Tuesday, 28 September 2010

The Mayor of Aboud: Living under Israeli Apartheid in Occupied Palestine


The Mayor of Aboud: Living under Israeli Apartheid in Occupied Palestine from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

Abu Azar or Elias Azar is the Mayor of Aboud, a village a few miles from Ramallah. The village has seen all of its agricultural land progressivly and forcibly stolen by the Israeli government to create three illegal Jewish settlements on the hilltops surrounding the village. Even their water supply has been re-routed to the Jews-only settlements. The village now only has one road to the outside world controlled by a military watch tower and 'flying checkpoint'. All the other roads into the village have been blocked with piles of rubble. Elias talks frankly about the illegal and unjust actions of the Israeli government toward his community.In the second video he takes us to the edge of his village to view the settlements.

Mayor of Aboud, Elias Azar, Condemns the Illegal Jewish Settlements from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.


See also an interview with the Mayor of Bethlehem

Monday, 27 September 2010

Mayor of Bethlehem Condemns Jewish Settlement Expansion


The Mayor of Bethlehem Slams Illegal Jewish Settlements from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.

"The Israeli occupation of our land is the sole obstacle to peace and the major cause of instability in our region."


Mayor of Bethlehem on the Impact of the Israeli Occupation of Palestine from Stephen Sizer on Vimeo.
Tonight I had supper with Victor Batarseh, the Mayor of Bethlehem along with a few friends of Bethlehem Bible College. Victor is a gentle grandfather figure, a retired physician and active Christian. He also happens to be a US citizen, although the US Consulate General in Jerusalem refuses to meet with him. The British Consulate general is also unwilling to meet him. "They will meet with the Mayors of other Palestinian towns but not with the Christian Mayor of Bethlehem." It is also almost impossible for him to leave Bethlehem without special permission from the Israeli authorities. I asked him why. He said "Because I am calling for justice for the Palestinians and peace with Israel and that is not the non-violent message Israel wants to hear from the Occupied Territories."

He derided the idea that for the last ten months Israel has abided by a moratorium on Settlement expansion. "The settlement expansion has been continuing" he insisted. "The municipal boundary of Bethlehem used to encompass 35 square kilometers of territory. Now it is only six." he insisted. The rest, mostly the agricultural land has been stolen by the 18 illegal Jewish settlements that now encircle Bethlehem.

He was elected Mayor of Bethlehem in 2005. On his election, he made this speech which, five years later, appears just as timely.

As the newly elected mayor of Bethlehem, I feel proud and privileged. Though it is little in size, it is one of the most famous cities on earth. Bethlehem is a name that lives in the hearts of millions of people. It signifies love, hope and peace for mankind.

It is true we do not have skyscrapers in Bethlehem, but we have the formidable Church of the Nativity, the place where it all started. We do not have natural resources, but we have the holy manger, the source of spiritual fulfillment and nourishment. We do not possess modern technology and satellites, but we have the star of the Nativity, the beacon that has embodied hope in the minds of all believers.

Our history is full of inspirational stories but also of bad times. The bad times under the recent Israeli aggression have led to enormous pain and suffering for Bethlehem and to unprecedented deterioration in its situation.

Throughout the past years, the Israeli settlements’ greedy campaign has cost us considerable loss of our land and resources. The continuous closure imposed on Bethlehem has crippled our freedom to move about, our trade and our labor force. What aggravated the matter, however, is the construction of the separation wall that is slicing the northern borders of Bethlehem, tearing apart many of our families and isolating our holy town from the outside world. We are living in the horror of this apartheid wall that has grabbed our land and seriously affected all aspects of our life, including our ability to access basic services and work, thus our ability to sustain ourselves. Actually, we live today in what is similar to a big prison.

Such a massive obstruction, a concrete wall nearly 40 feet high, is closing the main and historic entrance of the town of the Nativity and has decimated tourism, our major source of income. Except for the last three months when a few pilgrims and tourists were seen again at the Church of the Nativity, tourism in Bethlehem has reached a stage of total standstill over the last four consecutive years. Unemployment in town has therefore soared to 55 percent. With a bleeding heart, I regret to say that more than half of Bethlehemites live today under the poverty line, which encouraged a serious wave of emigration among them, in particular Christians, the custodians of the holy manger.

With lack of adequate support from our Palestinian National Authority, the municipality lives at present in a dire financial crisis. Last month we could not afford to pay the salaries of our employees. The situation portends further deterioration should no immediate support be received, including the risk of cutting off essential municipal services rendered to our people, which would make things even worse.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am not telling a story nor am I trying to be gloomy. I am only conveying the truth that Bethlehem lives today. At this difficult time, we turn toward the sons of Bethlehem, toward our friends and partners throughout the world, asking them to reach out with a helping hand. To them we say Bethlehem, the cradle of Christianity, needs you more than ever before.

For sure one day the wall around Bethlehem will fall. Examples in old and recent history confirm this fact. We will strive to bring that day closer. But until then, we can refuse to live in its shadow. Bethlehem deserves to be open because it stands for the values of openness, an open democracy built on the open hearts of its citizens. The rich and unique heritage of Bethlehem reminds the world that we all face a poorer future without the hope and promise of our little town.

Ladies and gentlemen, despite our suffering and the oppression we are afflicted with, we hold deep faith in peace. We believe peace is the only solution. Peace is a blessing from God we all need. However, peace should be based on justice, equality and respect of others’ rights if it is to prevail, and not on oppression, might and separation.

I should say the Israeli occupation of our land is the sole obstacle to peace and the major cause of instability in our region.

Being on the soil of the U.S.A., the biggest democracy on earth, I call upon the U.S. government, the main sponsor of the Middle East peace process, to do its utmost toward implementing the international legitimacy represented in the United Nations Security Council resolutions, for the sake of a just, comprehensive peace in our region to allow both peoples, Israelis and Palestinians, to live in the Holy Land together and forever as good and equal neighbors.

May the star of the Nativity that shone onto Bethlehem more than 2,000 years ago and led the kings of the Orient to come and meet the Prince of Peace be a symbol of hospitality and guide all people of goodwill toward Bethlehem once again to restore its former glory as a place of dignity, a pilgrimage destination and an open city for peace.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Settlement Construction to Restart Today

Haaretz provides a diary of events that will take place today to mark the end of the settlement freeze. The article also points out that settlement expansion continued even during the so called 'moratorium'.

Lets be clear what we mean by settlement expansion. These are not green field sites. The construction of every Jews-only settler home requires the confiscation of Palestinian land by force, the uprooting of olive trees, the demolition of Palestinian homes and the destruction of Palestinian livelihoods. The settlements can only continue because the indigenous population are held under brutal military occupation. The Israeli army operates alongside the settler movement to intimidate, suppress and mercilously crush any Palestinian resistance to the inexorable colonisation of Palestine.

Notwithstanding the declared wishes of the US President, the resumption of settlement expansion taking place today is only possible through the generous funding provided by the present US administration.
Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar had given verbal authorization for construction to resume today, even though it's a holiday, Danon said.

"The rabbi said construction can begin even though work is not allowed during Sukkot," he said.

Several events are planned for the day the freeze ends: In the morning, dozens of buses are scheduled to bring Likud activists to visit various settlements to hear about the damage caused by the construction hiatus, and to show support for the settlers.

At 3 P.M. there will be a ceremony marking the laying of the cornerstone of a new kindergarten in Kiryat Netafim. Local council head Gershon Mesika is scheduled to participate.

At 4 P.M., the rally in Revava is scheduled to begin. Thousands are expected to participate, including MKs and local council heads.

MK Danon said that tomorrow, construction would resume on about 2,000 housing units in various settlements.

"The construction of several hundred homes will bring joy under the current circumstances," said MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union ). "Netanyahu is anesthetizing the right wing - while he is ending the freeze officially he is busy practically destroying settlement in Judea and Samaria."

MK Otniel Schneller (Kadima ), who lives in the settlement of Ma'aleh Mikhmas, said that the resumption of construction should not undermine negotiations with the Palestinians and the important relationship with the United States.
Someone needs to wake MK Schneller up with a bucket of cold water. The resumption will isolate Israel yet further in the international community and humiliate their best friend and banker. Read more here

In another important article entitled The winner of the Settlement Row is Netanyahu, Aluf Benn makes this astute evaluation of the Israeli game plan,
After the cabinet approved the freeze on November 25, it was said that "the government will apply the policy of previous administrations in the matter of construction in Judea and Samaria." The previous administrations' policy can be summarized this way: With the diplomatic process stalled and Israel isolated internationally, settlement expansion also halted. When peace seemed just around the corner and Israel enjoyed good international relations, the settlement project flew forward.

This is how it was in the days of Menachem Begin (peace with Egypt and 100 new settlements in the West Bank ), Yitzhak Rabin (the Oslo Accords and the paving of bypass roads bringing the settlements closer to Israel's center ), Benjamin Netanyahu (building Har Homa after the Hebron Agreement ), Ehud Barak (thousands of new apartments in the occupied territories on the way to the Camp David Summit ), and Ehud Olmert (increased construction around Jerusalem after the Annapolis Conference ).


This is the settlement paradox: They expand in direct proportion to advances in the diplomatic process. When there is no peace, there is no construction, and when there are contacts, ceremonies and optimism, hundreds of new homes sprout up in the hills of the West Bank. Anyone who wants to stop the settlements has to throw a wrench in the negotiations. And those who want to fill the territories with settlers must encourage the givers-and-takers. To put it simply, Peace Now should fight against peace talks, and the Yesha Council of settlements should pay for plane tickets to Washington and Annapolis.

One may assume it will be the same with Netanyahu. After he releases some of the immediate pressure and calms the settlers down, letting a few homes be built in proportion to gestures made to the Palestinians, he will delay plans for further construction in the West Bank. These plans will have to wait for an improvement in the diplomatic process. They will be authorized when Netanyahu and Abbas have drawn closer; then pressure will be put on Israel once again. Building will speed up again, concentrated in blocs to strengthen Israel's negotiating position on borders, and to create more facts on the ground. 
Read more here

Jewish Peace Boat Sails for Gaza

The Jewish Peace Boat, sailing yesterday, Sept. 26, from Cyprus in the direction of Gaza, is a reminder of the isolation which we in Israel bring upon ourselves. A country bound upon conquest and occupation, whose government is hostage to extremist settlers, is increasingly losing also the support of world Jewry.

The boat, Irene, is sailing under a British flag and is carrying ten passengers and crew, including Jews from the USA, the UK, Germany and Israel as well as an Israeli journalist.

The boat's cargo includes symbolic aid in the form of children's toys and musical instruments, textbooks, fishing nets for Gaza's fishing communities and prosthetic limbs for orthopaedic medical care in Gaza's hospitals.

The receiving organization in Gaza is the Gaza Community Mental Health Programme, directed by Gaza psychiatrist Dr. Eyad Sarraj.

The boat will attempt to reach the coast of Gaza and unload its aid cargo in a nonviolent, symbolic act of solidarity and protest - and call for the siege to be lifted to enable free passage of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip.

The boat will fly multicolored peace flags carrying the names of dozens of Jews who have expressed their support for this action, as a symbol of the widespread support for the boat by Jews worldwide.

Speaking from London, a member of the organizing group, Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, said today that the Jewish Boat to Gaza is a symbolic act of protest against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the siege of Gaza, and a message of solidarity to Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace and justice.

'Israeli government policies are not supported by all Jews,' said Kuper. 'We call on all governments and people around the world to speak and act against the occupation and the siege.'

Regarding the threat of interception by the Israeli navy, Kuper said 'This is a nonviolent action. We aim to reach Gaza, but our activists will not engage in any physical confrontation and will therefore not present the Israelis with any reason or excuse to use physical force or assault them.'

Passenger Reuven Moskovitz, 82, said that his life's mission has been to turn foes into friends. "We are two peoples, but we have one future", he said.

Satellite phone on board for contact to the passengers: 00 8821668610337

Media Contact in London for interviewing the Boat's organizers: Yosh, 0044 7816 448307 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              0044 7816 448307      end_of_the_skype_highlighting media@jewishboattogaza.org
 
Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, applauds the courage of the Jewish peace activists who confront us with this reality, and who work to end the siege of Gaza and secure for its citizens the natural right to come and go, like everyone elsewhere in the world.

A sane Israeli government would allow the boat to get to its destination without hinderance. Nobody could possibly argue that the arrival of ten peace activists in Gaza could in any way endanger Israel's security.

But then again we are not dealing with sane governments.

Passengers and crew for interview:

Reuven Moskovitz, from Israel, is a founding member of the Jewish-Arab village Neve Shalom (Oasis of Peace) and a holocaust survivor. Speaks German, Hebrew and English.

Rami Elhanan, from Israel, lost his daughter Smadar to a suicide bombing in 1997 and is a founding member of the Bereaved Families Circle of Israelis and Palestinians who lost their loved ones to the conflict. Speaks Hebrew and English.

Lilian Rosengarten, from the US, is a peace activist and psychotherapist. She was a refugee from Nazi Germany. Speaks English and German.

Yonatan Shapira, from Israel, is an ex-IDF pilot and now an activist for Combatants for Peace. Speaks Hebrew and English.

Glyn Secker, from the UK, is the boat's captain and a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Speaks English.

Dr. Edith Lutz, from Germany, is a peace activist and a nurse. She was on the first boat to Gaza in 2008. Speaks German and English.

Alison Prager, from the UK, is a teacher and peace activist. She is media coordinator for the boat. Speaks English.

Itamar Shapira, from Israel, is Yonatan's brother, and a member of the boat's crew. Speaks Hebrew, Spanish and English.

Eli Osherov,  Israeli reporter from Israel Channel 10 News.

Supporters: Jewish organizations and individuals from UK, Holland, Germany, US, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, France, Austria, Australia and Israel.

Organizers and sponsors: European Jews for a Just Peace, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK), Juedische Stimme fuer einen gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Germany), American Jews for a Just Peace (USA), Jewish Voice for Peace (USA), Jews Against the Occupation Sydney.

Visit www.jewishboattogaza.org and join us on Facebook and Twitter

--
Miri Weingarten, Director
JNews
60 Farringdon Road
London EC1R 3GA
Tel. 0207 324 2575
Fax 0207 749 0566
Mob 0753 1719159
Skype: miri.weingarten
www.JNews.org.uk
 
Source: Gush Shalom, Mondoweiss and Al-Jazeerah

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Christ at the Checkpoint: Hope in the Midst of Conflict

Dr Bishara Awad, Principal of Bethlehem Bible College announced today that, following the success of the Christ at the Checkpoint conference held in March earlier this year, a second international conference will be held in Bethlehem 5th-9th March 2012. The purpose will be to:

1. Introduce international Christians to the current situation of the Palestinian church living under occupation.

2. Present a coherent biblical challenge to Christian Zionism and offer an alternative perspective.

3. Expose the injustices of the occupation and create an awareness of the obstacles to justice, reconciliation and peace.

4. Create a forum for open and ongoing dialogue.

5. Motivate participants to become advocates for the reconciliation work of the church in Palestine and its ramifications for the Middle East.

For more information on the first Christ at the Checkpoint conference see here

Settlement 'Freeze' Debate Obscures Brutal Colonisation

Tomorrow we will find out whether Netanyahu is going to stay at the negotiating table with Abbas or return home to build some more homes in the Occupied Territories for Jewish settlers. The US media will portray the Palestinians as the bad guys for walking away but it is the Israeli government who are defying international law in their brutal colonisation of Palestine; it is the Israeli government that refuses to recognise the existence of Palestine; it is the Palestinians who have no partner for peace.

I am staying in Bethlehem this week at Bethlehem Bible College, overlooking the monstrous Har Homa settlement. Har Homa completes the ring of settlements to the south of Jerusalem that strangulates Palestinian Bethlehem, cuts it off from Jerusalem, 6 miles away, and cruelly denies any possibility of an independent, contiguous, sovereign Palestinian State. The same strategy has been replicated right across the West Bank.

So what are the 'peace talks' all about? a return to the interational borders of 1967? I don't think so. More likely a 21st Century version of the North Amrican Indian reservations. That is all the Israeli government indtend if they magnanamously extend their moratorium on Settlement expansion. It is not a moratorium we look for but a complete and unequivocal withdrawal.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Israel Plays Hardball with Obama


Obama badly needs Natanyahu to maintain the settlement freeze for his own credability. Israel wants something in return. Peace with the Palestinians is not it. What they really want is the ONLY thing the US Administration has ever refused them - Jonathan Pollard.

This from Isabel Kershner for the New York Times.
Israeli officials have tried to float a trade-off in which they would extend the temporary moratorium on settlement construction in exchange for the release by the United States of Jonathan Jay Pollard, the American who pleaded guilty to spying for Israel and is serving a life term in an American jail, Israel’s Army Radio reported Monday.

The idea would be that the exchange might help Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel to sell an extension of the partial settlement freeze on the West Bank to his rightist ministers, the radio said. The moratorium is due to expire on Sunday, and Palestinian leaders have threatened to halt the fledgling American-sponsored peace talks with the Israelis if construction resumes.  
There's more here

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Never Again: Photos of Auschwitz

My first visit to Auschwitz was in 1976. It was then under (Russian) Communist control. In my early twenties, my understanding of the events of World War 2 were largely shaped by William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. On that occasion, the propaganda about Russia's role in liberating Poland and Europe from Nazi domination was very obvious. The Allies it seems had played little part in the defeat of Hitler.

Returning in June, 35 years later, it was still just as sobering to visit the two death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau as it had been the first time. As I walked the wire, it was sobering to reflect on how a democratic European country had so easily tolerated, aquiesced and then endorsed the ethnic cleansing of Jewish people, Gypsies and dissidents on such a vast scale.

This time, a Polish perspective and the role Europeans and American's played in helping to defeat Fascism was more evident. Russia's complicity in its alliance with Nazi Germany was faithfully recorded. Have we learnt the lessons of history? I think not.

You can view the photos in four collections here which focus on the Auschwitz Camp buildings, the Museum at Auschwitz, the more expansive Birkenau Camp and a collection of black and white photographs expressing the starkness of the place:



Visit the Memorial and Museum here


Hamas Recognises Israel

Negotiate with Hamas or face Al-Qaeda in Gaza

According to Haaretz,
"The Hamas militant group announced Monday that it had previously told the United States it would accept the establishment of a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, according to Israel Radio. Citing the organization's semi-annual report, Israel Radio said that Hamas had also asked the U.S. administration to open dialogue. The militant group said in its report that it had passed that message along via American academics and politicians visiting the Gaza Strip."

"Hamas also said that it had asked Washington to lift the veto it had imposed on reconciliation efforts between the militant group and its rival, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah faction.Hamas, which seized control of Gaza from Fatah in a bloody 2007 coup, has adamantly opposed the resumption of direction peace negotiations between the Palestinian Authority and Israel." 

Richard Silverstein comments,

I am not arguing that Hamas should be given veto power in any negotiation.  I am arguing that Hamas much be dealt with in a deft way which Obama has shown no capacity or inclination to do. An Arab newspaper (via Google Translation) quoted this passage from the report which contains a very interesting new opening by Hamas:
There is no opposition to the idea of a Palestinian state in 1967 borders and Jerusalem as its capital in order to achieve security for the Palestinian people and the return of refugees and compensation for their suffering and the release of all prisoners within the prisons…
While I don’t pretend to be an expert on Hamas, the italicized clause seems to be a new development in Hamas’ thinking about the Right of Return.  This formulation is quite close to that of the Geneva Initiative, which calls for the Right of Return to be realized through a hybrid implementation: the physical return of a pre-agreed number of refugees to Israel proper and compensation paid to those who choose not to return.
Now, as for the Habarists who dredge up the Hamas covenant in order to rebut any glimmer of pragmatism within Hamas, I’ll take a semi-annual report written in 2010 over a document written by an anonymous scribe in 1988 in terms of telling me the current thinking of this movement.  By the way, this isn’t the first time senior Hamas officials have said this as you can see from the results of this Google search.
The game is slipping away from Israel for two more reasons.

1. Unilateral Palestinian Declaration of Independence

Haaretz suggests there is a possibility of a unilateral Palestinian declaration of independence within the 1967 borders, a move which could potentially be recognized by the United Nations Security Council.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently asked the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama to veto any such proposal, after reports reached Jerusalem of support for such a declaration from major European Union countries, and apparently also certain U.S. officials. The reports indicated that Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has reached a secret understanding with the Obama administration over U.S. recognition of an independent Palestinian state. Such recognition would likely transform any Israeli presence across the Green Line, even in Jerusalem, into an illegal incursion to which the Palestinians would be entitled to engage in measures of self-defense.
2. Al-Qaeda are gaining influence in Gaza

Reuters report that Hamas Islamists ruling the Gaza Strip face a growing security challenge from al Qaeda-inspired Palestinian groups in the religiously conservative enclave.
Fundamentalist Muslims, or Salafis, whose agenda of global jihad, or holy war, against the West is against Hamas's nationalist goals, have stepped up bombing attacks in the Gaza Strip in recent weeks, targeting Hamas security men and offices.
It seems Israel has a choice: Negotiate with Hamas and accept the internationally recognised 1967 borders or face Al-Qaeda in Gaza.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Track the Israeli Settlements on your iPhone

I have just downloaded a free app for the iPhone from American's for Peace Now that tracks the illegal Jewish settlements in the Occupied Palestinain Territories.

You can use this map to explore the data APN  have collected about settlement activity in the West Bank. The map is organized in several layers that show different kinds of data. In the Layer Selector, you can click on the headings to view different areas of the map with pre-selected sets of layers. Or, you can turn on or off individual layers to customize your view.

When you select an individual settlement, they will show you the data that they have collected about it, such as the year it was established and its population. When APN post news stories about events in the West Bank, they will include a link that takes you directly to the location. You can then explore the area so you can understand the news in context.

Natasha Mozgovaya writing for Haaretz covered the story earlier today: West Bank settlements can now be tracked on your iPhone 
Want to know what's happening in the West Bank settlements in real time? In addition to 'Sudoku' and 'Street Fighter,' iPhone owners will now be able to install the "Facts on the Ground" application, which monitors the expansion of settlements in Judea and Samaria, created by Americans for Peace Now.
“This new app shows the unfiltered realities that settlements create on the ground of the West Bank. While people are entitled to their opinions on this divisive issue, there is only one set of facts, and our app makes these facts available in unprecedented clarity and detail,” said Debra DeLee, APN’s President and CEO.

Settlements are symbolized by little blue houses on the map. Clicking once on the icon gives its land area. A second click brings up a window with more details: the year it was established, population, ideology (or lack of), character (secular or religious), amount of 'private Palestinian land' it occupies, and a graph that tracks its population growth.

iPhone users can also zoom in on outposts marked in red. The map includes the route of the Green Line, Jerusalem's municipal boundaries, and the various zones under different security arrangements, Area A and Area B.

“One of the things that make this tool so powerful is that it democratizes data,” DeLee said. “In the past, not many were able to tour the settlements with an expert guide. With the introduction of our app, anyone can explore the West Bank with just a click of a mouse or a touch of a finger.”

APN intends to update the map regularly with new information, including the establishment of outposts and their dismantlement, and violent incidents on the part of Palestinians and settlers. Their intention is to turn the app into a "comprehensive real-time view of what is happening on the ground in the West Bank."

The application is currently only available in English for the iPhone and iPad, and for a desktop or laptop web browser, but Americans for Peace Now has said that a Hebrew version of the mobile phone app is under production, and that they are in the process of porting it to the Android operating system. 

The free application can be downloaded from the Apple Store here.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Dutch ban on settlement mayors is a warning sign on the wall

Gush Shalom: Dutch ban on settlement mayors is a warning sign on the wall. Even Israel's best friends will never accept settlements in Occupied Territory

"Your association has fully earned the public humiliation of having the Dutch Government refuse to receive its delegation, which included the municipal heads of such West Bank settlements as Kiryat Arba, Efrat and Oranit" Gush Shalom said in a letter to Shlomo Buhbut, head of the Local Government Association. "You have submitted to the Dutch what purported to be a list of heads of municipalities in Israel, wishing to hold an official visit there. It was no great feat to ascertain that some of them were not at all from Israel, but from the settlements in Occupied Territory which are outside the borders of Israel."

To PM Netanyahu, Gush Shalom wrote: "The Dutch decision is an unmistakable warning sign, written on the wall. It is but a small sample of what we can expect should you give in to the pressure of the settlers and their helpers and decide next week to resume settlement construction in the occupied territories. The Netherlands are known over many years for a deep friendship toward Israel, but neither the Netherlands nor any of Israel's other friends would ever agree to the existence of settlements in Occupied Territory. Not only is this a serious violation of International Law, but is also  blocks any chance for peace in our region, thus increasing instability in the entire world. The choice you and the whole country face is sharp and clear: either peace or settlements, either Israel's acceptance as a legitimate part of the region or international isolation and the loss of even our staunchest friends."

Gush Shalom

More photos of the illegal Jewish Settlements in Occupied Palestine.

Carter Criticizes Obama Over Settlement Backtrack

Carter in new book: Obama turned back on settlement freeze

The former U.S. president also criticizes Bill Clinton, writing that Israeli settlement building in the West Bank was especially rapid under his administration.

In his new book, former United States president Jimmy Carter criticizes President Barack Obama over his policy on Israel's settlement freeze, writing that the President has backed away from his initial commitment to a complete halt to building in West Bank settlements.

The Associated Press purchased a copy of Carter's book, White House Diary, on Friday, ahead of its release Monday.

Carter also criticizes fellow Democrat and former president Bill Clinton over his policy on Israel settlement expansion, writing that settlement building was especially rapid during Clinton's administration.

This past week, the newspaper Asharq Al Awsat reported that the Obama administration has suggested Israel extend the current moratorium on construction in West Bank settlements, which is set to expire on September 26, for an additional three months.

The expiration date for the settlement freeze has loomed over the recently re-launched direct peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinians have threatened to walk away from the talks if the freeze is not extended.

On Thursday, the European Union called on Israel to extend the settlement freeze in light of the peace talks which began this month.

"The European Union deems it indispensable that both parties observe calm and restraint and refrain from actions that could affect negatively the progress of the negotiation," the group stated following a meeting in Brussels. "In this regard, it recalls that settlements are illegal under international law and, with a view to ensure that these talks continue in a constructive manner, calls for an extension of the moratorium decided by Israel."

The former president's views on Israel have caused controversy in the past, such as when he likened Israeli policy in the West Bank to apartheid South Africa in his book "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid".

Source: Haaretz

Saturday, 18 September 2010

9/11. The Mother of All Coincidences


Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, for example.

On the anniversary of 9/11 he wrote a provocative piece entitled The Mother of All Coincidences. Here's a flavour:
So what, in the end, can we conclude? 1. We still do not know the real story about 9/11. 2. The official version is not credible. 3. 9/11 was used to justify invading strategic Afghanistan and oil-rich Iraq. 4. The attacks plunged America into wars against the Muslim world and enriched the US arms industry. 5. 9/11 boosted pro-Israel neoconservatives, formerly a fringe group, into power, and with them America’s totalitarian far right. 6. Bush’s unprovoked war against Iraq destroyed one of Israel’s two main enemies. 7. 9/11 put America in what may turn out to be a permanent state of war with the Muslim world – a key goal of the neoconservative
But I’ve seen no hard evidence to date that 9/11 was a plot by America’s far right or by Israel or a giant cover-up. Just, perhaps, the Mother of All Coincidences.  In the end, it may just have been 19 angry Arabs and a bumbling Bush administration looking for someone else to blame.  
Read the whole article here

The Not So 'Special Relationship'

John Mearsheimer has written an excellent piece, American public opinion and the special relationship with Israel, published on Mondoweiss. He cites the Chicago Council on Global Affairs major study of how the American public think about foreign policy. He shows, for example, that unconditional support for Israel is declining and a majority of American's oppose defending Israel in the event of a war with Iran.
"a clear majority of Americans (56%) say that if Israel were to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, Iran were to retaliate against Israel, and the two were to go to war, the United States should not bring its military forces into the war on the side of Israel and against Iran.”
And on the 'special relationship':
only 33 percent of those surveyed feel that Israel is “very important” to the United States, while 41 percent said it was “somewhat important.” It is also worth noting that on the list of countries that were said to be “very important” to the United States, Israel ranked fifth behind China, Great Britain, Canada, and Japan. Of course, all of those countries have a normal relationship with the United States, not a special relationship like the one Israel has with Washington. 
Read more here

Friday, 17 September 2010

British Trade Unions Unanimous Support for Divestment and Boycott to End the Occupation of Palestine

Britain's unions have thrown their weight behind a campaign of disinvestment and boycott from companies which are profiting from Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territories.

Trade unions voted unanimously today at the TUC's annual conference for a motion put forward by the Transport Salaried Staffs' Association (TSSA), seconded by the GMB, and supported by UNSION, PCS (the Public and Commercial Services Union) and the FBU (Fire Brigades' Union).

The motion called for the General Council to work closely with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign to actively encourage affiliates, employers and pension funds to disinvest from, and boycott the goods of, companies who profit from illegal settlements, the Occupation and construction of the Apartheid Wall.

It condemned Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territories, in particular Gaza, and the Israeli military's deadly assault on aid ships carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza in May. It also called for an immediate end to the siege on Gaza, and a full independent inquiry into the attack on the Turkish aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, which killed nine activists.

A separate General Council statement requires the TUC, which represents 6.5 million workers across the UK, to have a concrete programme for action in place by next month

Hugh Lanning, Chair of PSC, said: ‘This motion builds on that passed at last year's conference to campaign for a boycott of goods from the illegal West Bank settlements. It is a massive step forward in the movement for justice for the Palestinian people, and reflects growing public anger at Israel's aggression towards the Palestinians and those, such as the humanitarians on the Gaza aid flotilla, who try to help them.'

Mr Lanning added: ‘Trade unions were pivotal in helping to end Apartheid in South Africa and bring freedom to that country's people. Today's vote shows that Britain's unions are prepared to stand up again in support of an oppressed people - this time the Palestinians - and help them to win their freedom. This is an historic moment for the union movement in the UK, and one that it can be proud of.'



Thursday, 16 September 2010

Israeli Firm Accused of Espionage in the US


Israeli intel firm behind Pennsylvania’s ‘terror’ bulletins on peace, environment, LGBT groups

Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell has just ordered his state's Homeland Security director to cancel a $125,000 contract with an outfit called the Institute of Terrorism Research and Response (ITRR). The Associated Press reports:

Read more on Mondoweiss , Huffingpost and Ron Paul Forums

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Do Israelis Really Want Peace?

israeli palestinian flags 
Matt Duss has written an excellent article deconstructing Israeli Ambassador, Michael Oren's op. ed. in the LA Times. He asks: Do Israelis Want Peace? Here's part of hisd article:

Oren acknowledges, “Yes, many Israelis are skeptical about peace, and who wouldn’t be?”
We withdrew our troops from Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in order to generate peace, and instead received thousands of missiles crashing into our homes. We negotiated with the Palestinians for 17 years and twice offered them an independent state, only to have those offers rejected. Over the last decade, we saw more than 1,000 Israelis — proportionally the equivalent of about 43,000 Americans — killed by suicide bombers, and tens of thousands maimed. We watched bereaved mothers on Israeli television urging our leaders to persist in their peace efforts, while Palestinian mothers praised their martyred children and wished to sacrifice others for jihad.
I understand that it’s Oren’s job as ambassador to offer the Israeli point of view, but framing the issue as “Israeli mothers want peace/Palestinian mothers want death for their children” is pretty disgusting. Is there a deeply objectionable culture of martyrdom rooted in Palestinian society? Yes, there is. It’s amazing what decades of being treated like cattle can do to a people. Oren asks us to sympathize with the Israeli experience of living under terrorist threat, and I completely agree that we should, but so should we try to understand the Palestinian experience of having their daily lives prescribed by a brutal and byzantine system of military law designed specifically to divest them of their land and prevent them securing their national rights.

As for the idea that Israel withdraw from Gaza “in order to generate peace,” this claim has been so conclusively discredited that I’m actually stunned that Oren thinks he can get away with it. Ariel Sharon withdrew from Gaza explicitly in order to forestall peace. Or, as his senior adviser Dov Weisglass put it to Haaretz, “The significance of the [Gaza] disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process”:
“And when you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state, and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Effectively, this whole package called the Palestinian state, with all that it entails, has been removed indefinitely from our agenda. And all this with authority and permission. All with a presidential blessing and the ratification of both houses of Congress.” [...]
The disengagement is actually formaldehyde,” he said. “It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians.”
So, either Weisglass was lying then, and the Gaza withdrawal was actually a clever triple-bank shot attempt by Ariel Sharon, a lifelong opponent of the peace process, to move the peace process forward, or Oren isn’t being straight now.

Read more in the Wonk Room

Hope for the Holy Land

Lynne Hybels endorses the new documentary film, ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’

 Lynne Hybels, wife of Bill Hybels, the founding and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, has spoken out in support of the new groundbreaking documentary movie, “Little Town of Bethlehem,” a film that follows the story of three men of three different faiths and their lives in Israel and Palestine. The story explores each man’s choice of nonviolent action amidst a culture of overwhelming violence.

Poster for the new documentary movie
The film shows the struggle to promote equality through nonviolent engagement in the midst of incredible violence that has dehumanized all sides. Sami’s story begins as a young boy living in the Israeli-occupied West Bank; Yonatan’s starts on an Israeli military base; and Ahmad’s begins in a Palestinian refugee camp.

In her latest blog (http://lynnehybels.blogspot.com), Mrs. Hybels wrote: “Two years ago, as I listened to the escalating rhetoric of hate in the international media, I became haunted by the thought that Christians, Muslims and Jews are going to blow up the world. I was passionately engaged in AIDS-related ministry in sub-Saharan Africa, yet I couldn’t shake a growing concern about the ongoing conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that ripples in waves of hostility throughout the world.

“After six trips in eighteen months to the Middle East my concern has become personal, connected to individual names and faces, to specific places and heartbreaking stories. My heart has been broken by the pain suffered by both Jews and Arabs. I’ve been overwhelmed by the complex politics of the region, and disheartened to see theology used to fuel the conflict. I’ve read and studied and pondered. I’ve spent sleepless nights praying for peace.

“And I have wondered: After decades marked by cycles of brutal violence, is peace between Israelis and Palestinians possible? Is there any hope that Christians, Muslims and Jews can work together for peace?”

Lynne Hybels
She then spoke about the documentary, saying, “A new film called ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ tells the true stories of three young men—a Palestinian Christian, a Palestinian Muslim, and an Israeli Jew—who have committed their lives to pursuing a nonviolent solution to this conflict.
“The film isn’t about taking sides or assessing blame; at premier screenings, Israeli and Palestinian audiences expressed appreciation for its lack of bias. Filmed on location in the West Bank, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, the film is about equality, courage and hope.
“During my recent travels I’ve been blessed to become friends with one of the men featured in the film, Palestinian Christian Sami Awad. A committed follower of Jesus, Sami has been a leader in the growing nonviolent movement in the Middle East. Though the movement rarely, if ever, makes international headlines, I am convinced that it pleases the heart of God. I think every American—certainly every Christian—should watch this film!

“Little Town of Bethlehem will be screened on major college campuses this fall. The three men featured in the film—Sami, Ahmad, and Yonatan—along with the film producer and director, will tour with the film, interacting with audiences after each showing. In the Chicago area, the film will be shown on Monday, September 27, 6-9pm, at DePaul University, Cortelyou Commons, 2324 N. Fremont St., Chicago Lincoln Park Campus. The evening is open to the public at no charge. Check http://littletownofbethlehem.org for additional information, the film trailer, and a complete list of screenings in the US and UK.”

She added: "For anyone who seeks a greater understanding of the Middle East conflict, for anyone who appreciates true stories of living heroes, or for anyone who cares about peace, this is a ‘don’t miss’ event!"

About Lynne Hybels: In 1974 Lynne married Bill Hybels, a youth pastor. A year later they started Willow Creek Community Church. Though Lynne had intended to become a social worker, she did not hesitate to commit her life to church ministry, convinced that God has given the local church a clear mandate to address the needs of “the whole person in the whole world.” For years she has been involved in Willow Creek’s ministry partnerships in under-resourced communities in Latin America and Africa. She collaborated with the Willow Creek Association to develop Hope and Action—a DVD and participants guide that helps churches and small groups begin to address the AIDS pandemic. She is the author of “Nice Girls Don’t Change the World,” and co-author of “Rediscovering Church” and “Fit to be Tied.”

Lynne currently serves in a voluntary role as Advocate for Global Engagement at Willow Creek. In recent years she has traveled extensively in Africa and the Middle East. Her current areas of focus are Casa de Luz, Willow’s Spanish-speaking congregation, a movement of support for Congolese women called Ten for Congo, and advocacy for peace with justice in the Holy land. Lynne and Bill live in Barrington, IL, and have two adult children, Todd and Shauna, one son-in-law, Aaron Niequist, and one grandson, Henry, who basically runs the family.

Source: Dan Wooding Assist News Service

Monday, 13 September 2010

Little Town of Bethlehem

 

“Most films will entertain you. Good films will educate you as well. Brilliant films will engage and move you to action. Once in a while along comes a film that motivates you to become a participant rather than spectator. This is one of those rare films.

Would to God that every Jew, every Muslim and Christian in the Middle East could be part of a triplet like this. 

Pessimistic about peace in the Middle East? Cynical about the latest round of negotiations? Then watch this film and see what can be achieved when three men, a Jew, Muslim and Christian show honesty, empathy and courage to resolve the stalemate non-violently.

The best time to sow the seeds of peace was 40 years ago. The second best time is today.

If you only watch one film this Christmas, make sure it is Little Town of Bethlehem."

Little Town of Bethlehem
is a new moving documentary offering the hope of nonviolence for the middle-east is finding a unique way of reaching audiences around the world, including the UK and Ireland. Little Town of Bethlehem, created by award-winning director Jim Hanon and produced by Mart Green, shares the gripping story of three men, born into violence, willing to risk everything to bring an end to violence in their lifetime.




In the film, a Palestinian Christian, a Palestinian Muslim, and an Israeli Jew—shaped by events of their Palestinian and Israeli upbringing—find inspiration in the words and actions of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi. Sami, Ahmad, and Yonatan believe that violence can indeed be stopped but recognize their own struggles will remain. Yet they will struggle together to discover a common humanity through nonviolent action.

Following a successful European Premiere at the Greenbelt Festival (www.greenbelt.org.uk), EthnoGraphic Media, the non-profit organization behind the film, are working with student groups, local communities, charities and churches to engage locally with people about global issues. There already more than 125 local screenings planned across Europe and North America, with more being organized every week.
The film will be shown at Christ Church, Virginia Water, GU25 4PT on Sunday 28th November at 2.00pm.

To find, or organize, a local screening visit www.littletownofbethlehem.org, where trailers and other videos are also available to view, or email imatthews@egmfilms.org.

Why Israel Doesn't Care About Peace

The mainstream media are finally catching on to what the more progressive news sources and NGOs have been saying for decades - Israel doesn't care about peace with the Palestinians because Israel doesn't need peace with a subjugated non-entity.

This article by Karl Vick for Time polls Israeli opinion on the so called peace procession.

In the week that three Presidents, a King and their own Prime Minister gather at the White House to begin a fresh round of talks on peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the truth is, Israelis are no longer preoccupied with the matter. They're otherwise engaged; they're making money; they're enjoying the rays of late summer. A watching world may still define their country by the blood feud with the Arabs whose families used to live on this land and whether that conflict can be negotiated away, but Israelis say they have moved on. 
Now observing 2½ years without a single suicide bombing on their territory, with the economy robust and with souls a trifle weary of having to handle big elemental thoughts, the Israeli public prefers to explore such satisfactions as might be available from the private sphere, in a land first imagined as a utopia. "Listen to me," says Eli Bengozi, born in Soviet Georgia and for 40 years an Israeli. "Peace? Forget about it. They'll never have peace. Remember Clinton gave 99% to Arafat, and instead of them fighting for 1%, what? Intifadeh."
Read the rest here: 

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Dishonest Broker

“This man cannot be a negotiator between the two parties,” Lauren Booth, who is the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Tony Blair, told Tehran Times and Mehr News Agency reporters in an interview in Tehran on Monday.

Booth was part of a group of people who embarked on a voyage in August 2008 to break the siege of Gaza, and she is optimistic that the blockade will be smashed.

She had entered Gaza by ship from Cyprus. However, she then became stuck in the Gaza Strip as she was refused entry into both Israel and Egypt.

“I was in the first Free Gaza Movement attempting to break the siege,” she noted.

Following is an excerpt of the interview:

Q: What is your feeling about visiting the besieged Gaza Strip?

A: I had the honor of (being)… with the strongest people and the kindest people, who deserve to be copied in the world. They made me strong, and I really want to help the Palestinians even more.

Q: What is your assessment of the movement that has been started to break the Gaza blockade? Do you think the Gaza siege will finally be broken through such moves?

A: In fact, there are hundreds of international groups, all committed to smashing the siege of Gaza, the flotilla groups, IHH (the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief)… the Free Gaza Movement. They have now spread the word across the world. There are the American ships planning to go, Jewish ships wanting to go, Libyan ships, Greek ships, Swedish ships. The world has seen the true face of Israeli aggression and is… against it in a beautiful, friendly, and loving way.

And then we have the wonderful deeds of the Palestinian movement led by George Galloway, which continues to try to go across the land and bring hundreds of people to the Gaza Strip.

All of them want to go there to see with their own eyes and to give moral support rather than practical support to the people of Gaza, and this is so important. It gives the people there strength to carry on because they feel something is happening, because the people of this world will force Israel to change. I don’t believe Israel will change itself.

Q: What is your assessment of the Middle East talks, especially the recent meeting between the acting Palestinian Authority president and the Israeli prime minister? What are the prospects and challenges?

A: Well, I think anybody who really is interested in Palestinian justice has a duty to support Palestinian unity and should in no way try to take one side in the Palestinian question. And by that I mean we need unity between Fatah and Hamas to put in order a decent and strong list of demands to Israel, and unfortunately this is impossible on the Palestinian side at the moment because they have factions. That’s the first thing.

The second thing is Avigdor Lieberman. The foreign minister of Israel is a racist, and while Netanyahu is glad-handing Obama and talking about prospects for peace, the foreign minister says there will be no agreement with Palestine for another generation. Avigdor Lieberman is the real face of Israeli politics.

Q: Do you believe that we will have a two-state solution in one territory at the end? Israel and Palestine side by side?

A: With Avigdor Lieberman ruling over Palestine, it would never be likely. But I’m interested in the one-state solution idea primarily because it scares the hell out of Israel.

Q: What is the role of Britain in the Middle East peace talks?

A: The new British government is led by the Conservative Party. About eighty percent of the Conservatives are members of a pro-Israeli group. Tell me how that can be a fair negotiation team?

Q: What role can Tony Blair play in the Mideast quartet committee?


A: (He) should now resign immediately in light of his revelation in his book that his world view revolves around Israelis’ needs, which is written in his own words in his memoirs, and his clear belief that if you are an Arab, Middle Eastern, Persian, or Afghan, you have no right to protest in a loud way. You have to only accept what you are told. This man cannot be a negotiator between two parties when that is his view of the Middle East.

Q: Do you think Obama can broker a deal between Israel and Palestine?

A: Well this is the best chance in a political generation for clever maneuvering that comes out of America concerning the so-called Middle East peace process. I think Obama has got more intelligence than the former ones. But we still have Hillary Clinton, who swears allegiance to Israel every moment that the camera is on her. And yet, he (Obama) has been critical of the settlement building.

Q: You wrote a letter to Press TV in which you called Mr. Blair a representative of a crusade. Is that true?


A: I’m only commenting on Tony Blair’s own words in his book A Journey. At the end of his book, in the final chapter, he talked in great detail about what he sees as radical Islam, extreme Islam, political Islam. What he seems to mean is any form of Islam and certainly the form of Islam which gives people the right to protest against the U.S. and Israel. So it can be seen as some kind of personal religious crusade, by which I mean Israel is backed by the Christian Zionist groups.

Tony Blair backs Israel. All of these people are against Islam in the Middle East and against protest against Israel. You can see it as a crusade.

Q: In general, do you think that there will be some kind of Armageddon between the East and the West in the future?

A: I’m very optimistic most of the time and not very afraid that this moment will come. I’m optimistic because never before in history has there been such contact between human beings from each country, activists around the world trying to bring peace, trying to change the dialogue and trying to sail boats for freedom, and doing wonderful actions without their governments’ permission. I think it is a wonderful thing and can change the world in a good way.

Q: Would you tell us about your memories and your contacts with the Palestinian people.

A: I once asked a rabbi, “Do you go to Jerusalem?” and he said, “Never, ever because I would be working in the field of Palestinians.”

I meet Palestinian people in the West Bank and in Gaza when I go. I’m desperate to know that leaders support them, but they also want unity and support a united Palestinian leadership with all factions. The Palestinians also feel they have been betrayed by Arab leaders. I was in Hebron with my eight-year-old daughter last November. We went for a peace cycle together from Amman to Jerusalem. My daughter cycled all the way through the West Bank. She did thirty kilometers a day. She is eight and she said, ‘I’m cycling for peace mommy.’ I was in a van, but she would not get off her bike, and it was one of the most beautiful things in the world to see. This child cycled with boys from Qalqilya, which is surrounded by the war. It is an ancient town guarded by Israeli soldiers. For 10 days they cycled, and the happiness that they shared just to be free in their own land, I’ll never forget it.

Q: Do you have any plans to go to Gaza in the future?


A: I hope to go on the next ship next month. 


Source: Tehran Times

The Peace Procession

On Thursday afternoon while I was waiting to pick up my son from the railway station after school, I witnessed the tail end of a fracas between two school boys. They were just leaving the car park with their shirts off still swearing at each other surrounded by a group of bemused school friends. One boy clearly looked more muscular and had his leather belt in his hand. He had clearly used it. I stopped the car momentarily wondering if there was anything I should do, could do, but I drove on. Along the street there were other adults looking on passively. I wondered about calling the police. If these were local teenagers, and they met every day after school, it could easily escalate if not diffused or resolved. If I had been there earlier and seen the fight I might have intervened.

Imagine if the stronger boy had pinned the weaker boy down on the ground, his knee across the victims windpipe, arms trapped behind his back. Imagine the stronger boy going through his victims pockets stealing his phone, his money, his possessions. Imagine a police officer arriving swiftly. But instead of intervening saying “We will not impose a solution”. Troubled by his inactivity, you discover that the police officer is related to the bully. That this is not a lone incident but has been going on for over 40 years. That the victim comes from a large family many of whom are very angry at the lack of justice. You discover that the police have been paying some of the victims relatives bribes so that they would not intervene. Other relatives, unwilling to take the money, have been intimidated with late night visits, arrests and destruction of property.

Hilary Clinton, the US foreign secretary said this week “We cannot not impose a solution” She was really saying “we will not impose a solution” which is tantamount to saying “we will not apply international law against our friend.”

When Benyamin Netanyahu said this week he has never given an undertaking to extend the freeze on settlements, he was saying the expansion of our occupation of Palestine is more important than our reputation in the international world. He can get away with it because he knows the United States will do nothing to stop him.

When Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister said this week, “there will not be peace for a generation” he was saying “we do not want peace for a generation”, because one more generation is all they need to achieve their objective, to eradicate any possibility of a Palestinian State.

The government of Israel does not want peace with the Palestinians because they do not need peace. They do not need to negotiate because all the cards are in their hands. They do not need to compromise land for peace because land is more important than peace and they have it all in their grasp.

We do not have a peace process – we have a peace procession that goes round and round, talking about talks, while people are suffering dispossession, their homes demolished, their olive trees uprooted and children deprived of an education, denied their future.

In the last forty years Israel has created an Apartheid system with isolated Bantustans, open prisons, ghettos for the Palestinians – like the Indian reservations of North America, somewhere the Palestinians can make their olive wood souvenirs for tourists, provide cheap labour for the settlement factories and when they periodically resist, target practice for our soldiers. This is all that the Israeli government mean by the peace process and by the two state solution. Yes – there will be a Palestinian state with a government like there was under Arafat holed up in Ramallah but with no sovereignty, no viability, no contiguity, no independence.

In fact it is an insult to compare Palestine with South Africa but under the apartheid system as much as in the Indian reservations of North America, the natives receive welfare and  subsidies.

The Israelis withdrew their settlements in Gaza. So what? How much of a prison do the guards need? 5%? In order to control a prison, all the guards need to do is build the walls, determine who is allowed in and out and what food and supplies the prisoners receive. That is why Gaza is an open prison. In Gaza and the West Bank ghettos like Bethlehem, Ramallah, Jenin and Nablus, the Israeli government decides what if any UN or humanitarian relief is allowed in. The UN has to seek permission from the Israelis to provide humanitarian care for a million or more Palestinian refugees. That is 400 lorries of supplies a day. Israel has never allowed that level of provision into Gaza, hence the tunnels and flotillas trying to break the siege.

And lets remember that collective punishment of civilians in this way is a war crime in international law. That is why Israeli politicians and military officials are so reluctant to travel to Europe without diplomatic assurances of immunity from arrest.

At Camp David, Oslo, Wye River Accord, Annapolis, and in the Road-Map, it was the Palestinians who made all the concessions. Israel has not made a single concession since 1967. You cannot concede what is not yours in the first place. If I break into your home and steal your possessions and then am willing to return 80% of your property is that a concession?

Biased?
Of course I am. I am bias toward the poor, the marginalised. Biased for peace.

Pessimistic?
A pessimist is an optimist with information. Yes I am pessimistic about the peace procession because there is no political will to impose international law. Why are we so keen to impose sanctions on Iran or intervene militarilty as we did in Iraq and Afghanistan but not Palestine?

Determined?
You bet. Determined to continue calling for justice for Israelis and Palestinians. Determined to practice peaceful, non-violent resistance against evil. Determined to work for peace and reconciliation.

What about you? Remember the boys in the station car park? It happened again to a 14 year old boy in Staines this week. And it will happen to hundreds of 14 year old boys in Palestine today. And unless we act, it could very well happen to millions of Iranian, Arab, Israeli and Palestinian children tomorrow.