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UK Parliament votes by a landslide to recognise the State of Palestine

Well done UK!

An almost complete majority of MPs expressed recognised Palestine as a state whereas the UK government does not. The UK government will now have to clarify their position. While paying lip service to the notions of Palestinian statehood, the coalition government have contradicted this in actions, such as the decision to abstain on the 2012 UN vote.

A002Activists project Palestinian flag onto Westminster

 

David Hearst, Editor, Middle East Eye, comments as follows on the historic vote on Palestine in the British Parliament:

Israel is losing the battle for public opinion in Britain. Few are in a better position to chart the draining of support than the Israeli ambassador to Britain. Daniel Taub was born and educated here and has only to compare the benign views about Israel of his youth with the cold, unvarnished judgments of today.

Gone is the rose-tinted vision of Israel as an island of democracy in a sea of irrational and violent Arabs. Gone is the belief that Israel wants to negotiate, if only it could find a partner to talk to. Gone, too, is the notion that there is symmetry in this conflict, that this is a battle between equal forces.

This is not the effect of a larger Muslim community. All Britons today are more likely to be aware of the 14,000 settlements Israel approved during its nine month peace talks with the Palestinians; to wonder where a Palestinian state is going to go, with more than 600,000 settlers in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank; to acknowledge the insouciant racism of Israeli discourse about non-Jews; to recoil at the cost in Palestinian civilian lives of Israel’s definition of its own security.

The more Israel insists that its supporters choose between their liberalism and their Zionism, the weaker its case becomes that the two can co-exist. Britons are losing faith that a solution is just around the corner. The idea of Israel is changing in the minds of its allies. It is no longer a cause. It is becoming heavy baggage.

Monday’s vote in parliament to recognize Palestine as a state does not therefore come out of the blue. Neither did the largest ever demonstration seen in Britain on this conflict during the recent Gaza war. Nor did the resignation of the Foreign Office minister Lady Warsi, the highest placed British politician yet to resign over the UK’s “morally indefensible” stance over Gaza. Warsi was no George Galloway, a figure on the political fringe. She remains a mainstream politician who was courted by the two other political parties after her resignation.

Therefore her plea in the Observer on Sunday to recognise the state of Palestine carries political as well as moral force:

There is a lack of political will and our moral compass is missing,” the former Foreign Office minister told the Observer. “There are no negotiations, there is no show in town. Somehow we have to breathe new life into these negotiations, and one of the ways we can do that is by recognizing the state of Palestine.

The vote will be a symbolic one. A Palestinian state is a virtual concept, and it has already been recognized by 134 states, most recently by Sweden. But there is nothing symbolic or theoretical about the pressure applied by the Israel lobby on MPs of all parties to toe the line, but particularly a Labour Party led Ed Miliband. The vote in favor would amount to an historic act of defiance with an ally used to dictating the terms of the debate.

Israel and America’s argument that recognition and the reluctant, faltering moves by Mahmoud Abbas to join UN institutions like the International Criminal Court, would prejudice the outcome of meaningful talks is holed below the water line. There are no meaningful talks. What greater prejudice to the outcome of a negotiated solution could there be than the monthly announcements of settlements, which unlike moves in the UN, take immediate concrete shape, and for which Israel pays no cost? Who does more to de-legitimize the state of the Israel, than the state of Israel itself? As the former foreign secretary William Hague himself said, how long can this go on without the two state solution dying. It is by all appearances already dead. It will not take much before the coroner issues its death certificate.

Warsi revealed the support she got for her position from the “highest levels” of the Foreign Office after her resignation. She accurately described the vice like grip on policy by a small group of politicians “who are not allowing public opinion, ministerial views, parliamentary views and the views of the people who work in this system”
This is not a debate about outcomes, a one or a two state solution. It is about the ability of Israel to fashion and limit the international debate; to ensure that debate takes place only within narrowly defined parameters; to ensure that it continues to enjoy impunity for its actions; to nullify the international pressure on it to come to the table.

Occupation, as Abbas has himself said, is cost free to the occupiers. The strategy by all members of the international community has now got to be to start making the occupation more expensive. This debate and the vote will be an important start.

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Can Five Broken Cameras heal many hearts?

“I kept thinking – how can I produce an emotionally charged film whilst maintaining a very gentle tone?”

This is what Guy Davidi, an Israeli film producer, asked himself.

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In 2012 the film “Five Broken Cameras” co-directed by Palestinian Emad Burnat and Israeli Guy Davidi became the most successful Palestinian-Israeli documentary ever. In January 2013 it won the World Cinema Directing Award at the Sundance Film Festival and it was nominated for an Oscar as the best documentary feature film.

But is the world ready to see it?

The film shows the first years of life for Burnat’s baby against the backdrop of the Palestinian village Bil’in and how the local civilians resist the Israeli Wall which, together with Israeli settlers, are illegally on Palestinian land.

The thing is, the story of Emad Burnat’s family in Bil’in is not unique.  It is the story of just about every village in the West Bank of Palestine. Burnat simply filmed regular events as they unfolded.  He says that five of his cameras were smashed by the Israeli army as he documented friends and family members being shot and injured by Israeli troops.

Yet despite the acclaim and international awards, the film is not allowed in Israeli schools.  But the Israeli director in the team, Guy Davidi, finds different ways to show it to young Israelis.

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Those who watched it, said the film (and the story they did not know) changed their lives.  They ask:

“What are we to do now that we know?”

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The year 2013 is upon us.  Read the story behind the acclaimed film, watch the trailer and listen to what Israeli youth say after watching it:

Can Palestinian non-violent resistance make it into Israel’s education system?

For us who have already witnessed what happens in Palestine, what are we to do?

For me one thing is to talk about the Palestinians’ choice of non-violent resistance… and initiatives with them and with like-minded others such as my Jewish and Muslim friends and colleagues.  When the time is ready, I shall do so in future posts.

May we all have open hearts in the rest of 2013 – hearts that will not only receive, but also share blessings of goodwill and love.  May we co-discover ways to create a dignified peace.  And may this film remind us that all in the world deserve dignity.

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Palestine is a state!

An overwhelming majority vote in favour of Palestine signals a strong message:  everyone in the world deserves a place, and never at the cost of anyone else.

138 countries voted YES, only nine NO (Israel, the USA, Canada, the Czech Republic, Panama and several Pacific island nations: Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru and Palau) and 41 abstained (were they successfully lobbied by Israel and the USA?)

(Mondoweiss, artist unknown)

To recognise Palestine as a “non-member State observer” in the United Nations’ General Assembly is a step forward for the world, not only for Palestine.   It signals a strong message to the USA and Israel and their partners:

If we all stand together, we have a voice that can be heard.

My interpretation of “forward” here clearly differs from what US President Obama has in mind.  During the recent violence between Gaza and Israel, Obama recognised Israel’s right to defend themselves.  But what about the Palestinians?  The world is now saying – the Palestinians have rights too.

Palestine’s new status in the UN gives them access to, for example, the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the World Health Organisation.

What does this mean?

Some argue that Palestine’s access to measures for accountability within the ICC means that the ICC is permitted to exercise criminal jurisdiction over Israeli politicians and generals who committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the course of Operation Cast Lead.  Others in turn argue that Palestinians cannot lay charges at the ICC as they first have to accede to the ICC, sign the Rome Statute, etc.

Before the vote on Palestine’s status, the US lobbied States to oppose a Palestinian request for recognition as a non-member State – and some argue it is because the US wishes to secure impunity for Israeli leaders.  But unlike in September 2011, the lobbying did not work and states voted overwhelmingly in favour of Palestine.

A statement by the Russell Tribunal, for example, condemned this cynical conduct on the part of the United States and stressed the need for criminal accountability for the abuses committed in Gaza in addition to the ongoing settlement enterprise, and the forced population transfer of Palestinians.

Previously, on 23 September 2011:

Qusra, where an unarmed villager was killed on 23 September 2011 when he tried to defend his olive grove that was invaded and damaged by Israeli settlers

When the Palestinian leadership applied for admission to the UN on 23 September 2011, the US made it clear that it would veto this application in the Security Council notwithstanding its long-standing support for a two-state solution. To avoid the embarrassment of contradicting its own policy by using its veto power, the US then lobbied other member states of the Security Council to oppose the Palestinian application for admission, explaining that the solution to the Palestinian-Israel conflict is not a matter of international law or multilateral resolution, but instead a matter of politics. As a result the Palestine application for admission to the UN lapsed.

The statehood bid, as it is more commonly known, raises some controversy amongst Palestinians as well because of its failure to represent the collective will of a national body, two-thirds of whom live beyond the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

In this case the Russell Tribunal argues that the legal statehood of Palestine is no longer a debatable issue since Palestine has been recognized as a State by some 130 States and is now a full member of UNESCO.

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Source of picture: english.al-akhbar.com

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Gaza: Why now?

As phrased from a source called Melissa in South Africa’s Palestinian Solidarity Campaign:

Please keep the Palestinians of Gaza in your thoughts and prayers. Gaza has endured more than 30 air raids in the past few days and nights. And the shells keep coming.

  • Israel has targeted Palestinian Police stations and security infrastructure in efforts to destabilise law and order, in the first wave of what some Israeli sources are calling: Operation Cloud Pillar. This is a same strategy employed to the first phase of Operation Cast Lead in 2008.
  • Yesterday afternoon, the IDF illegally assassinated Ahmed al-Jabari, his oldest son and a bodyguard in a car bombing inside Gaza. Jabari, a relative of the late Abdul Aziz Rantisi, is the most senior member of the armed unit, Ezzadin al Qassam Brigades, to be murdered since Cast Lead.
  • Jabari, who has for a decade escaped assassination attempts, was the brains behind the capture and release of Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit, in exchange for scores of Palestinian prisoners in 2011. His assassination is a clear signal from the Israelis to the resistance movement inside Palestine.
  • Last night, Israel cut off the Internet to Gaza. Again, this is the same strategy employed during Cast Lead in an attempt pull a blanket over international witnesses of criminal attacks.
  • A hacking counter attack has shut down top Israeli military and intelligence web sites in retaliation. Check this:
“In response to Israel shutting down the Internet in Gaza; One of the highest retweeted messages is from Anonymous: “Dear Israel, you shut down internet. We’ll shut you down.” (@YourAnonNews). They haven’t wasted time, so far, the following sites have been hacked: Israeli Prime Minister’s office site (http://pmo.gov.il/ ), Top Israel Security & Surveillance (http://falcon-s.co.il/ ), Data Base Dump (connectionsmag.co.il). #OpISRAEL #Anonymous.
  • Already more than 10 people murdered (2 of those children)
  • Tens of people injured/maimed.
  • Massive missile attacks (from air and sea) hitting Beit Lahiya in the north, Gaza City in the middle, and Khan Younis in the south.

Updates from inside Israel:

  • Sources inside Israel (including the IDF) saying this is the first stage of ‘Operation Cloud Pillar’, a pre-planned military operation. Despite the rhetoric, it is NOT a response to rockets launched.
  • IDF reservists have been called up.
  • Israeli troops are swelling at the Southern border into Gaza increasing suspicion of an impending ground assault.
  • Netanyahu: “ALL options are on the table” (insinuating a full-scale assault akin to an ‘Operation Cast Lead’ style massacre).

Why now?

  1. Israel Elections looming
  2. A post-election test of Obama and his administration.

Neither motivation is a new strategy.

2008/9: Ehud Olmert sought re-election and tested the newly elected Obama administration’s response to its brutality.

*Note that the US remains Israel’s largest ally and receives more than 3 billion dollars of aid each year, most of which goes to enhance the world’s 4th largest military super-power.

Olmert unleashed Operation Cast Lead, massacring 1500 Palestinians (30% of which were children) and maiming thousands more, in the 3 week attacks.

2012/3: Netanyahu seeks re-election and this brutal election strategy remains the most powerful tool. The US State Dept issued a statement last night acknowledging a perceived correlation and upcoming Israeli elections.

In most democracies, kissing babies and shaking hands gets votes. In Israel’s ‘democracy’ one must deploy bombs, obliterate entire Palestinian cities and up the Palestinian body count.

I spoke to Palestinian comrades during the course of last night. Naturally, all are terrified.

Families of comrades have spent the last few nights huddled together in their beds without protection. No bomb shelters to run to. No borders to escape from. 1.5 million people, literally sitting ducks, trapped inside the world’s largest concentration camp – Gaza.

They’re  waiting for the international community to come to their rescue. They may wait indefinitely?

  • Pathetic responses thus far from the UN, EU and the US State Dept.
  • Egypt has lead the way by withdrawing their ambassador from Tel Aviv.
  • South Africa should hurry to do the same and use its position within the UN to protest against Israel’s gross legal and human rights violations.
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One million signature campaign launched by Kairos SA

MEDIA RELEASE

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

St George’s Cathedral, Cape Town

PRESENTATION OF Kairos Southern Africa’s “A Word to the ANC, at this time”, THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL REFLECTIONS ON THE 2012 CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS

Today Kairos Southern Africa and the African National Congress met to discuss the letter that Kairos SA offered to the ruling party at the occasion of the launch of its centenary celebrations. We are thankful for the opportunity of this engagement and believe that it helps nurture a necessary national conversation.

The Centenary celebration of any organization will elicit reflections on that organization. So it is with the ANC. Accordingly Kairos Southern Africa has offered this reflection with the hope that it will add to a necessary national conversation about the kind of future we wish to have.

The Church has historically played a significant role in the birth and life of the ANC. During the darkest days of our history and especially when the broad democratic movement was stifled and banned, it was the Churches that often stepped in and kept the dream of a non-racial, just, democratic and united South Africa alive.

The statement we handed to the ANC contains words of congratulations and gratitude as well as words of concern. These concerns are also disappointments since we expected more of a movement that fought for the best values of humanity and for liberation.

But we are also disappointed in ourselves and in the way we have disengaged with this new dispensation and how we have often not exuded hope. The message is therefore directed as much to us as it is to the ANC.

This letter we have handed over to the ANC therefore addresses both the Church and the ANC.  It asks if the South African dream of unity and dignity based on justice, peace and righteousness is unfolding in the country.  The letter confesses to instances where there have been shortcomings by  churches to live according to the values of a just, democratic culture.  It expresses concerns with several issues in the country; including among others the challenges of deepening inequality, service delivery and corruption.

The choice for us as South Africans is stark: either we choose life or we choose death. Either we choose reconciliation, justice and friendship or we choose conflict that will engulf us all. Either we choose greed or we choose to share.

We do not regard this letter as complete or perfect, but we hope that it conveys an ethos of constructive self-critique that will help us to refocus our energies on what we really want.  We believe that as in 1985 when some South African churches spoke up against apartheid, this moment too is a Kairos opportunity, one that may pass us by if we do not act now. It is a decisive moment that asks for our participation.  We pray for courage and transformation.

We welcome today’s meeting. We hope that it contributes to a widening of debate among all South Africans, especially the Churches, who have largely withdrawn from engagement with our unfolding democracy.

Accordingly, we launch the million signature campaign today to get the conversation going particularly amongst those who have been disconnected from the democracy. We think this will be one small, but not insignificant way that we can help to build social cohesion and to mobilize particularly the churches to take our responsibility for this society much more seriously than we have done up to now.

Kairos Southern Africa is committed to the values of justice, peace and righteousness.

 

ISSUED BY KAIROS SOUTHERN AFRICA

CONTACTS:

Rev. Moss Nthla      +27 (0) 828098533,       nthlaro@icon.co.za

Rev. Edwin Arrison: +27(0) 847351835,     earrison78@telkomsa.net

MORE INFORMATION:

http://kairossouthernafrica.wordpress.com/

Nearly 1000 citizens have already signed the letter.  All South Africans who can associate themselves with this message may endorse the letter with their signatures.

Also on 8 February and immediately before this press release, we met with the ANC and gave them our letter.

The Kairos SA delegation consisted of: Moss Ntlha, Edwin Arrison,  Joe Seoloane, Lunga Ka Siboto, Michael Weeder, Mike Deeb, Nkosikhulule Nyembezi, Denise Ackerman and myself.

The ANC delegation consisted of: Gwede Mantashe, Mathole Motshekga, Songezo Mjongile and Moferefere Lekoro Tsoana.  We were told that Baleka Mbete was one of the key people who insisted that this meeting should happen.

If you want to sign the Kairos SA letter to the ANC, simply send an e-mail to Edwin Arrison at earrison78@telkomsa.net.
Please indicate if you are not a South African citizen (but you may still sign).

To read our letter, choose one of these links:

The complete letter: THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL REFLECTIONS ON THE 2012 ANC CENTENARY CELEBRATION

The shortened version: KAIROS SA WORD TO THE ANC_shortened version

About what led up to the media release and meeting.

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A word to the ANC, in these times

“We are the  ones we have been waiting for”
(Alice Walker, Nobel prize winner)

It is time for us, the ordinary people, to speak up.
By doing so, we influence our reality.

I share this text with you as I have signed it.
If you are South African and 16 years or older, you may sign too.  All you need to do is email my colleague Rev Edwin Arrison earrison78@telkomsa.net

We know that the document has many flaws, but this is our starting point.
We hope you share in the ethos it conveys and we would love to have your feedback.



THEOLOGICAL AND ETHICAL REFLECTIONS
ON THE 2012 CENTENARY CELEBRATIONS OF THE AFRICAN NATIONAL CONGRESS

A WORD TO THE ANC, IN THESE TIMES

As we continue to celebrate the coming of the Word into the world (John 1: 1) and God made human, we, fellow South Africans and Christian theologians, now wish to pass these words on to the African National Congress, as it prepares to celebrate its centenary during 2012…

We do so in a spirit of appreciation and gratitude for you and in a spirit of true friendship, where we can both congratulate you and raise some concerns as friends, and pray that these celebrations will be appropriate and not lavish, especially given the levels of poverty and inequality in our country.

We do so, knowing that many members of the ANC are also part of the Christian community, and this document is therefore written for our collective reflection.

We also do so, knowing that many Christian leaders were involved in the formation and nurturing of the ANC over the years, and we therefore continue to feel a sense of responsibility for its existence and what it does. In 1912, the founders of the African National Congress dreamed of a different future for all the people of South Africa, where there would be no more coloniser and colonised, but where we would all be one: One people, one nation, one country!

They dreamed that the injustice that was being meted out to black South Africans by the colonisers would come to an end. We thank God that the colonial and apartheid systems have come to an end and a great effort has been made to better the lives of all South Africans, especially the poor.

Although there has been much progress in this regard, certain tensions and contradictions continue to militate against us fully achieving this dream. The effect of the 1913 Land Act, is largely still with us; the economic disparities are stuck with us; deep levels of poverty are staring at us.

In this year, we once again dream of a future of being one, united in our diversity. This unity needs to be based on justice, peace and righteousness. Let us use this year to once again dream this dream together.

To continue reading, click HERE

To read about the One Million Signature Campaign, click HERE.

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Bafana Bafana in Nablus

My Suid-Afrikaanse EAPPI kollegas en ek was genooi om op 15 November, Nasionale Dag hier, ‘n wedstryd tussen die junior Bafana Bafanas en ‘n “tweede span” van Palestina by te woon.

Ons is genooi  deur die plaaslike Suid-Afrikaanse verteenwoordigende kantoor in Ramallah, en dit was lekker om weer ons Ambassadeur en Machiel van Niekerk te sien.

Ek het die Palestynse skare besonder baie geniet ….  hier aangemoedig deur ‘n man met ‘n drom, ‘n fluit, en ‘n bottel water op sy kop …. en in ‘n stadium het hy selfs ‘n vuvuzela by een van die VIPs geleen om ons te vermaak 🙂

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UNOCHA: toename in insidente in Wes-Oewer

United Nations Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)
www.ochaopt.org

Ons as ekumeniese begeleiers moniteer en rapporteer mensregte-oortredings en verbrekings van die internasionale menseregtewet aan die Verenigde Nasies.  Die VN se kantoor vir die koordinering van mensesake of OCHA (soos dit kortweg bekend staan) analiseer dan die inligting om tendense te analiseer.

Daar was in Julie – September 2011 ‘n drastiese toename in insidente in die noorde van die Wes-Oewer  in vergelyking met dieselfde periode in 2010.  Die grootste aantal insidente was juis in die area waar ons, die Yanoun-span, werk.

Sommige van die dorpe suid van Nablus. Ons werk in Nablus en al die dorpe op die kaart, asook in ander wat nie op hierdie kaart is nie. Die Y van Yanoun is heel regs sigbaar. Die donkerbruin gemerkte dele is onwettige setlaarsdorpe wat verantwoordelik is vir die geweld. Die rooi gemerkte kruise is kontrolepunte, en Yitzhar en Beit Furik is twee setlaarsdorpe wat uiters aggressief is. By Huwwara eet 'n mens die lekkerste falafel op die aarde (volgens ons taxi-bestuurder, maar ons is geneig om met hom saam te stem). Die noordelike deel van die Jordaanvallei lê na regs, af van die kaart.

Al die insidente is veroorsaak deur Israeli’s – deur soldate en onwettige setlaars, en soms werk hierdie groepe saam met mekaar (die meeste setlaars is immers ook soldate). Ek werk tans aan ‘n artikel hieroor en plaas dit later.