder."

"I refuse to be a part of your campaign," says Maikey. "Stop speaking in my name and using me for a cause you never supported in the first place. If you want to do me a favour, then stop bombing my friends, end your occupation, and leave me to rebuild my community. I'm aware that my society has a long way to go in terms of human rights and social issues, but it's my responsibility, not yours."

The struggle for gay rights across the Arab world has many similarities: most live in traditional, closed societies and face similar issues with family, expectations, and norms.

But whereas the Lebanese, for instance, have a very defined cultural center in Beirut, and cooperate with the authorities on gay rights, the Palestinians have none, and thus the fundamental basis is that of radical action and grass root politics.

Maikey believes the Palestinian history of the 1948 Nakba, occupation and discrimination has "brought something unique to our experience. More complexity. We are in exile. We have no center. Jaffa can't be the center, nor Haifa.

Jerusalem isn't, and Ramallah? Hah! I'm not trying to get any pity, but it is very important for understanding the struggle and the obstacles to our ambitions."

One of those ambitions is breaking out of the current social structure, the hierarchy of sexuality and gender perceptions in the Arab communities and Palestinian societies inside Israel and the occupied territories.

This is a process that runs parallel to assembling people for joint activism and exchanging ideas. But even though Al Qaws has picked up more than 600 members since its establishment in 2001 and is working with local leaderships in Jerusalem, Haifa, Jaffa, Nazareth, and the West Bank, physical and social division are still the most daunting challenges.

For the time being, the only space Al Qaws has is its small, well-guarded office in Jerusalem.

"Activism is driven by passion, and it's really hard not to burn out when you have no physical place to invest your energy. We have to create the buzz even though we don't have the space. But we can't pass the energy when we only connect by e-mail."

Realizing that the LGBTQ communities in Arab societies are flourishing - yet mostly invisible - Al Qaws is now opening up a hotline for gay Palestinians, in coalition with Aswat Palestinian Gay Women, simply because people who are isolated from the community need accessible ways to speak about their identities and be supported.

If you want to come out of the closet, have you planned the process? How is your relationship with your family? What other support networks do you have? All of these are steps on the road to dealing with one's identity and its implications - a road that is far more humble for the Palestinians, as coming out of the closet is not necessarily a goal in itself.

"You can't address the specific needs and conflicts of my community by copy-pasting the Western experience," Maikey says. "You [in the West] have to be fully visible to be accepted, tell your friends, your family, your workplace, go to the shrink."

But the approach is very different for Palestinians. "For many people it can be enough coming out to their younger sister - or even just telling yourself. Besides, I don't want to promote coming out to everyone because I don't have a shelter for all of them to hide in."

An additional obstacle related to visibility arises from the liberal discourse putting sexual behavior and identity in the hands of the individual. Maikey resents statements like: "I don't care, who you sleep with - it's your private thing." For Palestinians, the private is political.

"Fuck off, it's not my private thing. It's a political issue. I think it's risky and dishonest to ignore subtle expressions of homophobia such as: 'Go do your thing, but don't forget to close the curtains.' People need to take responsibility for their ignorance."

The annual Pride Parade in Tel Aviv is an object lesson in visibility. It celebrates diversity without shame and is in your face; even if you turn off the TV, it's impossible to ignore. But again, participating as an Arab is a different story.

"People who go to Pride Parade do so to celebrate their gayness and their sexuality, [but] automatically Palestinians and other Arabs will be busy identifying where the cameras are, busy buying make-up or specific hats to hide. I don't see why participating in the main tool of liberation by hiding yourself is a good and healthy thing for the liberation cause of the LGBTQ community."

But if only visibility will force a change in perception, gay Palestinians need to alter their strategy; the Pride Parade isn't coming to Ramallah any time soon.

"We all have to do our individual 'Pride Parades'. Visibility can have different meanings in different groups and societies, and ours should commence by telling the world we're here, broaden our discourse, work across languages, open a discussion about human rights, deliver our messages very, very clearly, and shout louder and more boldly."

And Maikey shouts: "We are here, we are active, strong, mature, and we have the leadership to go through with this. We are the only ones who can be sensitive about our needs. The Arab world needs to know that we consider ourselves an integral part of the society, and that we can be everyone. We can be your teacher or your daughter. We are not going to hide any more."

"We refuse to be portrayed as oppressed and powerless victims. Yes, the violence is part of our daily lives, but so is the fellowship, the liberation, the joy. I've never seen myself as the oppressed one. I'm aware that I am less privileged, and I know that there is an authority, an institution, a culture that is oppressing me on a daily basis.

I want to raise my voice and take action to face the oppression and put an end to it. Our identity is more complex than being gay and oppressed. We have many characteristics that we can communicate and engage within ourselves. We need to promote that internally especially, as there is a lot of hierarchy and internalized homophobia in our own ranks."

One of the biggest nuisances Maikey experiences on a regular basis is the superficial approach of the media to a subject that demands an examination of the complex, but instead is immediately sacrificed on the altar of prejudice.

Each time a journalist from the western or Israeli media talks to Haneen, she hears the same questions: "How many gay people were killed by their families last year?" and "Can you help me find an oppressed gay Palestinian that has suffered an attempted honor killing by his family?"

"This is why we have a clear policy not to speak to the media. Whenever I meet a journalist, it's obvious that the article is already written. Try Googling stories about Palestinian gays. I swear they are all identical."

For that reason, Al Qaws has produced a before-you-write-guide for journalists and human rights activists to shed light on the complexity and cultural diversity within the Palestinian communities - and to try to put a lid on the victimized portrayal.

"Many Palestinians perceive themselves as hopeless, helpless victims that can't do anything. But you can, and sometimes even without breaking the rules. Change doesn't have to be creating a women's group in the West Bank or telling your parents you are gay. It can be smaller things within yourself and with your friends. Drive a car, drink a beer, and stop blaming the occupation for all your problems."

You can see and feel the hatred on the streets of Jerusalem, where Maikey lives. You cannot develop a fake fantasy of living in a center of tolerance. People are racist and violent, and it's impossible to miss. "I really like it, and I think the occupation is in a sense doing this to me. It's a visual suppression that keeps me remembering why I do, what I do."

As for her work, vision, action, and the human passion for change, Maikey sees the Israeli occupation as the sheer dynamic behind continued resistance, even while she despises it.

"To be cynical, it would be a major problem for the occupation to end. It's integrated in ourselves and our struggle to the extent that we cannot disconnect from it. I don't mean to romanticize it, but I wonder if in 60 or 100 years the occupation is gone, how I will redefine my struggles and my identities."

In the same way - beyond the horrible influences - Maikey sees the wall surrounding the West Bank as an empowering element for the people who are shut in. It makes it physically difficult to meet, and the people cannot go to Tel Aviv to party or meet Haneen at her Jerusalem office, and are forced to face reality alone. "The less convenient you are, the less you are enjoying privileges, the more radical your actions, and the more you want to create change."

"It's risky to be in a convenient place, as you can easily forget what the important things are. I really believe that women will fuel the revolution, that the oppressed people will lead it, not the people sitting and talking about the revolution. I know that I will not do it by myself because I'm sitting in the business district of Jerusalem, but our numbers are growing, we are breaking the rules, doing things out of the box, becoming visible, and people want to be in the front. The rainbow train is leaving. Jump in. Yalla."

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Linguistic erosion or revisionism?

To the victor go the spoils and the rewriting of history.

Not even a month since fellow blogger Hasbara Buster a propos my short Deir Yassin remembrance post wrote "Massacre? What massacre? It was a battle" with tongue strongly in cheek, The Jerusalem Post is now indeed calling the event the battle of Deir Yassin.

H/T As'ad Abukhalil (Angry Arab)

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Israel's Occupation Factory: Flying Blind...

Even if not one more Jewish home is built in the occupied territories ‏(including East Jerusalem‏), the enormous apparatus of domination continues to operate there with an inner logic of many years’ duration.

Amira Hass - Ha'aretz

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unjustifiably draws fire for policies that move ahead without his involvement. The Jewish intellectuals, who suddenly saw the darkness and were terrified, should know: Even if not one more Jewish home is built in the occupied territories ‏(including East Jerusalem‏), the enormous apparatus of domination continues to operate there with an inner logic of many years’ duration. It moves along by itself, like some huge aircraft without a pilot.

Prime ministers come and go, negotiations stop and start, new coalitions form, and this apparatus has a life of its own. It preserves and develops the privileges of the Jews in Greater Israel. It sets the boundaries of the Indian reservations. When it wants, it links them; when it doesn’t, it cuts them off. Its will is done: unemployment of 52 percent or 19 percent, population density of villages and cities, diameter of water pipes, the number of days that one must wait before receiving lifesaving medical treatment. If the natives want to, they can go on living in the reservations; if they don’t − let them leave.

Take, for example, the demolition order that was posted on April 26 on a structure in the community of Umm al-Kheir in the South Hebron Hills. The standardardized form was signed by the inspection subcommittee of the Civil Administration’s higher planning council. The order informs us that it was posted by one “Carlo” in the presence of the “Operations Officer of the Hebron D.C.O.”. We can guess that they were accompanied by soldiers. We know that sharp-eyed inspectors have located the offending structure.

The head of the Civil Administration, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, probably doesn’t know that the assembly line he is in charge of produced this order for the demolition of “a concrete toilet structure of about 3 square meters.” Netanyahu certainly has no idea at all. But the order encompasses an ancient Israeli philosophy that prohibits Palestinians from building toilets, digging reservoirs to collect rainwater or connecting to the electricity grid in more than half of the occupied territory.

The soldiers have internalized the philosophy, and they take it home with them, to Israel. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, the prohibition against hooking up to electricity sabotages Palestinian children’s ability to learn. Neither the cessation of construction in the settlements nor the proximity talks, starting today, will prevent this act of sabotage against children’s education that the Israeli apparatus carries out as a matter of course.
Actually, not an apparatus, but a gigantic factory. Not one assembly line but many.

Behind one such assembly line are the planners. They are architectural geniuses, graduates of the best schools in Israel, who invented mazes like the dual, separate road networks for Palestinians and Israelis ‏(particularly Jews‏), or the separation fence/wall that excels at disconnecting crowded neighborhoods from their lands, their past and their future.

The fence is ugly and horrific, more so than the Holyland project. The mazes of separation create resistance to them. And then the apparatus puts another assembly line to work: the military court system.

Graduates of Israeli law schools, in the reserves or the career army, are conscripted in order to make it clear to the natives that resistance is painful; they send them to prison and levy heavy fines. Then, they export the philosophy of oppression to civil courts and college classrooms in Tel Aviv.

Behind the assembly lines are representatives of the entire people of Zion, hundreds of thousands of civilians and soldiers. Each of them has a personal interest in the continuation of the apparatus, even if that interest is wrapped in national or security cellophane. Netanyahu is not the only one responsible. He alone cannot stop the huge pilotless plane. There are a great many people in Israel who should be forced to erase the programs of the apparatus of domination and destruction, before it turns on its creators, its operators and those who profit from it. All of us.