Gallery

Obama’s confidence on violating international law

So military intervention and yet another violation of international law is the only option according to President Obama? More war for peace?  I usually try to avoid anger, but I find his position outrageous.  We as global citizens need to reject his position unequivocally!

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I am not the only one to think so.  Click on the link below to listen to a short extract from Obama’s shocking announcement on Sunday 1 September, with commentary from an American who does not agree with his president:
Obama is confident about violating international law.

This is not the first or only example of how the US (and therefore Obama) willingly violates international law. The US administration currently tries to broker a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine without, for example, enforcing Israel to stop building settlements that are in clear violation of international law.

How does one make sense of a president of a major world power (also awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace) who says he is confident to ignore the United Nations?  Is it because he and his administration has vetoed the UN so many times in the past and get away with breaking the law in forging their relations with Israel?  What is the source of this confidence?

PS To read the strong statement by Kairos Palestine and Kairos South Africa’s response, click here.

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Gallery

The US wants Peace. Really?

In the latest Palestinian-Israeli peace talks the USA is serious about talking, but not  about peace.  Israel is serious about peace and talking, but not the kind that will benefit Palestinians, only the kind that will buy them more time to build more illegal settlements.  Where does this leaves us who advocate for a just peace?

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John Kerry looks on as Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erekat shake hands. (Photo: CNN)

The USA’s carefully honed public image is that of a wise, morally sound brother who wants to make the world a better place.  Like a business with a branding strategy, they are methodical and deliberate in managing these perceptions. To mind comes the vibrant, attractive man who recently inspired audiences in South Africa with his insistence on human rights and self-determination.  I am talking about US President Obama on his recent visit to my country.

President Barack Obama looks at a computer with youths as he tours the Desm

Obama looks at a computer with youths as he tours the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation youth centre and takes part in a health event in Cape Town (Photo: The Guardian)

I really wanted to like Obama and in fact initially I did ….. until I realised the discrepancy  between what he says and what he does.

When Obama talks about “human rights”, he does not refer to these rights as defined in international law.  The US administration does not insist that these laws apply to all countries and all people. In fact, the USA consistently vetoes those UN resolutions that aim to hold Israel accountable to international human rights and humanitarian laws (there are many of them – see the list on Wikipedia). In addition, the USA administration sponsors Israel annually with  billions of US dollars.

Article 49 of the Geneva Convention specifies that an oppressor (in this case Israel) may not transfer its civilians to the occupied territory.  Phyllis Bennis (Institute for Policy Studies, USA) who also recently visited South Africa, explained as follows:

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If the USA were serious about peace, Bennis said, they would tell Israel: Stop building your settlements on Palestinian land (granted, the USA has done it many times).

When Israel then responds by refusing (like they have been doing all along) a serious USA would then stop (1)  their funding of the State of Israel and (2) their protection of Israel in the United Nations.

But the USA says and does none of this.  Instead they continue to fund and protect Israel.  It makes one think, doesn’t it?  What’s in it for the USA?

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When the peace talks fail (because chances are good that Israel’s “peace proposal” will not take cognisance of applicable international law) the United States Congress will shrug their shoulders and the world will continue to  think that it is impossible to get peace in the Middle East even with the gracious help of the US. This will then clear the way for both Israel and the USA to continue to get what they want: grab land (Israel) and gain power and resources (the USA).

The US does not care what happens to Palestine as there is simply “nothing in it” for them – no oil, no gold, no diamonds.  This big brother is only interested in its own agenda.  They care for Israel as they value what Israel can do for them (their dirty work) whilst the Americans maintain a nice image and expand their power and financial foothold worldwide.

Bennis remarked that Kerry once more prefers the usual formulation as the US position…

…always formed as one word, “atwostatesolutionwithswaps”. Right. A two-state solution with “swaps” means Israel gets to permanently annex its city-sized settlement blocs in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, keep most of the 600,000 or so illegal settlers there, and maintain control of virtually all of Palestine’s water sources, while “swapping” some non-arable desert land probably abutting the Gaza Strip. And of course Kerry forgot to mention that the Arab peace plan also required a “just” solution of the refugee problem based on UN resolution 194 insuring Palestinian refugees the right to return and compensation. And a few other things Kerry probably just forgot. Great deal…

Why would Israel want to talk?  Because it wins more time for them to demolish Palestinian houses, to confiscate Palestinian land and to build illegal Israeli settlements.

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As for the US, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reports:

Fears of fierce battle within the UN General Assembly between Israelis and Palestinians in September was one of the primary reasons for the sense of urgency to renew negotiations between the two sides, a senior White House official said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

I guess the US does not want to enter into yet another round of discussions in the UN now that the EU clearly stated their position on the illegality of the Israeli settlements.

Where does this leaves us?

With regard to Israel, we need to strengthen our Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions initiatives against Israel’s systemic violations of international law…..and we are….

With regard to the United States….I simply don’t know. The picture of a planet  where a world leader’s president (awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace) talks selectively about human rights and dignity as it suits his administration… AND gets away with it…. is bleak.

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We cannot, and should not, remain quiet.

Gallery

Wits University, South Africa: Morals or Money?

The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) in Johannesburg is becoming embroiled in increasing controversy over its decision to charge students for having protested against an Israeli-embassy funded concert on the 12th of March 2013.

The charge against the #Wits11 includes nine students who are official Wits University Student Representative Council (Wits SRC) members.

Wits University’s Management publicly confirmed that its is under “financial pressure” from the Israeli lobby to charge its students. Wits University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, in a Business Day article, admitted that his university has come under financial “pressure from donors who support Israel,” and that, “there have indeed been some individuals who have threatened to withdraw their donations.”

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During the apartheid struggle, Wits was known for its active resistance against apartheid and its commitment to end the regime.  Now the university’s management seems to not apply the same principles with regard to resistance against Israel’s regime of oppression of the Palestinians.

In what is being described as a blow to the principles of “transparency and administrative justice”, Advocate J.A. Woodward S.C, who is presiding over the trial of the 11 Wits University students, “kicked-out” and prevented representatives of the media as well as members of the public from attending the #Wits11 trial.  The students  after a submission of “prejudice” was made by legal representative, Mr Joesph Mothibi, on behalf of Wits University’s Management (find more info here: http://tinyurl.com/ppqke8q).

SABC TV news coverage: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Ks-Cytfh6U

Business Day newspaper coverage: http://tinyurl.com/k4f3ck6

THIS IS HOW THE STORY HAS UNFOLDED TO DATE
(information by BDS South Africa):

[09 July 2005]After years of Israeli aggression, Apartheid policies and ongoing violence, Palestinians call for a boycott of Israel as a non-violent method to bring Israel in line with international law and respect basic human rights. The Palestinian boycott of Israel is modeled on the successful boycott of Apartheid South Africa.

[29 August 2012]The University of the Witwatersrand’s Student Representative Council (Wits SRC), the university’s official student body, unanimously passes a boycott of Israel resolution in line with policies of the Progressive Youth Alliance (PYA).

[19 February 2013]Announcements are made that an Israeli-embassy funded concert is to be hosted on the 12th of March at Wits University. Media reports as well as the official Wits University advertisement confirm the financial involvement of the Israeli Embassy in the hosting of the concert.


[22 February 2013]
In light of the 2012 Wits University SRC’s boycott of Israel resolution, the Wits University’s SRC formally writes to members of Wits University’s Management explaining that the hosting of such an Israeli performance on Wits’ campus is in violation of the cultural boycott of Israel as well as Wits University SRC’s own support for and endorsement of the cultural boycott of Israel. Wits University’s Management fails to respond to concerns raised by students.

[10 March 2013]The African National Congress (ANC) Youth League calls for a boycott and protest of the upcoming 12th of March Israeli concert at Wits University stating that:“we call on all students to boycott the [Israeli] concert as it only seeks to normalise apartheid Israel. No one must be seen singing with apartheid, particularly in South Africa where we have seen what apartheid policies can do.”

[12 March 2013]Wits University students, including members of Wits University’s SRC, protest the Israeli concert on their campus with the concert subsequently –and successfully– being cancelled. During the protest students are dragged on the ground, pushed against walls and assaulted by the pro-Israeli concert goers. Audience members of the Israeli concert verbally abuse the Wits University students shouting:“you monkeys go back to the jungle”. One of the Israeli-concert goers threatens to “kill” the student protesters and another physically hits a student with a broom.

[March 2013]The Israeli lobby begin to pressure Wits University’s Management to punish the student protestors using terms such as “barbaric” (used by Israeli musician, Yossi Reshef), “Muslim agitators” (used by pro-Israeli Professor Zaidel-Rudolph), “hooligans” (used by David Saks the Associate Director of the SA Jewish Board of Deputies), “a pack of baying hyenas frantic for blood” (used by editor of the SA Jewish Report), “thugs”, “savages”, “monkeys” and other expletives to describe the student protestors.


[08 March 2013]
The Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL) is one of the first organizations to indicate that Wits University’s Management is acting under pressure –and interference– from the Israeli lobby, specifically the SA Jewish Board of Deputies, to punish its students.


[08 April 2013]
Exactly one month later, Wits University’s Management admits to being in discussions with members of the Israeli lobby, including the SA Jewish Board of Deputies.


[16 April 2013]
Wits University’s Management, under pressure from the Israeli lobby, charges 11 students for protesting the 12th of March Israeli concert and appoints Joseph Mothibi from the corporate law firm, Norton Rose Fullbright, to represent the university in bringing charges against the students. Mothibi, is a director at Norton Rose Fullbright and specializes in representing clients from the mining, gaming and manufacturing industries. Tasneem Essop, one of the charged students commented in a press release:Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, is again wasting precious institutional funds to charge us students for practicing our constitutional right to protest. A right that he has a lot to say about in public, but fails to implement at his university. We demand that these unfair charges being brought against us students under pressure from the Israeli lobby be immediately dropped.”


[21 May 2013]Wits University’s Management publicly confirms that its is under “financial pressure” from the Israeli lobby to charge its students. Wits University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Adam Habib, in a Business Day article, admits after a long silence, that indeed his university has come under financial “pressure from donors who support Israel,” and that, “there have indeed been some individuals who have threatened to withdraw their donations.”



[16 July 2013]
Members of the media and public are “kicked out” of the trial against the #Wits11 and the trial is subsequently postponed to August 2013. 

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Support for the #Wits11 grows despite Israeli lobby pressures
South African anti-apartheid struggle stalwarts, leaders of major South African trade unions, members of civil society and several organizations have all come out in overwhelming support for the 11 Wits University students (the #Wits11) and their demand that charges for protesting against the 12th of March Israeli concert be immediately dropped. Supporters of the student protesters include former Robben Island prisoner, Ahmed “Kathy” Kathrada [http://tinyurl.com/bp4sbzu]; General Secretary of COSATU, Zwelinzima Vavi [http://tinyurl.com/pemu9ln]; trade unions including the South African Democratic Teachers Union (SADTU) [http://tinyurl.com/qeozzpj]; the National, Education, Health and Allied Workers Union (NEHAWU) [see: http://tinyurl.com/d4oqaqo]; and several organizations including the South African Students Congress (SASCO), the Young Communist League of South Africa (YCL) [http://tinyurl.com/c876mlj], the African National Congress Youth League (ANC YL), the Wits All Residence Council [http://tinyurl.com/nntow2b], the Wits Postgraduate Association [http://tinyurl.com/nnfyt6f] amongst others. Ahmed Kathrada said in a recent speech: “Our University students, supported by our trade unions and civil society organizations are making it abundantly clearer by the day that [Israeli] apologists are not welcome in our country.”

Lend your support to the #Wits11
The #Wits11 are –rightly– remaining unapologetic for their protests against Israel. These student protestors remind us of how Apartheid South Africa’s rugby and cricket teams were once protested, disrupted and prevented from playing in Perth, London and other cities of the world due to South Africa’s apartheid policies and practices (see: www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3Idu4mXO34). Support the #Wits11 by sending a message of support to them, direct your message to administrator@bdssouthafrica.com and we will pass it on (you can also follow the students on Twitter using hashtags #Right2Protest and #Wits11).


BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL IN SOUTH AFRICA (BDS SOUTH AFRICA)
Office 915 | 9th Floor | Khotso House | 62 Marshall Street | Johannesburg
PO Box 2318 | Houghton | 2041 | Johannesburg
T: +27 (0) 11 492 2414 | F: +27 (0) 86 650 4836
W: www.bdssouthafrica.com | E: administrator@bdssouthafrica.com
www.facebook.com/bdssouthafrica | www.twitter.com/bdssouthafrica

BDS South Africa is a registered Non-Profit Organization. NPO NUMBER: 084 306 NPO
BDS South Africa is a registered Public Benefit Organisation with Section 18A status. PBO NUMBER: 930 037 446

Gallery

EU takes a stand on Israeli settlements

What seems so logic – for the EU to act in accordance with international law in its business with Israel – will only take effect early in January 2014.

Yet for the first time ever Israel now has to acknowledge in writing that the West Bank settlements are not part of Israel….

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This means that EU member states may no longer issue grants, scholarships, funding, and prizes to Israeli organizations operating in settlements on Palestinian land.

The European Union’s “territorial clause,” will be a binding rule on all negotiations with Israel. In effect, it determines that all agreements between Israel and the EU will be valid only within Israeli borders recognized by the European Union, meaning the borders prior to the 1967 Six-Day War.

All settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are illegal according to international law as an occupier may not transfer any of its civilian population to the land of the occupied party (Geneva Convention, Article 49, Paragraph 6).

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That the European Union now officially recognizes that Israeli settlements on Palestinian land are illegal comes as a shock to Israel.

Israel does not agree with the law or with the EU.

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According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz a senior Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the new ruling, which was published on June 30 2013, as an “earthquake”:

This is the first time such an official, explicit guideline has been published by the European Union bodies…Until today there were understandings and quiet agreements that the Union does not work beyond the Green Line [the pre-1967-war border]; now this has become a formal, binding policy.

Says the article in Haaretz:

In the Prime Minister’s Office and Foreign Ministry there is great tension and anxiety over the new regulation and its implications for Israeli-EU relations. The efforts of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Deputy Foreign Minister Ze’ev Elkin to stop the move have all failed.

When I watched the news on Aljazeera last night (16 July 2013) Elkin said that this new ruling will slow down the “peace process”.

peace talks

In my opinion this kind of remark makes people think that the world (and Palestine) does not want peace between the two countries…..and “as Israel wants peace, they are brave and good”.  It also creates the impression of “complexity” – whereas the law is quite clear.  The kind of peace the Israeli government has in mind, is the kind where Palestinians will not be equal citizens in neither their own nor in a shared country.  Peace in Israel’s language does not imply adherence to international law.

Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi embraced the EU’s decision, saying that:

“[this] is the beginning of new era. Israel should listen carefully and should understand that this occupation cannot continue without any kind of accountability.”  (IMEMC).

The legally binding directive will come into effect in January 2014.  It is a step in the right direction, but it has taken too long to arrive at this point.  We shall one day have to look back and acknowledge that the world (that’s us) failed Palestine (and therefore human rights).

For peace in Israel and in Palestine, both countries and all world players (including the USA) should uphold human rights not only in their talk, but in their deeds.  It starts with each individual as politicians’ decisions are strongly influenced by what their voters push for.

Gallery

Israel’s Wall: Is it legal? Is it secure?

The Israeli Wall is not on a border. It is on occupied Palestinian land and Palestinians need Israeli permits to go to work, to church, to a hospital, to school, or to a wedding.  See for yourself what a check point looks like early in the morning when thousands of people go to work…

The short video in the link could have been filmed in any of the other Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank.  In Bethlehem, for example, the dark, cage-like corridor of Checkpoint 300 starts to fill up at 02h00 with the sleeping bodies of those who await the opening of the gates two hours later.  They are mostly Palestinian labourers who risk losing their employer-endorsed permits if they are not on time for work.  Sometimes they buy coffee and tea from the vendors to stay warm in the mornings that are ice cold – even in summer.  (I love their peppermint or sage infused tea.)

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During peak time on work days about 2 500 people need to pass through the turnstile, then queue for clearance at a metal detector and finally for a passport check.

Checkpoint 300 is not between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, but within Palestinian territory.

At any point in this sequence the gates may close.  Sometimes this happens because a soldier shaves himself in the face of those waiting to earn their daily bread or need to go to a hospital, but more often it happens with no clear reason and for an undefined period.

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Israel started to build (what is commonly known as) the Wall in the West Bank in 2002 and almost 62% of it is now complete. In reality it consists of fences from between three to twelve meters, ditches, razor wire, groomed sand paths, patrol roads, buffer zones, electronic monitors, watch-towers and – of course – checkpoints.

Is this legal?

According to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Israel “has the right, and indeed the duty, to respond in order to protect the life of its citizens the measures taken are bound nonetheless to remain in conformity with applicable international law.”

Yet the ICJ, in its 2004 advisory opinion to the UN, found that the Israeli Wall violates applicable international law.  It demanded that Israel cease construction of the Wall, dismantle the sections already completed and “repeal or render ineffective forthwith all legislative and regulatory acts relating thereto”.

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But over the years Israel has extended the route of the Wall, despite the ICJ’s viewpoint. Part of Wall’s route is through the Palestinian city Bethlehem and its governorate. Since its building started here, Palestinians have submitted 520 cases to the court in an attempt not to lose property to the Wall, mostly to no avail.

The city’s surrounding hills offer a clear picture of how the Wall twists away from the internationally recognized border, the Green Line, to grab fertile Palestinian-owned agricultural land in and around Bethlehem. On completion the Israeli Wall will be 709 km long, more than twice the length of the  internationally recognised border.  Moreover, only 15% of the Wall will be constructed on the Green Line (the internationally recognised border) whilst 85% of the Wall will be inside the West Bank itself.

Says Haggai Matar, an Israeli journalist and political activist in +972:

Most countries in the world and the International Court of Justice would agree to Israel’s building a security wall on its recognized border, the Green Line. Yet as long as 85 percent of it is built beyond the Green Line on Palestinian land, as long as it remains transparent to Israelis, as long as it harms (Palestinian) farmers and workers the way it does, and as long as the occupation continues – no solution and no barrier can truly offer Israelis security.

The question, therefore, is not whether or not a wall, any wall, offers security – but rather whether this specific wall with this specific route offers true and lasting security more than other existing alternatives.

The answer to that is almost certainly: No.

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Gallery

Al-Nakba: Three Times Over

What struck me most that morning in Jerusalem was her serenity. Listening to the 77 year old Christian woman somehow felt like spring water in a desert – this despite her traumatic experience of three interwoven Nakbas.

She talked about the human catastrophe of being displaced by Israel, the identity catastrophe of no longer knowing where you fit in or may live; and a theological catastrophe since your own religion (Christianity) is used to justify your oppression.

Al-Nakba is Arabic for “The Catastrophe” referring to the widespread death, destruction, dispossession and displacement of Palestinians during the creation of the State of Israel. Today Nakba day is annually commemorated on 15 May.

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I was listening to her at Sabeel, an Ecumenical Centre for Liberation Theology in Occupied Palestine.

The woman was only eleven years old on Sunday 30 November 1947 when the Irgun, a clandestine Zionist armed group, first shelled the Arab sections of Haifa, her city.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHaifa today – an Israeli city.

  1. A human Nakba

Haifa was not the only place under attack. In March 1948 David Ben Gurion announced a program for destroying and depopulating Arab areas and eliminating any resistance. By then already 30 Arab villages had been depopulated.

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By April 1948 Haifa’s indigenous Arab residents fled to the harbour with what little they could carry. Many drowned as their overloaded boats capsized.  Since the woman’s family are Christians they fled to Nazareth.

refugees near tulkarem, summer 1948

Clandestine Zionist forces dispossessed 531 Arab towns or villages and 11 Arab urban areas with almost complete looting of Palestinian property and wealth, including the banks, property, businesses, fields and orchards. 

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A comment by the then head of the International Red Cross delegation in Palestine on the massacre of Deir Yassin is particularly chilling.  On 10 April 1948 he drove into the village outside Jerusalem and came across a detachment of Zionist Irgun members.  They came from Deir Yassin which was wiped out the previous night:

All of them were young, some even adolescents, men and women armed to the teeth: revolvers, machine-guns, hand-grenades, and also cutlasses in their hands, most of them still blood-stained.  A beautiful girl with criminal eyes showed me hers still dripping with blood; she displayed it like a trophy.  (Dimbleby1979:79).

Israel’s Irgun museum refers to the Deir Yassin massacre as an “operation” that was “a key point in the War of Independence”.

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The display in the entrance proudly displays the following words in its entrance:

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Other Zionist troops – Haganah and Palmach – carried out dozens of operations. They blew up as many houses and killed old people, women and children where there was resistance.

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As the Arabs moved out, the Zionists moved in…several hundred thousand Palestinians were on the move, criss-crossing Palestine or fleeing towards neighbouring countries, dodging the Zionist army, sleeping in olive groves and in mountain huts, or swamping villages not yet under attack.  (Dimbleby:89).

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Israel declared itself a state on 14 May 1948. Nazareth and many other places was under military control. The world stood by. No-one came to their rescue:

 We are a burden on Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria, we are a burden…

She repeated her words, and briefly turned her head away. I cringed.

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2.     An identity Nakba

Israel became a state, but Palestinians were not welcome there:

We woke up in Israel.  Who are we? We were not allowed to say that we are Palestinian.

Suddenly 750 000 Palestinians were refugees. Many of them still have the keys to their houses, but Israel does not allow them to return to their properties (homes, agricultural land, etc.) as allowed for in Resolutions 194 (1948) and 237 (1967) of the United Nations. Displaced Palestinians do not have access to civilian courts that could provide effective remedies and reparations.

Today more than 50 laws enshrine the status of Palestinians in Israel as second-class citizens based on their ethnic and religious identity. Palestinians within occupied Palestine face daily violations of human rights, economic rights and political rights.

post-traumatic stress in gaza

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We recognise Israel as an Israeli state, but it is a state only for its Jewish citizens.

3. A theological Nakba

She grew up as a Christian and attended missionary schools.

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After they fled they realised that in the land of the Bible and just as in the days of Joshua, they experienced ethnic cleansing:

We couldn’t pray anymore.  When we most needed hope, to pray and to read our scriptures, we could not.  People stopped going to church.

The Biblical Israel used to be our spiritual ancestor, now it was our oppressor. We did not know what to think.  The churches gave us a lot to address our physical needs.  To them we were a bunch of refugees who needed aid, wherease we were actually a people with spiritual needs and an identity crisis.

She concluded on an inspirational note:

But the Bible has good news and we as Palestinians are trying to find it. This is why we started with a liberation theology. Jesus lived as a Palestinian under the Roman oppression. As Palestinian Christians we believe in standing up for our rights – but non-violently. We want to rise up over the ways of the world without abandoning the poor and the oppressed or losing sight of the humanity of the oppressor.

It is this compassion with Israel as the oppressor that inspires me so much. For despite everything they go through in an ongoing Nakba of occupation, destruction and dehumanisation as, for example, Gaza in 2014 and in ongoing, daily human rights violations in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, the majority of Muslim and Christian Palestinians still acknowledge the humanity of  Jewish Israelis.

Our task is to take the lead from these Palestinians in a mutual quest to overcome hatred and division between people. It is as applicable to other contexts as it is to the Palestinians and Israel.

Earlier in May 2015 a group of mainly South African Jews publicly acknowledged how Palestinians have been displaced and dispossessed. Their message was that there are Jewish people who support their struggle. Heidi Grunebaum, one of the organizers of the ceremony in Lubya told The Electronic Intifada:

Given what South Africa’s history has been, there’s something abominable and unthinkable in Israel proclaiming a South Africa Forest not only on stolen land, but on land where there used to be a village. It’s almost another level of erasure.

Lubya used is one of the 530 Arab Palestinian villages that Israel destroyed during the Nakba. Today it is planted over with a forest with money South African Jews donated.  Many donors to the South Africa Forest in present-day Israel probably do not realize that they are helping to cover up the results of ethnic cleansing. The Jewish National Fund website promoting the Lower Galilee project as environmentally sound and offering a certificate to anyone who finances the plantation of at least two trees does not mention these critical details.

 

For more on the Nakba, see http://www.palestineremembered.com/

For more on Lubya, including a film on it, see https://marthiemombergblog.com/2013/06/07/new-film-peels-layers-of-truth/

Reference: Dimbleby. 1979. The Palestinians. London: Quartet Books.

Photos on Nakba from ICRC and UNRWA archive.

 

Gallery

Will South Africans boycott Israeli settlement produce?

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South Africa is the first African country to ban the false labelling of Israeli settlement goods. This is what the new wording looks like:

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(Photo by Open Shuhada Street.)

Ahava Dead Sea Cosmetics (sold in Truworths, Stuttafords and Foschini), Sodastream (sold in Pick & Pay Checkers and Spar) and Hishtil nursery plants and others can no longer use “Produced in Israel”.

Shoppers can now make informed choices, and they may also demand that Israeli settlement products be removed from shelves.  Traders who refuse to remove it, will face stiff penalties.

But will  South Africans make a moral choice when buying?

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I know from my own experience that many people simply don’t know that:

  1. the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza are Palestinian territories occupied by Israel;
  2. Israel’s illegal settlements in these areas use Palestinian resources (land, water, etc.) to produce products sold to the benefit of Israel; and
  3. both of the above area against international law: (1) Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jersusalem, Gaza are illegal, and (2) using the resources of occupied territory (Palestine) for the benefit of the occupier (Israel). It is also against South Africa’s consumer protection act to label produce incorrectly.

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When the announcement was made earlier in 2013, BDS South Africa supported the country’s Department of Trade and Industry’s decision to change the labels, but they remarked:

The wording of these special labels needs to be made clearer and BDS South Africa will be meeting with the Department of Trade and Industry in the course of the next few months to strengthen the wording of these special labels. However, BDS South Africa welcomes the DTI taking action against these Israeli settlement goods and companies. BDS South Africa further calls on the DTI and the South African government to now initiate a complete ban on Israeli settlement goods and companies.

Click here for the full BDS SA PRESS STATEMENT of 11 April 2013

It is important to realise this act by South Africa is in line with the actions of many international businesses and churches that boycott produce from Israeli settlements.

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The United Nations Human Rights Council, in an official report published earlier in 2013, confirmed the illegality of Israel’s settlements and also called on governments and private corporations to start considering economic and political sanctions against Israel for its illegal settlements enterprise. 

“Boycotts by ordinary people make it possible for international civil society to hold Israel accountable for its violations of international law and assist – in concrete ways – to put an end to Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. We are calling on all South Africans to join us in the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel campaign by boycotting products such as Sodastream, Ahava and all others Israeli goods sold in South Africa”. (Mbuyiseni Ndlozi, BDS South Africa).

 

Gallery

Press statement: Jewish South Africans during Pesach/Passover

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South African Jewish people reflect on their own freedom versus those of others as they are about to prepare for the Passover of 2013:

The festival of Pesach (Passover); our freedom is unfulfilled while others are oppressed

25 March 2013 / 14 Nisan 5773

As Jewish people around the world prepare for the festival of Pesach (Passover) that commences this evening (Monday 25 March), Stop The Jewish National Fund (StopTheJNF South Africa) would like to wish all who hold dear the values of freedom, liberation and justice a “Chag Kosher v’Sameach”

While Jewish families around the world recall the enslavement of our ancestors, we recognise that celebrations of freedom will always be tainted by bitter tears when there are people who remain oppressed. Members of StopTheJNF South Africa are particularly pained that since the establishment of Israel in 1948, Jewish people will be celebrating ‘freedom’ whilst complicit in the oppression of the Palestinian people. Further we recognise that our own authentic freedom will remain unfulfilled while the  Palestinians are denied theirs. In this light, as Jews of conscience, we will continue to speak out against injustices committed by Israel in our name: the brutal siege of Gaza and an occupation of Palestinian lands which sees the ongoing dispossession, humiliation and brutalisation of the Palestinians.

We also note the suffering of the Syrian people who are being butchered in a savage civil war, the murder and rape of countless women in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the deprivations of the Tibetan people denied their national and religious rights by China – these are just some instances of the denial of basic freedoms which we condemn and will remember as part of our Pesach celebrations.

Allan Horwitz for “StopTheJNF South Africa”. StopTheJNF South Africa is an organization initiated by Jewish South Africans committed to justice and rights for the Palestinian people and Jewish Israelis.

For more information, contact StopTheJNF National Spokesperson, Allan Horwitz:

082 512 8188

stopthejnf.rsa@gmail.com

www.stopthejnfsa.org

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Qumisyeh’s Peace Plan/ South African public broadcaster cancels interview

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“What is your Peace Plan?” they asked Prof. Mazin Qumsiyeh.  His answer consisted of four words.

On Monday 11 March 2013 Qumsiyeh’s public talk in Stellenbosch started by mentioning his own interwoven family history with ties to people in various cultures and religious groups – including Jewish links.

MaasaraQumsiyeh

Mazin is an American citizen. Five years ago he returned to Palestine where he now plays an active role in civil society in addition to his academic career in genetics and zoology.

When asked what his “Peace Plan” is, he said it consists of four words:

HUMAN RIGHTS and INTERNATIONAL LAW.

I couldn’t agree more.

In the end one would hope for HUMAN DIGNITY too.

After his talk at the Faculty of Theology (and the great introductory talk by Bonga Mbenenge and his remarks on human dignity), a few of us accompanied Prof Qumsiyeh to the nearby lush green botanical gardens.  What a gift it was to share this day in such great company!

Public broadcaster cancels radio talk:

The next morning Qumsiyeh had an appointment for an interview on SAFM (a  South African public radio station that broadcasts nationally), but it was cancelled at the very last minute.

Why? As stated in the Palestine Solidarity Campaign’s letter (PSC letter to SABC station manager the Jewish Board of Deputies who first insisted to be part of the discussion in the name of “balance in a sensitive issue” withdrew the evening before the show – and so South Africa’s public broadcaster cancelled the show.

The next morning, Terry Crawford-Browne  took Prof Qumsiyeh to the studio.  Says Crawford-Browne:

The SABC’s security record for the day will confirm that Mazin Qumsiyeh and I signed in at 08:45. The receptionist’s computer monitor confirmed that Mazin was expected.   The sound engineer on duty can confirm that he took us into a studio, and contacted Johannesburg to advise that Mazin was in the studio.  He was then hugely embarrassed to tell Mazin that the programme had been cancelled.

To call the matter between Israel and Palestine in need of “balance on a sensitive matter” displays in my opinion either ignorance or a disregard of international law, human rights and the gross violations thereof by Israel in its occupation of Palestine.

Why not give someone from Palestine a voice? Surely the public can phone in and ask any questions they want?  I think this was an attempt to silence a strong voice who speaks the reason of inclusion and dignity for all in the Middle East. I am deeply ashamed that my country’s public broadcaster’s decision.  In fact, the South African Palestinian Solidarity Campaign called this censorship by the SABC/SAFM:

“unlawful and unconstitutional, violating South Africans’ rights to freedom of expression and access to information.”

See also the PSC Media Statement

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Professor Mazin Qumsiyeh (http://qumsiyeh.org/aboutqumsiyeh) is a Palestinian American of Christian background and was raised in Beit Sahour, the biblical Shepherd’s field just outside of Bethlehem, where he continues to live and work.

Mazin now teaches at Bethlehem University and Birzeit University in molecular genetics and other biology related courses. His worthy blog: http://popular-resistance.blogspot.com/ is informative and analytical regarding the Palestine/Israel conflict.

His academic career started with his Ph.D. in Zoology from Texas Tech University. His later training was in genetics and he served as Associate Professor of Genetics and director of cytogenetic services both at Duke University and Yale University. During his 24 years in USA, he served on the faculties of these Universities.

He has traveled extensively in Jordan, Israel/Palestine, North Africa, East Africa, Europe, and America conducting scientific work and research, and has published over 120 scientific papers in areas ranging from Zoology to Genetics and two books: Mammals of the Holy Land and Bats of Egypt.

As an activist with Palestinian liberation movements, Mazin has served on several organizations’ Boards, authored books and published views and commentaries via the Internet and on websites.

mazinQumsiyeh being arrested in Al-Walaja 6 May 2010*

*The illegal Israeli Wall confiscates fertile Palestinian land (and the livelihood of families) in Al Walaja, a village in the district of Bethlehem. Most Palestinian men have been detained at least once – often for acts such as protests or stone throwing and often without a formal complaint.