Thursday, January 17

MCC Palestine Update #37

MCC Palestine Update #37

During this past week Israeli troops entered the Evangelical School (Anglican) in Ramallah, forcing a cancellation of classes for a couple of days. Church personnel were prevented from entering, and the housemother and boarding students in the girls' boarding section were prevented from leaving. Israeli troops have since left the school premises and have set up camp outside the school gate. MCC has donated canned beef and other material aid to the school over the years.

Below you will find three pieces, each in its own way a cry for peace and sanity amidst a widening storm of violence. Gideon Levy's open letter to Shimon Peres is straightforward in its condemnation of the Sharon government's war crimes and the complicity of the nominal Israeli left in those actions. The piece by Marwan Barghouti, a Fatah leader who is certainly no pacifist, is worthwhile reading, as it captures what strikes us as the mainstream Palestinian sentiment: accepting a two-state solution with the borders of 1967 and a just resolution of the refugee problem; the final item, by Chicago-based activist Ali Abu Nimah, calls into question what Western reporters mean when they talk about "calm" in Israel and the occupied territories; Abu Nimah suggests that things are "calm" as long Israelis aren't being killed.

1. Tell the truth, Shimon
Gideon Levy

In the 24 years of our acquaintance, four of which I spent working as your aide, this is the third time I have written you an open letter. In 1989, when you were finance minister in the Shamir government and the first intifada was raging, I used these pages to write "A letter to a former boss." Then, I told you that "for the first time in your life, you have nothing left to lose - except the prospect of vanishing into thin air." This was after you kept silent in the face of the IDF's conduct in the intifada, in the face of the continuation of the occupation and Israel's stubborn refusal to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestinians. At the time, I believed that you thought differently from Yitzhak Shamir and Yitzhak Rabin (known then as the "bone-breaker"), but that you just weren't bold enough to speak up.

Eleven years later, in 2000, I wrote you another open letter. This was after Oslo and the Rabin assassination, and after you again had lost an election - this time, to the office of president. Then, I said: "Many Israelis see you as a different person now. For them, you represent the hope of something else." And now, as I write to you again, I have to say: You no longer represent hope for anything.

The government of which you are a senior member, the foreign minister, is no longer just a government of last resort in our history of governments of last resort; this government is a government of crime. And partnership in this crime is another matter. It is no longer possible to absolve you, to give you credit for Oslo, to understand that your heart aches over what is happening, and to know that you may even be bursting with rage over what is happening and refraining from speaking out, from shouting out, and most of all, from acting, only because of tactical considerations, which you understand better than anyone.

No, your silence and inaction can no longer be justified by any excuse: Shimon, you are a partner in crime. The fact that you might realize this in your heart and, from time to time, even utter some feeble words of condemnation, the fact that you are not prime minister and that America is giving carte blanche right now, the fact that most of the people think otherwise and that to quit and "chase after a Ha'aretz journalist," as you put it, would be pointless - All of these excuses make no difference. You continue to serve in a government with blood on its hands, whose outstretched hand is still busy killing and jailing and humiliating, and you are a partner to all of its deeds. Just as the Taliban foreign minister is a part of the Taliban regime, you are a part of the Sharon regime. Your responsibility does not fall far short of the prime minister's. It is equal to that of the defense minister and the chief of staff, whose actions you harshly criticize in private discussions. Always in private discussions only.

You say you heard about the assassination of Raed Karmi, after three weeks of Palestinian quiet, on the radio. From your perspective, that's enough to exempt you from responsibility for the deed and even from having to express criticism of it. While the IDF was reoccupying Tul Karm, you were with Bill Clinton. When asked about it, you mumbled something incoherent. Following the house demolitions in Rafah, you bit your lip and kept silent. One could assume that the blowing up of the radio station was not your cup of tea either. But you bear the terrible responsibility for all of these things, for all of these actions that cannot be defined as anything other than war crimes.

Ask your brother-in-law, Prof. Rafi Walden, the head of surgery at Sheba Medical Center, who sometimes travels to the territories as a volunteer with Physicians for Human Rights, and he'll tell you what you're a partner to. He'll tell you about the women in labor - not just one or two, not just the rare exception - who can't get to the hospital because of the cruelty of the IDF of which you were once so proud, and whose babies die right after they deliver them. He'll tell you about the cancer patients prevented from getting to Jordan for treatment. No, they cannot even go to Jordan - for "security reasons."

He'll tell you about the hospitals in Bethlehem that were shelled by the IDF. He'll tell you about the doctors and nurses who sleep in the hospital because they can't get home. He'll tell you about the dialysis patients forced to spend hours jostled about while traveling makeshift routes three times a week in a desperate attempt to reach the machines that their lives depend on. He'll tell you about the patients denied crucial medical treatment because of the closure and about the ambulances prevented from passing through checkpoints, even when they're carrying critically ill passengers. He'll tell you about the people who have died at the checkpoints and about those who died at home because they didn't dare to approach the checkpoints - which are now made up of menacing tanks in the middle of the road, or mounds of dirt and cement blocks that cannot be budged - even for someone on the brink of death.

You have imprisoned an entire people for over a year with a degree of cruelty unprecedented in the history of the Israeli occupation. Your government is trampling three million people, leaving them with no semblance of normal life. No going to the market, no going to work, no going to school, no visiting a sick uncle. Nothing. No going anywhere, and no coming back from anywhere. No day or night. Danger lurks everywhere, and everywhere there is another checkpoint, choking off life.

An entire nation already partly outstretched its hand in peace, no less than we have - you know this well - It has had its fill of suffering, from the Nakba in 1948, through the 1967 occupation and the siege of 2002, and it wants exactly the same things that Israelis want for themselves - a little quiet, a little security and a drop of national pride. To a man, this entire people now wakes up each morning to a gaping abyss of despair, unemployment and deprivation - now with tanks parked at the end of the street, too.

You were always forgiven for all this - but no longer. Someone who is a partner in a government that deliberately sabotages every Palestinian effort to achieve quiet, that utterly humiliates their leaders, for whom vengeance is the sole motivating force, which cynically exploits the world's post-September 11 blindness and obtuseness to do as it pleases - can no longer be forgiven. True, you do not agree with everything this government wants to do, but what does that matter? You're inside - you're an accessory, as in any other crime. I sometimes see you answering a reporter's question about your government's latest despicable deed. The look on your face (and I'm pretty familiar with your expressions after all these years) suggests unease, even disgust. And then you give one of your evasive, hint-laden and not quite direct answers. You mumble something and try to extricate yourself by means of some awkward wordplay. Like what happened this week when you were standing next to Clinton and were asked about the occupation of Tul Karm and you said nothing - nothing - and just waited for the question to pass, to be left alone so you could go back to talking about peace and vision.

When asked about the assassinations, the demolitions, the humiliation of Arafat and his scandalous confinement, the destruction of the Dahaniya airport or the festival of the munitions display in Eilat, you furrow your brow and give half an answer. But that's not enough anymore.

Now is the time for a straight, honest and truthful answer - or nothing. Now is the time to say that the occupation of Tul Karm was a foolish move, that the assassination of Raed Karmi was intended to renew the violence and that the destruction of the houses in Rafah was a war crime - or to be Ariel Sharon. This is not the time for subtlety, for hidden meanings, for veiled criticism in private - because, here on the outside, a terrible disaster is underway, and a great ill wind is blowing and laying waste to everything.

Shall I give you an example? A few days ago, you were quoted as saying (privately, again) that it was hard for you to criticize the government's actions when the United States wasn't doing so. What kind of pathetic excuse is that? What does the fact that there is a predatory administration in the U.S. that has no counterbalancing power in the world, that does as it pleases and lets Israel do as it pleases, have to do with your principled positions? What does that have to do with the good of Israel? What does that have to do with basic values of justice and morality?

Perhaps you might take just one day of vacation, which you so rarely do, and visit the occupied territories. Have you ever actually seen the Qalandiyah checkpoint, even once? Have you seen what happens there? Do you think that you can do your job without seeing the Qalandiyah checkpoint? Do you understand that you are responsible for what goes on there? Do you understand that any foreign minister of a state that puts up these checkpoints bears responsibility for their existence?

Then you could go to the village of Yamoun and meet Heira Abu Hassan and Amiya Zakin, who lost their babies three weeks ago when IDF soldiers wouldn't let their cars through the checkpoint, while they were in labor and bleeding. Listen to their terrible stories. And what will you tell them? That you're sorry? That it shouldn't have happened? That it's part of the war on terror? That it's shocking? That maybe it's Shaul Mofaz's fault and not yours? The IDF spokesman hasn't even expressed regret about these two instances, not to mention any criminal investigation. He only confirmed that one occurred and said he "didn't know" about the other.

And equally important, what will you say about our soldiers who behave this way? That it's because of national security? That the Palestinians are to blame? Or Arafat? The truth, Shimon, is that you bear responsibility for the deaths of those two babies. Because you were silent. Because you sat in this government.

These are terrible times. But worse is yet to come. The cycle of violence and hatred has far from reached its peak. All the injustices and evil perpetrated against the Palestinians will eventually blow up in our faces. A people that is abused this way for years will explode one day in a terrible fury, even worse than what we see now. And meanwhile we have the soldiers going into the radio station, laying explosives and blowing the place to kingdom come - without stopping to ask why.

These soldiers are the bearers of bad tidings, not only for their victims, but for their dispatchers as well. Soldiers that destroy dozens of homes belonging to refugees, with all their meager possessions inside, without a moment's hesitation - and certainly no refusal to carry out such blatantly illegal orders, are not good soldiers, even for their country. Pilots who bomb targets in the heart of populated cities, tank operators who point their guns at women trying to get to the hospital to give birth in the middle of the night and Border Police officers who abuse women and youngsters are not a good portent of things to come. They all attest to the loosening of restraint that derives from a total loss of direction.

Yes, this year we have lost our way. You have joined forces with a prime minister who is Israel's most veteran warmonger, and no one can say for sure what your intentions are. And with a brainwashed public that speaks with frightening uniformity, you have it easy. Ever since another member of your party, Ehud Barak, intentionally shattered the peace camp, you've been able to do practically as you pleased. The IDF no longer investigates any war crime and the legal system approves every injustice that comes wrapped in the mantle of security. The whole world is busy struggling against terror, the press hides its face and the public doesn't want to hear, doesn't want to see and doesn't want to know. It only wants revenge. And under cover of this darkness and with the backing of a person of your stature, the occupation has become a machine of crime and evil.

Naturally, you'll say: What can I do? I wasn't elected prime minister. And I wasn't elected chairman of the Labor Party. I'm not even the defense minister. You're right: In this government you cannot do anything and you are not doing anything. Which is exactly why you never should have become a member of it. You'll say: I have influence - I rein things in, I'm a moderating force, I'm trying. Nonsense. It couldn't be much worse than it is now, so where exactly have you exerted your influence and what are you preventing from happening? Did you ever imagine that you would be sitting in a government that would reoccupy parts of Area A completely unhindered?

Just think what would have happened had you got up and loudly resigned from this government and told the world what is (perhaps) in your heart. The Nobel Prize laureate versus the crimes of the Sharon government. Imagine if you had gone to Ramallah, to Yasser Arafat who is under siege there, and taken to the street together, faced the Israeli tanks and called for their removal and for a cease-fire. True, the sky wouldn't have fallen - the occupation wouldn't have ended and the closure of Jenin would not have been lifted, but real cracks would have been opened in the moral, political and international basis of this currently immune government. Imagine if you would have said: Yes, the house demolitions are a war crime. Yes, a state that has lists of assassination targets is not a state of law. Yes, installing a checkpoint that causes people to die is an act of terror. No, the Palestinians are not the only ones to blame for this orgy of blood. Yes, we have a chief of staff who is a danger to democracy. Yes, we have a defense minister and Labor Party chairman who is the government's contractor for assassinations and house demolitions.

Yes, we have a prime minister who only wants to occupy, to avenge, to kill, to expel, to demolish and to uproot and he has no other plan in mind.

That's what you think, isn't it? If it is, then say so, for God's sake.

And if not, then your place really is with this government and we who once believed in you made a dreadful mistake. And please don't say that you're being made a punching bag once again. You're not. Ever since Oslo, you were the embodiment of our hopes. And these have been disappointed.

Time is short, Shimon. Not just for you, but for all of us. We are standing on the verge of the abyss. If you wait until Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, Ephraim Sneh, Ra'anan Cohen, Dalia Itzik and their like come up with another sneaky resigning-from-the-government-for-election-purposes deal, you might just find yourself kicked into oblivion by them. You know that they've been itching to be rid of you for some time now. And even if you do make a stand now, it may just be too late. Everyone may already be too disappointed in you and there may be no way to rebuild the ruin brought about by Sharon.

But the only way for you to add one more meaningful accomplishment to your rich biography is not just to get up now and resign from this government, which you may be compelled to do at some point anyway, but to do it while speaking out loud and clear, and telling Israelis all that you think about everything that is happening, especially about the evil we are perpetrating with our own hands. Once more in your life, try to build something new - not an atomic reactor or an aircraft industry, of which we already have more than enough. Now, against all the odds, try to build a radical Israeli peace camp, to make something out of nothing. Is it too farfetched to believe that you still see things differently than the rest of your colleagues in the government? Tell the truth, Shimon.

2. Want Security? End the Occupation
Marwan Barghouti
Washington Post, January 16, 2002

RAMALLAH -- Israel's assassination of Fatah activist Raed Karmi on Monday was predictable. Despite Israel's having killed more than 18 Palestinians since President Yasser Arafat's call for a cease-fire on Dec. 18, there have been no Israeli civilian casualties during that time. That, according to world governments and the international press, constituted a "lull in the violence." But a lull in the violence is exactly what Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon cannot afford. He was elected in a time of crisis and knows that his rule is sustainable only in a time of crisis. For his own political survival, he will do whatever it takes, and look for any excuse, to stoke the flames of unrest and avoid a return to peace negotiations. _

Hence, more than 600 Palestinians, already refugees, were recently made refugees yet again as Sharon's bulldozers razed their homes in Gaza. A day later Palestinian homes in occupied East Jerusalem were destroyed. And then, just to ensure that Palestinians are sufficiently provoked and the cycle of violence starts again, Israel assassinates Karmi._ Sharon justifies such barbaric and illegal measures in the name of "security." But as someone often considered a candidate for Israeli assassination myself, I can assure the Israeli people that neither my assassination nor any of the other 82 assassinations during the past 15 months will bring them any closer to the security they seek and deserve. _

The only way for Israelis to have security is, quite simply, to end the 35- year-old Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. Israelis must abandon the myth that it is possible to have peace and occupation at the same time, that peaceful coexistence is possible between slave and master. The lack of Israeli security is born of the lack of Palestinian freedom. Israel will have security only after the end of occupation, not before._

Once Israel and the rest of the world understand this fundamental truth, the way forward becomes clear: End the occupation, allow the Palestinians to live in freedom and let the independent and equal neighbors of Israel and Palestine negotiate a peaceful future with close economic and cultural ties._

Let us not forget, we Palestinians have recognized Israel on 78 percent of historic Palestine. It is Israel that refuses to acknowledge Palestine's right to exist on the remaining 22 percent of land occupied in 1967. And yet it is the Palestinians who are accused of not compromising and of missing opportunities. Frankly, we are tired of always taking the blame for Israeli intransigence when all we are seeking is the implementation of international law. _

And we have no faith in the United States, the provider of billions of dollars in annual aid to fund Israel's expansion of illegal colonies, the "fighter of terrorism" that supplies Israel with the F-16s and helicopter gunships used against a defenseless civilian population, the "defender of freedom and the oppressed" that coddles Sharon even as he faces war crimes charges for his responsibility in the 1982 massacre of Palestinian refugees. The role of the world's only superpower has been reduced to that of a mere spectator with nothing to offer other than a tired refrain of "Stop the violence" while doing nothing to address the root causes of that violence: denial of Palestinian

Watch as the hapless Gen. Anthony Zinni focuses his efforts on "violence" while Jewish settlers violate international law and even American policy by moving into a new illegal colony in occupied East Jerusalem. We Palestinians are not impressed._

Over the past 15 months, Israel has killed more than 900 Palestinian civilians, 25 percent of them under the age of 18. And still the United States has the audacity to veto a U.N. plan for an international protection force to stop the onslaught._

So we will protect ourselves. If Israel reserves the right to bomb us with F- 16s and helicopter gunships, it should not be surprised when Palestinians seek defensive weapons to bring those aircraft down. And while I, and the Fatah movement to which I belong, strongly oppose attacks and the targeting of civilians inside Israel, our future neighbor, I reserve the right to protect myself, to resist the Israeli occupation of my country and to fight for my freedom. If Palestinians are expected to negotiate under occupation, then Israel must be expected to negotiate as we resist that occupation._

I am not a terrorist, but neither am I a pacifist. I am simply a regular guy from the Palestinian street advocating only what every other oppressed person has advocated -- the right to help myself in the absence of help from anywhere else. _

This principle may well lead to my assassination. So let my position be clear in order that my death not be lightly dismissed by the world as just one more statistic in Israel's "war on terrorism." For six years I languished as a political prisoner in an Israeli jail, where I was tortured, where I hung blindfolded as an Israeli beat my genitals with a stick. But since 1994, when I believed Israel was serious about ending its occupation, I have been a tireless advocate of a peace based on fairness and equality. I led delegations of Palestinians in meetings with Israeli parliamentarians to promote mutual understanding and cooperation. I still seek peaceful coexistence between the equal and independent countries of Israel and Palestine based on full withdrawal from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and a just resolution to the plight of Palestinian refugees pursuant to
U.N. resolutions. I do not seek to destroy Israel but only to end its occupation of my country._

The writer is general secretary of Fatah on the West Bank and was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council._

3. A non-existent “lull,” “quiet,” or “calm”: the blatant semantic clues of journalists admitting they fail to consider Israeli violence against Palestinians noteworthy
Ali Abunimah (Edited by Nigel Parry)
National Public Radio (NPR), 10 January 2002

Consistently over the past week, many members of the media have been repeating as a mantra that there has over the past three weeks been a "relative calm" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. has been one of the worst offenders. Correspondent Linda Gradstein defined this for us when she told Morning Edition host Bob Edwards on January 3 that: “you know, there's been actually three weeks of relative quiet. Only one Israeli has been killed in those three weeks, as opposed to 44 Israelis who were killed when Zinni was here last time in November and early December."

The facts -- a shameful pattern of devaluation of Palestinian life

In fact, since December 13, at least 28 Palestinians, most of them unarmed civilians and 11 of them children, have been killed by the Israeli occupation. Eighteen of them died since Yasir Arafat made his call for an end to all Israeli and Palestinian violence on December 16 as Israel's raids, demolitions and siege have continued unabated.

The following list of Palestinians killed between 13 December 2001 and 6 January 2002 includes only those killed by the Israeli occupation. In addition to this there were dozens of men, women and children maimed and injured by the occupation forces, dozens more houses demolished, as millions of civilians continued to exist under an unrelenting military siege. Six Palestinians were killed on Dec 20-21 by Palestinian police during riots and clashes, and have not been included in the list.

The fact that NPR and other media organizations consistently and deliberately ignore these dozens of Palestinians brutally killed by Israel demonstrates in the clearest possible terms that only Israeli lives are valued and only the concerns and security of Israel are taken seriously.

A cold, hard look at the list below forces any reasonable commentator to conclude that the relentless Israeli violence has not stopped taking Palestinian lives and limbs for a single day.

This is not a new coverage trend, but rather has been a persistent pattern, both with respect to Israel's violence against Palestinians and during Israel's occupation of southern Lebanon. Although
this has been brought to the attention of NPR and other media organisations on countless occasions over a period of years, this problem has only been getting worse.

The only question really worth asking now: is NPR going to do something about this or will it choose instead to allow its correspondent to continue to indulge in such an outrageous level of bias and misrepresentation? The problem is not simply with Linda Gradstein. It seems to be endemic to NPR's approach to the region generally since studio hosts have also routinely emphasized the concerns and experiences of Israeli civilians over those of any Arabs.

The result of this in specific instances and over time is to convey to NPR's listeners a deeply misleading picture of the situation in the region.

Palestinians killed by Israeli occupation forces between 13 December 2001 and 6 January 2002

December 13th:
Rami Khamis Al-Zorob, 13, killed by a live bullet to the head while playing near his home as Israeli forces fired at civilian houses. Rafah, Gaza;

Ahmed Khamis Al-Masri, 19, killed by bullet to the heart as Israeli occupation forces fired at a group of young men. Khan Yunis refugee camp, Gaza.

December 14th

Israeli occupation forces invade the West Bank village of Salfit, killing six Palestinian members of the security forces. They are

Mohammed Mohammed Aashour, 19, wounded by wo bullets in the chest and his right arm. He was run down by an Israeli army vehicle after being shot;

Assad Atayeh, 22, from Salfit, hit by several bullets in the chest. He was run down by an Israeli army vehicle after being shot;

Khalid Abu Yaqub, 27, from Kufol Haris hit by a bullet in the head;

Samih Jawad Abdel-Latif al-Danaf, 20, from Salfit, hit by a bullet in the chest and in the abdomen;

Diah Nadi Ibdah, 19, from Salfit, an employee of the Palestinian presidential guard (Force 17), hit by a bullet in the head;

Raziq Shabaan Haruzallah, 25, from Salfit hit by a bullet in the neck.

December 15th:

A Palestinian man was killed during an Israeli military incursion into the Palestinian town of Rafah, Gaza.

December 16th

Yasir Arafat makes speech calling for end to all Israeli and Palestinian violence.

Yasir Al-Kasbeh, 12, killed by rubber-coated steel bullet, Qalandia refugee camp, West Bank.

December 17th

Muhammad Huneidek, 12, killed by bullet to the chest fired from Israeli checkpoint near Neve Dekalim settlement, Gaza Strip.

Munjed Salman, 22, Palestinian police officer. Killed when Israeli forces opened fire with heavy machine guns on a police patrol. Nablus, West Bank.

Yaqoub Adkediq, 28, shot dead as he fled from Israeli death squad that raided his home at 3 am. Hebron, West Bank.

December 20th:

Dib Sarawi, 37, killed when hit in the head by fire as Israeli forces raided Nablus. Mr. Sarawi's wife and 12-year old daughter were injured.

December 24th:

Jamil Abu Atwan, 22, killed in exchange of fire with Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

December 26th:

Walid Saadi, 53, killed by Israeli helicopter gunships attacking Jenin, West Bank.

December 28th:

Mahmoud Al-Boraieh, 22, from Jabaliya refugee camp, shot dead by an Israeli patrol who claimed he was "preparing an attack." Gaza City.

December 29th:

Nujud Ghonam (female), 26, died of a brain hemorrage after being knocked unconscious with a rifle butt by an Israeli soldier during a raid of her home. Al Khadr village near Bethlehem, West Bank.

December 30th

Three Palestinian boys are killed by Israeli forces near the settlement of Elei Sinai in the Gaza Strip. Israel first claims the boys are "militants" who had "bombs strapped to their bodies." All these false claims are later withdrawn. The boys are:

Mohammed Ahmed Lubbad, 17;
Mohammed Abdel-Rahman El-Madhoun, 15;
Ahmed Mohammed Banat, 15.

Israeli occupation forces kill three Palestinians they say were trying to enter Israel east of Beit Hanoun in the Gaza Strip. They were:

Ismail Ahmed Abu El-Qumsan, 31;
Mohammed Mahmoud Salah, 19;
Ali As'ad Muhanna, 21.

January 4th:

A Palestinian man is killed as Israeli forces raid Nablus.

January 6th:

Five Palestinian children made homeless after their family fled their home in Khan Yunis refugee camp due to constant shelling by Israeli forces die when their refugee tent is set on fire accidentally by a candle. The children are

Nafez Huneideq, 3;
Turkia Huneideq, 5;
Fadi Huneideq, 6;
Sufian Huneideq, 7;
Hussein Huneideq, 9.

No comments: