AMP Dinner as a Community Gathering

November 17, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

Silicon Valley–Your reporter’s commentary on Lauren Booth’s stirring observations on Palestine during Ramadan was part of a community Ramadan Iftar banquet presented by the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) as a fund-rising dinner.

Now, shortly, after Eid al-Adha, as your writer writes, the nearby Occupy Oakland encampment is being brutally removed.  This week (last for you) Professors (several of your reporter’s friends are  Muslims employed within the organization)  plan to have a one day strike against the California State University (ies) system brought on by the collapse of this State’s finances.  Also, related to Sacramento’s woes was the violent repression of the student demonstration at U.C. Berkeley within the fortnight.   (Your correspondent has just heard an announcement of occupy-type campus actions across he American land.)  Curiously, the  American issues your Scribe has been mentioning do relate to the Arab “Spring” where the success of the Tunisian elections is one of the bright spots!
The Islamophobic repression of the Gaza show at the Children’s Museum in Oakland has been blunted by the placement of the Gazan child depictions of Operation Cast Lead gallery in that very same city whose owner, fortunately, was sympathetic to the Palestinian plight.  Thus, the report below:

Yours truly originally drafted this piece as part of his concentration on our Holy Land of the  Night Ride going to the United Nations (U.N.) to demand her right to be an independent entity within the world’s sovereign nation-states.  Well, that has happened but, as your reported predicted, it was referred to Committee as a delaying tactic, and now that it has emerged from that Committee with a mixed report-back.  Now, its chances of succeeding in the Security Council are being obfuscated.  President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) would accept nothing less than the status of full Statehood; therefore, the option of partial recognition with all its benefits is, at this time, rejected by the Arabs of the trans-Jordan.

Simultaneously, UNESCO (the United Nations’ Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), an important sub-section of the U.N., has recognized Ramallah as an autonomous member.  This has encouraged Tel Aviv to punish Palestine by approving 2,000 new Settlements on Arab-speaking traditional land, and to refuse to reimburse the “Occupied” Territories the taxes they collected on their behalf to finance the P.A. itself!   In essence the Jews have stolen from their neighbors their rightful wealth!  At the same time, a Bill is going through the American Congress to punish the Levant’s oppressed even further.  Please, our readers, who are U.S. citizens or residents, ask your Representatives and Senators to oppose these moves, and the President, if it should appear on his desk, to veto it!

With the recent outrageous jet attacks upon (Palestinian) Gaza with Israel, further, killing five Egyptian soldiers as “collateral damage” leading to riots in Cairo’s streets.  Bi-lateral relations between the two nations (Egypt-Israel) have never been worse since the Camp David Accords  –  besides, it was not Hamas (the unfairly vilified rulers of Gaza) who were involved, but the most likely combatants were the Islamic Jihad (org).

Dr. Hatem Bazian was the spokesman at the AMP (American Muslims for Palestine) at the Banquet that night.  Bazian is the co-founder and primary chief organizer for that night’s Iftar fund-raising dinner. 

Further, he is the co-founder of Zaytuna College of Berkeley, the only accredited Islamic institute of higher education in the United States.   He is now serving as an Academic Chair there and at U.C. Berkeley.

Bazian’s doctoral training is in Philosophy and Islamic Studies at the University of California there in Berkeley.  For five years (2002-2007) he was an Adjunct Professor of Law at U.C.’s Boalt Hall (Law School).  Presently, he is a Lecturer in both the Departments of Near Eastern Studies Lecturer and in the Ethnic Studies

His central academic interests include Islamophobia and its de-constructing and the Othering of Islam – especially in the U.S. and secondarily in the West in general.

He has, also, served as a Visiting Professor at Saint Mary’s College (directly across the East Bay hills in the town of Moraga in Contra Costa County in what is known as the Outer Bay) in Religious Studies plus he is an advisor to the University of California’s Center on Religion, Politics and Globalization.

At Berkeley, he founded the Study and Documentation of Islamophobia, too.

Dr. Bazian, a Muslim Palestinian-American, has been a player in several local (S.F. Bay Area) human rights agendas including the defense of the Americans for Disability Act (ADA), the Anti-Apartheid Movement and the Anti-Globalization uprising, which, curiously, has influenced the current “Occupy Wall Street” Movement that has recently  sprung up not only here but all over the U.S.A. and elsewhere.

Bazian began his talk by stating that Muslim students within the community should be encouraged to move away from the traditional engineering and medical doctor’s degrees into broader liberal arts and other professions of direct visibility and leadership within American society.  (This is something this paper has advocated – especially in journalism.  To achieve agency, i.e., self-determination, Islam requires prominence within the greater society and a voice in public policy and politics and elsewhere in the U.S.)

One of the central goals of the AMP is to donate books to public libraries on Islam and especially Palestine to show that “I am Palestinian, and I love freedom, too!”  The AMP is attempting to put a human face on Palestine. They wish to “Bring awareness on Palestine from a Muslim perspective.”

The “Palestinian cause is a civil rights struggle.”  Hatem continues that “The Palestinian cause is a civil rights campaign!” (Your author ascertains at this point in the resistance in the Occupied Territories within the Fertile Crescent, it is a battle for Human Rights.  There is a difference between Civil Rights and Human Right that is often blurred, and your narrator would like to delineate it in greater detail at a future time.) Nonetheless, we are talking about Human Rights here, and it is much more pungently serious! 

Further, Hatem states, “Homo Sapiens are suffering by human hand…the AMP is educating Americans [on]what our (U.S.) government is doing [that] it doesn’t want us to know…You are changing one American at a time!”

Dr. Hatem Bazian got to his business of the night.  The AMP requires money for its upcoming grandiose plans for placards within buses in every major city in the United States to tell the story of the Palestinian plight et al.

In the following week, your author received a Facebook communication from the American Muslims for Palestine that it was changing its primary emphasis from an educational group to an organization to raise money to finance their educational efforts. 

(To be quite honest, your author cannot perceive the difference.  Their end goal is to educate Americans on the plight of Palestine.  They previously have depended upon the Zakat to finance their educational efforts.  This is what this dinner was about, and it was most certainly educational, too, with Lauren Booth’s witness upon which your columnist reported in a past issue.  Your writer believes what Hatem’s post was that the AMP would be making more of an effort to finance their very ambitious projects on education on the Palestine-Israel imbroglio to change “the hearts and minds” of Americans away from the prevalent Israeli propaganda.)

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An Eyewitness Account of the Stay Human Flotilla

September 22, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

Readers of The Muslim Observer will be familiar with the dedicated work of human rights activist, Mary Hughes -Thompson. Beginning with her travels a decade ago under the auspices of the Christian Peacemaker Teams and including her work with the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), we come now to her most recent attempt to be part of the second flotilla to Gaza. Mary has been a tireless fighter for the rights of Palestinians.

Ms Hughes-Thompson was part of the original Free Gaza Movement and sailed aboard one of the two ships that broke the decades long Israeli siege of Gaza along its Mediterranean coast in August 2008. She has made numerous trips since then and was part of a three woman communications operation on Cyprus during the first flotilla attempt in 2010. She was one of the first people to receive the news of Israeli piracy aboard the MAVI MARMARA.

Ms Hughes has made public appearances since her return from Greece where the ship she was on was interdicted by the Greek Navy. She has agreed to speak to The Muslim Observer in depth about her experiences.

TMO: You have done so much and travelled so many miles for Palestine, you must at some point have wanted to skip this trip with its attendant risks. Could you share your feelings and what, in the end, compelled you to go?

MHT:  Traveling to and inside Palestine is something I have always found to be physically and emotionally exhausting.   Also as a senior on a fixed income I have to make a lot of sacrifices in order to cover the extensive travel costs involved, as of course do all of us who make Palestine a priority.  For all these reasons I felt I couldn’t afford to participate in another flotilla.   As the time for departure neared, and so many of my friends and colleagues prepared to join the flotilla, I realized I needed after all to find a way to be a part of it.

Ms Thompson contacted organizers of the Turkish campaign and was told there was a strong possibility the MAVI MARMARA might not sail. 

Israel had announced, following the deaths on the MAVI MARMARA in 2010, that it regarded only that ship as hostile. The other members of the flotilla were acknowledged by Israel to have non threatening humanitarian aims. It was felt that the presence of the MAVI MARMARA might give Israel the excuse to stop the flotilla. In the end, the ship stayed in port in Turkey.

TMO: Could you tell us, please, what your next step was.

MHT: I then contacted the organizers of Canadian Boat to Gaza campaign and asked to be considered as a passenger on its boat TAHRIR.   I was delighted to be accepted for  passage, and ten days later I left for Greece and the island of Crete where the boat was berthed.

At this time Greece was in turmoil due to severe domestic and financial problems.  For weeks, thousands of Greek citizens held huge demonstrations against their government.  While I felt that the people of Greece supported the Palestinian cause, it became apparent that the government could probably not withstand pressure from the governments of Israel and the US.
Nonetheless, a member of the Greek parliament went to the boat to express his best wishes.

TMO: What did he say, and did he bring the wishes of other people and/or groups?

MHT:  After the Coast Guard delayed our departure repeatedly over nearly two weeks, the Greek minister came on board TAHRIR to show support for our efforts to be allowed to leave Greece and sail for Gaza.  He promised to do his best to intercede on our behalf, assuring us that most Greek citizens supported the flotilla.

In the weeks before passengers on all the boats gathered at various Greek ports,  Israel sent its ambassadors to all of the countries whose citizens were sending boats to join the flotilla, attempting to persuade the governments to stop them from doing so. Israel also pressured maritime Insurance groups and companies which supplied satellite equipment to the ships of the flotilla, threatening  legal action if they provided their services.

Israeli journalist, freedom advocate, and TAHRIR passenger, Amira Haas wrote: “The flotilla’s organizers added a term from the world of business and globalization to their description of Israel’s domination of the Palestinians. Israel, they said, was outsourcing the industry of the blockade on Gaza.”

TMO: Can you describe the feeling aboard the TAHRIR – optimistic, pessimistic, wait and see?

MHT: We stayed optimistic throughout, even when we began to see it was just a game being played by Greece at the behest of Israel and the U.S.  We hoped Greece would eventually run out of excuses and let us leave.  We all wanted more than anything to sail to Gaza, but we felt that no matter what happened we were winning because of the publicity and of the shameless way Israel and the U.S. were behaving.  We felt everything just proved how scary we were to Israel.  Also, once we decided to break out and set sail, even though we didn’t expect to get far, we were euphoric and were almost as excited as if we truly were on our way to Gaza. 

TMO: Can you tell us something about your fellow passengers aboard the TAHRIR? Were the passengers an eclectic mix? Were various peace groups represented?

MHT: The participants called theirs the A-B-C-D group;  while most passengers were from Canada, there were contingents from Australia, Belgium and Denmark which had helped raise the money to buy TAHRIR.  All of the training was conducted in French and English, and we became close friends. Though not well known in the U.S. we had several participants who are well known leaders in their own countries.  Also Kevin Neish who was on board the MAVI MARMARA last year.  He and Amira were to be on the MAVI this year but transferred to TAHRIR when MAVI dropped out)
{ Note from TMO that a list of passengers and their specifics can be found on their web site: www.tahir.ca.}

Spokespersons for each boat told of the same unrelenting demands by the Greek Navy and the same tedious excuses – the need to see papers, papers, and more papers; finding fault with the size of the berths, and inadequate temperature control. In the end, no one was allowed to leave Greek coastal waters.

TMO: When you were boarded by the Greek Navy after you began to sail absent permission, were you frightened? Did you think you would be arrested?

MHT:  I wouldn’t say any of us were frightened because we hadn’t found any of the Greeks to be hostile to us.  When they boarded with guns drawn they certainly were serious about stopping us, but they didn’t attack any of the passengers.  I personally found it somewhat intimidating because I realized how helpless we would have been if it had been Israelis who would be very brutal and would have no consideration for our safety, no matter how old we were.

TMO: Tell us about the medicines aboard the TAHRIR. Had you reached Gaza what would have been the next step in their distribution?

MHT: Our two doctors (one Belgian, one French-Canadian) told us we had $30,000. in much needed medicine.  They said it was chosen  very carefully because it was important medicine that was completely unavailable in Gaza and which would save lives.  We saw it ourselves, and saw the earliest expiry date was 2014.

Amira Haas has noted that the primary problem in Gaza is not starvation. Food is brought in via tunnels albeit at an inflated price. And the Palestinians in Gaza take care of one another. The real problem is freedom. By separating the West Bank from Gaza the public can easily forget that Gaza is Palestine. Prisoners released from incarceration in the West Bank are often sent to Gaza where they cannot leave. This is a life sentence for them.

TMO: Can you tell us your hopes for true freedom for the people of Gaza?

MHT: My hope is that as the world community becomes increasingly aware that Israel is the primary cause of all the violence in Palestine, Israel will find itself even more isolated and unable to continue getting away with masquerading as the victim.   Facebook and social networking have been very important in educating more and more people to what is happening, and I believe these people are increasingly on the side of Palestinian rights.

TMO: Despite the failure of the flotilla to reach Gaza so many passengers have seen good come out of the attempt. Can you comment on that?

MHT: We were disappointed, of course, because we hadn’t anticipated that Israel’s talons could reach so far from its own shores.  We knew our friends in Gaza were enthusiastically planning for our arrival, and that they too were disappointed once again. But I don’t see it as a failure.  I see it as just another nail in the coffin of zionist Israel.  Starting with the attack on Lebanon, then Gaza, followed by last year’s massacre on the MAVI MARMARA and attack on all the flotilla boats, and finally what happened to Flotilla 2 – Stay Human, Israel finally realizes its glory days are over, and that if it doesn’t made some serious changes it will soon be completely friendless.  More important, we continue to be energized by the strength and endurance of the people of Gaza and all of Palestine who have found hope from our boats.  I am so proud to have been instrumental, along with some wonderful Free Gaza colleagues, in reaching the shores Gaza three years ago, and humbled to realize all that has happened as a result of our crazy idea.

TMO: We know you do not give up. Can you tell us your plans for the next trip to break the siege of Gaza?

MHT:  The U.S. boat is still being held in Greece, clearly under orders from the U.S.  Most of the other boats have been moved to other ports, including TAHRIR. While I can’t give details of future plans, I am confident there will be another flotilla.  And I will be there.  Today’s announcement from Turkey that warships will accompany future flotillas is very welcome, because we know each time we set sail we risk death or serious injury in the international waters of the Mediterranean.  We find it remarkable that Israel seems to underestimate our commitment to peace for the people of Palestine.  Each time they stop our boats, attack our boats, ram our boats, murder our passengers… thousands more around the world ask to join our next flotilla.  We will not be intimidated and we will not stop sailing our boats until Gaza and all of Palestine are free.

The Muslim Observer extends its thanks to Ms Hughes-Thompson for her time and for the great work she has done as a human rights activist.

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Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Event

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) has announced the attendance of two very special guests at this years  banquet/fundraiser. The two sisters, Fatema and Hala, ages 10 and 11,  were seriously burned in a house fire in Gaza, Palestine. They are but two of the many children that the PCRF has helped in the long  journey from illness and disability along the long road to health with the  concurrent ability to lead a normal life. Ahmad Saloul who is 9 years old and is  also from Gaza will join them. He is awaiting surgery at Shriners Hospital in  Los Angeles.

The event will be held September 24th at the Anaheim  Hilton in Anaheim, Ca. Tickets are $100 each with table sponsorships available.  To purchase a ticket(s), please call: 562-432-0005 or fax at:  562-684-0828.

The girls will travel to Texas to be treated for  their injuries, but only after a trip to Disneyland. They will incur no expenses  nor will their families as these expenses will be covered by the PCRF. The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund is also proud  to announce the featured speaker for the evening, Diana Buttu, a  Canadian-Palestinian attorney who has gained international acclaim and respect  for her legal work.

Ms Buttu’s accomplishments are many: herewith a few. She is a  fellow of the Harvard Law School and the Kennedy School of Government. She  currently resides in Palestine and served as a legal advisor to the Palestinian  negotiating team. She was the only woman at the Palestine-Israeli negotiations.  In 2004 she was part of a team that successfully challenged Israel’s Wall before  the International Court of Justice. Ms Bhutto later served as the communications  Director to President Abbas and frequently comments on Israeli-Palestinian  political matters for media outlets including MSNBC,CNN, Al Jazeera, and the  BBC. Ms Buttu holds degrees from the University of Toronto, Queens University,  Stanford University and Northwestern.

She will address the PCRF on the subject of Palestinian  statehood. The issue is currently at the top of the news, and her  address will coincide with the issue of statehood to be brought up before the  United Nations this month.

The PCRF is an  internationally acclaimed and honored children’s charity, specializing in the  Middle East. To find out more, access their web site at: _www.pcrf.net_ (http://www.pcrf.net/)

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Stand Up for Palestine

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The Testimony of Lauren Booth, Tony Blair’s Sister-in-law

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

susan
Lauren Booth speaks to her audience.

Newark, CA–August 14th–Ms. Lauren Booth of the United Kingdom came to this town in the Northeast Silicon Valley region of the South Bay just above San Jose to attend the American Muslims for Palestine (AMP) Annual Ramadan Iftar Banquet.

Ms. Booth is amazing for many reasons; not the least of which, by any means, is her conversion and commitment to Islam.

Lauren Booth is an exceptional journalist and activist, and the poignancy of her conversion resides in the fact that she is the Sister-in-Law of the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is presently a Special Envoy to the Quartet (of four non-Middle Eastern political entities plus the U.N.) who have an interest in settling the Arab-Israeli imbroglio.

Ms. Booth route to Islam and this Sunday night’s dais in Northern California at this well-touted San Francisco Bay Area Indo-Pakistani Restaurant, Chandani, were circuitous.  

Lauren Booth is mother to two, and sister to Cherrie Blair (the wife of the UK’s former Prime Minister); her brother in law also, has been quoted expressing pro-Palestinian views.

Lauren Booth is the sixth daughter of the actor Anthony (Tony) Booth and Pamela Smith (Cohen).  Although Booth had Jewish antecedents, she was not raised in that tradition.

She has a C.V. (Curriculum Vitae) which your resident journalist here on these pages can only look upon with jealousy.

She has worked on such prestigious English Newspapers as the New Statesman, The Mail on Sunday (for which she served on as a feature writer and columnist). 

Further, she has been a panelist on the British Broadcasting Corporation’s (BBC’s) “Have I got the News for You,” and is a broadcaster on other radio and television outlets.  Additionally, she is a regular reviewer of the U.K.  print news media on Sky, a satellite television network.

She remarked to our audience on the West Coast of the U.S.A. here that “The right-wing press has enabled my left-wing credentials!”  One of the most courageous stands she has taken was to publicly oppose the Iraq War while being a close relative by marriage of the architect of the British envolvement in that War, PM Tony Blair.

She began her speech by talking about the grave aggression by the Israelis in the Occupied Territories that she had beheld as a reporter.  “Something inside me [changed]… [when] I was sent to Palestine to cover the elections [there].”  An Israeli soldier from Brooklyn (Sic!) who examined her passport said, “Hey, a Brit, we love you!”  She realized something was askew in her country’s policies!

She came with what she described as Arabphobia, but she had to overcome a lifetime of propaganda within seventy-two hours. 

She was told “Don’t comfort the children because they won’t [can’t] cry…!”    She asked several Palestinian children what they would like to be as adults.  One young precocious girl replied, “I want to be a psychotherapist because we all are suffering [here].” 

The Israeli press undoes its photographic documentation [of the West Bank and Gaza] through its accompanying prose.

She told us about her first relief trip to Gaza, and how the citizens there were unaware of their arrival.

During Operation Cast Iron (the Israeli brutal assault on the mini-country during the last month of 2009 through the first month of 2010) the Israeli soldiers went as far as to loot the bodies of their Gazan victims!             
From reports directly from Gaza last month from doctors documenting abuses through their mobile phone cameras, she saw a boy wrapped by Israeli soldiers in barbed wire!  Also, a baby born with her intestines outside her body without the means for further emergency treatment!  She saw graphic images of Israeli mistreatment of the doctors themselves – even a M.D. being shot in the back!   There has been reported mass rape of Arab women, also.

She quotes a Palestinian boy replying to: “What did you do when they kicked you?  I got up, and I threw stones [at them]!”

She ended her comments in Newark (California) with “Thank you for listening.  Stand up for Palestine!”

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Flotilla Passengers Today’s Freedom Riders

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Truthout Staff / Editorial

2011-07-06T154320Z_1949210057_GM1E7761TVR01_RTRMADP_3_GREECE-FLOTILLA

An activist gestures on board the boat “Juliano”, part of a Gaza-bound flotilla, as it departs from Perama port near Athens for a town on the southern Greek coast July 6, 2011. Activists, whose flotilla to challenge an Israeli blockade on Gaza has been confined to Greek ports, vowed on Tuesday to complete their mission but accused Athens of being deaf to appeals to let their ships go. The Juliano will make another attempt to leave Greece on Wednesday, according to activists.

REUTERS/John Kolesidis

It has been widely reported that 25 percent of the activists on the US boat that was to sail in the Gaza flotilla are Jewish. Six of those 35 activists are Truthout friends, many of long date: Chairman of the Truthout Board Robert Naiman and contributing authors Medea Benjamin, Kathy Kelly, Ray McGovern, Gabriel Schivone and boat leader Ann Wright. Knowing that these friends are putting their lives on the line for what they believe in fills us with pride and anxiety. Our hearts are locked up with their boldly christened boat, The Audacity of Hope.

Some progressives – as well as the Obama State Department see their principled action as a provocation, and Israeli hasbara (propaganda) has pulled out all the stops to portray the flotilla members as friends of terrorists or useful idiots. We know our friends well enough to have complete confidence in their ethos of nonviolence and their acute and worldly intelligence, which would never allow itself to be exploited for ends they did not endorse. Their action is provocative, just as were those of the freedom riders in the 1960’s, designed to show the world that the law is not being enforced – in the present case, international law, which gives Israel neither the right to police Gazan waters nor to prevent that territory – at present arguably the world’s largest prison – from exporting its produce and importing essential supplies.

As of this writing, French ships from the flotilla were in international waters heading for Gaza, The Audacity of Hope is locked up in a boat jail, paralleling the situation of the people of Gaza, and other boats are stuck in Greek port or sabotaged. Some of our friends were detained Sunday for conducting a hunger strike in front of the American embassy in Athens, and again yesterday for sitting on a bench opposite the American ambassador’s residence. The captain of the boat – after having been detained in squalor and charged with endangering the safety of the passengers – has been released on his own recognizance. Everyone is reportedly exhausted, but safe, with some planning to return to the United States in the next two days and others later.

While Israel and the United States may have successfully sabotaged and thwarted the flotilla from reaching its intended destination without a public relations disaster as catastrophic as last year’s armed boarding of the Mavi Marmara and the murder of passengers, including 19-year-old American citizen Furkan Dogan, Israel can “win” this confrontation only by lifting its illegal and inhumane blockade of Gaza. For, as Matthew Fox wrote in “Original Blessing,”

Political movements for justice are part of the fuller development of the cosmos, and nature is the matrix in which humans come to their self-awareness and their awareness of their power to transform. Liberation movements are a fuller development of the cosmos’ sense of harmony, balance, justice and celebration. This is why true spiritual liberation demands rituals of cosmic celebration and healing, which will in turn culminate in personal transformation and liberation.

With extraordinary grace and courage, our friends have participated in such a ritual, and whatever the fate of The Audacity of Hope and the other boats of this year’s Gaza flotilla, they – and those who hear their stories – will return transformed and liberated, will have bent that long arc of the universe just a little bit tighter towards justice for the people of Gaza – and us all.

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Al-Awda Convention

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

As people of conscience throughout the world look for solutions to the unjust treatment Palestinians, one organization centers on a key issue: The Right to Return. 

Al-AWDA, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition, held its ninth Annual International Convention this past weekend in Anaheim, Ca.  The theme of the Convention was: Onward, United and Stronger.   

The event began on Friday evening with a display of cultural resistance through various art forms. The attendees snacked on Arab appetizers and listened to poetry, viewed art works and heard two film makers speak about their work.

Workshops filled most of the next day. Covered were such topics as Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions; Return from Exile Project, and Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign.   

Dr. Paul Larudee of the Free Palestine Movement (FPM) conducted the workshop on the Return from Exile Project. Dr. Larudee declared that the Nike slogan “Just Do It” should be the slogan for Palestinians. Too long have Palestinians waited for some organization – the United Nations – for example, to smooth their Right to Return. It is time, he said, to “just do it”.

He gave as a comparison the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions. The freedom fighters there did not ask permission of an outside body nor did they act with a preconceived notion of being rescued should their attempts fail. They not only took to the streets, they did so in such large numbers that they became unstoppable.

Dr. Larudee suggested that on a pre selected day a group of Palestinians who satisfy the requirements for the Right to Return, fly from various nations into Ben Gurion Airport. They must have a family home inside the Green Line; be citizens of and have a passport from a nation from which Israel does not require a visa; should be willing to go to jail for two weeks; must be willing to resist non violently being thrown out of Israel, and be content with the knowledge that they will be denied future entry.

The movement, Dr. Larudee emphasized, is direct action and non violent. The Free Palestine Movement is an outgrowth of the Free Gaza Movement (FGM), an organization which still exists and was the first group to break the Israeli sea blockade of Gaza, Palestine with two boats in the late summer of 2008. Dr. Larudee described the feeling of euphoria as the two boats approached Gazan shores to the cheers of the residents, crowed into the area where the boats would dock. He spoke proudly of the certificate of Palestinian citizenship he received on that voyage.

The web site of Dr. Larudee’s movement is: www.freepalestinemovement.org.

During the presentation of the Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign, two young women, students from San Diego schools, spoke of the plight of children under Israeli occupation.
“Every year 700 children are imprisoned by Israel in the West Bank.”

The speakers went on to describe middle of the night raids where children are torn from their families; interrogations with no guardian or attorney present; imprisonment for three months with no opportunity to contact the outside world, and forced confessions, written in Hebrew which the children do not understand.

“I never realized it was this terrible” said one woman in the audience. “How can this go on?”

The women went on the explain that since rebuilding materials are forbidden by the Israelis to enter Gaza, young boys often collect gravel and metal scraps. To do this they must bend over and dig. It is common for Israeli forces to open fire when the children are in this vulnerable position, the aim being to hit their legs.

The Palestinian Children’s Rights Campaign is a few months old and is an AL-AWDA project. Information may be obtained and contributions made at: www.al-awda.org.

Invited guests included: Laila Al-Arian, Michel Shehadeh, Ali Abunimah, and Dr. Salman H. Abu Sitta.

KinderUSA, International Action Center, and the International Solidarity Movement were among those organizations that held displays.

A banquet was held in the evening to honor the valuable work of Dr. And Mrs. Musa Nasir. The Nasirs are not only active and productive members of AL-AWDA, they also founded the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF). The PCRF provides treatment free of charge to Arab children in the Middle East with emphasis on Palestine. Often the work is on site, but, if that is not feasible, the children are transported to nations where they can be treated to a restoration of health. The PCRF also trains medical personnel in the oPt and donates medical equipment to Palestinian hospitals. They have recently announced their entry into the field of pediatric oncology.

AL-AWDA is a broad based, non profit, democratic and grass roots organization which seeks to create awareness of the plight of the Palestinian people. It is composed of activists and students and seeks particularly to create such awareness among members of the media and elected officials.

AL-AWDA demands the Right to Return for the Palestinian people: the restoration of Palestinian rights including return to homes and compensation for confiscated and damaged property.

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Panic from the Houses of Congress and AIPAC?

May 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Franklin Lamb

Beirut–On April 13, 2011, more than a dozen Israel “First, last and always” US congressional leaders from both houses of Congress held an urgent conference call organized by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Their purpose was to discuss how best to promote Israel during next month’s US visit by Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu and more importantly how to confront the rapidly changing Middle East political landscape. One consensus was that no one saw it coming and that is was dangerous for Israel.

Among those participating were former Jewish Chairmen of powerful committees including Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), who headed the Banking Committee; Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), ex-chairman of the Commerce and Energy committee; Howard Berman (D-Calif.), ex-chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee; and Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), ex-chairwoman of the foreign operations subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee as well as Eric Cantor, House Majority leader, the highest rankling Jewish member of Congress in history.

What AIPAC operatives reportedly told the conferees was that Netanyahu is once again furious with President Obama and outraged by what he sees as a vacillating US Government attitude towards Israeli needs. They were told that the Israeli PM sees real political danger for Israel in the shifting US public opinion in favor of the young sophisticated attractive Arab and Muslims increasingly seen on satellite channels from the region who remind the American public of their own ideals.

Netanyahu, the conferees were told, wants Congress to flex its muscle with the White House and deliver a strong message to President Obama that his political future is tied to Israel’s. Hence the current “America needs Israel more than ever stupid!” campaign wafting from the Israel lobby across the talk radio airwaves.

In addition, as more Israeli officials are indicted for various domestic crimes, and some harbor fears of arrest for international ones, 68% of the American Jewish community, according to one by poll commissioned last month by Forward, believe the US Israel lobby is increasingly fossilized with the likes of ADL (Anti-Defamation League) director Abe Foxman’s vindictive infighting among several of the largest Jewish lobby organizations which continue to lose memberships, especially among the young.

Congressman Eric Cantor lamented that “Israel is badly losing the US College campuses”, despite heavy financial investments the past few years to curb American students growing support for Gaza, Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, all dreaded symbols of the growing opposition to the 19th Century Zionist colonial enterprise. Support for Palestine is skyrocketing he claimed. “Until Palestine is freed from Zionist occupation no Arab or Muslim is truly free of Western hegemony,” according to one assistant editor of Harvard University’s student newspaper, the Crimson.

Admitting that the Mossad did not foresee even the Tunisian or Egyptian uprisings some Aipac staffers, of whom there are more than 100, admit to not knowing how to react to the topics they were presented with for discussion, some of which included:

• The Egyptian public emphatic insistence that the 1978 Camp David Accords be scrapped and that the Rafah crossing be opened. The latter has just been announced and the former is expected to be achieved before the end of the year.

• The change of regimes and the dramatic rise in publicly expressed anti-Israel sentiment and insistence that Israel close its embassy and Egypt withdraw its recognition of the Zionist state.

• The apparent rapprochement between Fatah and Hamas which has been increasingly demanded by the Palestinians under occupation and in the Diaspora.

• The fact that the new regime in Cairo is seeking to upgrade its ties with Gaza’s Hamas rulers as well as Iran.

• With respect to possible PA-Hamas rapprochement, U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor is trying to reassure Israel before Netanyahu’s visit by announcing this week that “The United States supports Palestinian reconciliation on terms which promote the cause of peace, but to play a constructive role in achieving peace, any Palestinian government must renounce violence, abide by past agreements, and recognize Israel’s right to exist.”

AIPAC, frequently knocks heads with the Israeli embassy in Washington for control of visiting Israeli PM’s and important governments schedules will control what Netanyahu says and does. AIPAC AIPAC Executive Director Howard Kohr recently told a group of visiting Jewish student activists from California that “sometimes there is confusion in this town over just where the Israeli Embassy is located but let me assure you it’s no more than 300 yards from the Capitol Dome on North Capitol Street, NW.”

AIPAC, not the Israeli Embassy will write the final draft of Netanyahu’s speeches including the themes he will emphasize. According to a Congressional source with AIPAC connections, Netanyahu’s visit will focus on the following:

• Bashing Iran to please the White House. However, this mantra will have to compete with the democratic revolutions that are sweeping the Arab world and which are terrifying not just Netanyahu, but also AIPAC and their hirelings in congress.

• Warning against the dangers to “the peace process” of any PA-Hamas unity government.

• Warnings about the threats to Israel from Egypt and popular calls for scrapping of the 1978 Camp David Accords, ending the Egyptian subsidy and supply of 40% of Israel’s natural gas, calls for closing the Israeli Embassy, the dangers of permanently opening the Rafah border crossing “that will allow Hamas to in the words of, an Israeli official speaking on condition of anonymity to the Washington Post that Gaza’s Hamas rulers had already built up a “dangerous military machine” in northern Sinai which could be further strengthened by opening the border.

• The tried and tested bromide that “Israel has no peace partner to negotiate with will be used but this too has lost its bite given that the Palestine Papers has shown that the PA for five years habitually caved into Israel demands and are widely viewed as collaborators with Israel in preserving the status quo– so what more could be expected  from them? The truth is that Mahmoud Abbas and Salem Fayyad are Netanyahu, Liberman’s and Barak’s favorite “peace partners.”

• Netanyahu will hint at and AIPAC will drill in the idea that the Obama administration has been too hard on Israel.

While Netanyahu announced this week that “I will have the opportunity to air the main parts of Israel’s diplomatic and defense policies during my visit in the United States”, informed sources report that his main goal and timing of his visit is to undermine a rumored initiative that President Obama’s team has been working on.

Netanyahu, according to AIPAC, also plans to attack the UN’s plan to admit Palestine and its offices are preparing a media blitz in an attempt to undermine the U.N. recognition of Palestine by arguing that such a General Assembly action would not in reality mean Palestinian sovereignty over the West Bank and East Jerusalem because of the fact that Israel currently controls those territories. AIPAC is arguing that such United Nations recognition of Palestine would only reiterate the principle, previously articulated by the U.N which denies the legitimacy of Israel’s claim to territories acquired by force in the war of June 1967.

In reality, and as AIPAC well knows, UN recognition of Palestine would have a devastating effect on Israel’s legitimacy and would fuel an international campaign to force every colonist out of the West Bank.

Given the feelings of virtually all people in the Middle East and North Africa toward Israel this could dramatically undermine the apartheid state. AIPAC and Israel’s agents in Congress also ignore the fact that the U.N. is the only the international body that admitted Israel as a member state in May 1949, although the resolution noted a connection between Israel’s recognition and the implementation of resolution 181 of November 1947, which called for partition of what had been British Mandate Palestine into separate Jewish and Arab states.

The reason that intense angst and even fear stalks the Houses of Congress and AIPAC is that Netanyahu will remind his hosts in the coming days that Israel has always called “home” is that some US officials are starting to express treasonous thoughts long kept to themselves.

One seemingly shocking statement was made to a visiting Oregon delegation during a recent visit to Congressional offices by a Member of Congress never known for being publicly critical of Israel. As reported via email: “He said recent events suggest that while ( the revolts spreading across the Middle East) are not the immediate end of the State of Israel, he believes they are harbingers and signal the `beginning of the end of the State of Israel as we have known it. And that will be good for America and humanity.”

“What seems to have particularly upset him was his own mentioning to the group was a recent report about a conference of Rabbis in Israel who are demanding the expulsion of non-Jews, especially Palestinians, from occupied Palestine in order to maintain the “ethnical and religious purity of the peoples of Israel.

He quoted Dov Lior, the rabbi of Kiryat Araba, an illegal settlement near Hebron, who according to media reports told a conference organized to discuss how to get non-Jews in mandatory Palestine to leave the country for the sake of Jewish immigrants who had no roots in Palestine: “Today there is a lot of land in Saudi Arabia and in Libya, too. There is a lot of land in other places. Send them there.” As scholar Khalid Amayreh reminds us, it was Lior, who in 1994 praised arch-terrorist Baruch Goldstein for massacring 29 Arab worshipers at the Ibrahimi Mosque in downtown Hebron, said peace in the Holy Land was out of question because the Arabs wouldn’t allow Jews to usurp the land.

Meanwhile, a large coalition of pro peace and pro-Palestinian organizations, under the umbrella of http://www.moveoveraipac.org/ is preparing a new and different American reception for the Israeli Prime Minister.

13-19

M.K. Hanin Zoabi and The Israeli Knesset

April 21, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Geoffrey Cook, TMO

San Francisco–April 19th–This past week the Libyan War raged without a conclusion in sight as the U.S. and allies try to find a third country that would give Colonel Khadafy if he would agreed to step down.  The European enforcement of a no-fly zone seems to be effective, but the government troops with their mercenaries still have the advantage on the land with their superior fire power and training.  At least, the French and the United Kingdom have taken the lead in the air, and the Obama Administration has shown some restraint.  Still, it is becoming more apparent that (Imperial) ground troops might be required to bolster the rebels, if they are to prevail, for they are out-gunned.  This would be a serious involvement in yet another Islamic country that should be avoided at any cost!

Your reporter has been avoiding Israel itself because of the drama around it.  Yet within it lies the fate of the Arab “Spring,” and its Palestinian citizens of all three Abrahamic religions might be able to exert the influence upon “their” government to react in a diplomatic manner rather than a hostile belligerent one.

Last Fall the Middle East Children’s Alliance brought Hanin Zoabi, a Palestinian (Arab) Israeli citizen, who represents the Balad  Party in the Israeli Knesset (Parliament) to speak in the University town of Berkeley across the Bay for the purpose of demonstrating the feminine role in the Arab-Hebrew tussle for rights within the Levant.)

Although a Palestinian with Israeli citizenship and an elected official of that nation, the week before her arrival in America to speak, she had been wounded by a rubber bullet to her neck while demonstrating against the government for which she was a representative.

Zoabi grew up in a relocation camp in exile amongst 30,000 dislocated Palestinian people.  The young women there actually would play basketball, and even learned to dance!  They, further, began to wear Western-style shorts.  Yet they still faced the restrictions of their families, even though the “Disaster” (Nakba) in 1948 changed the lives of all women in the Holy Land greatly. 

Manny Mothers lost their children in the two infitadas (violent Palestinian grass- roots revolts against the Israeli Army in which the largely youthful rioters fought the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] with rocks against the latter’s live ammunition).  The women would lost hope in the midst of the political situation!

Her family lived in banishment from their land of their birth elsewhere in the Middle East, but her Father desired to die in his natal village on the Israeli side of the division of the Palestine Protectorate before the First Arab-Israeli War in the late 1940s.  He took his family with him to their native locale which had become to be ruled by Tel Aviv.

She worked with children for awhile (probably part of MECA’s interest in her words.)  M.K. Hanin Zoabi stated that, “I belong here,” a Palestinian on her ancestral home, but within the alien Zionist State.  “The Refugee Camp has become a bad memory!”  Further, “All Palestinians here [in the audience] should go back!” 

She advocated the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanction) Movement against Israel.  Under Zionist Law, any promoter of this position, who is an Israeli citizen, is liable for prosecution, and, if convicted of such sentiments, can be imprisoned.  Ms. Zoabi is a brave woman voicing her stance on the issue, and, further, for campaigning for action along these lines!

Hanin is in one of a handful of Palestinian representatives within a predominantly Jewish Parliament.  What she does within Israel itself is politically difficult, for she is attempting to dismantle the (Settler) Colonial State!

Zoabi presents herself as a normative Arab woman who comes from a political family in Nazareth.  As a source of personal empowerment, she traveled to Gaza itself to end, as she puts it, the silent siege.  “Gaza must not be a soundless victim, for Gaza [has become] the sign[ifier] of the [Arab] Palestinian struggle!”  The division between Gaza and the West Bank is an internal scuffle within the Palestinian “State“ itself.

The Palestinian political resistance within Israel itself is to insist upon a State for the primordial Arabs citizens there themselves!  Yet, the Israelis do no not treat all as equals!

The Center has two different polices within its territory:  One is to drive the Arabs out of Israel, denying the Palestinians their rights.  Settler Colonialism criminalizes the natives for insisting on their prerogative to confront the Occupation.       

After the Second Infitada, Israel’s policies began to change:  The Palestinian issue of the Right of Return arose.  Jewish law allowed for the immigration of any of their landzman to immigrate into Israel, but, if an Israeli Arab citizen chooses to marry a Palestinian, they must emigrate from their ancestral land.  This guarantees a Jewish majority there in perpetuity.   

Figures show the results of Zionist mini-Imperialism:  83% of pre-Partition Palestinian property within the Israel itself has been confiscated from the original inhabitants.  That has created an impoverishment of 50% for their Arabic citizens.

Hanin Zoabi declaimed that “Women must lead the Arab political opposition within Palestine.”  Although this makes sense to Western Feminism, the truth is all elements of society must be part of directing the course of confrontation against oppression.  Feminists are often class defined in relation to their education (which denotes wealth and/or class) plus connection (Ms. Zoabi herself is a niece to a former Mayor of her native city on the West Bank).  All must be willing to take on an organizational role for a revolt to be successful as has been seen in the surrounding Arab world — this includes the feminine but not exclusively.  It must come out of grass-roots movement that includes all classes and genders et al., as in Tunisia and Egypt recently, for a rebellion to succeed.

She continued that “We are battling for [our] national rights.  We must not deny our history.  We cannot be ordered to swear allegiance to Israel as a Jewish State!  We don’t need Jewish immigrants to teach us our history!

The Israelis are denying our history.  We are flailing for our democracy.  In the end, “There must be no division between Muslim and Jew.  Citizenship doesn’t begin at nativity!” 

This Member of her Parliament claimed that the Israeli State has twenty basic prejudicial laws that deny the Palestinians parity.  “In order to achieve equality we require an independent [national] State” for ourselves.

It is the Israeli political parties — not the State — who are inclined to criminalize the Palestinian society.  “To be a Jewish State is to be a racist State!”  (Your author world change the word “racist” to “sectarian” which is different, but just as evil.)      Despite Israel’s secular obsession, there is a new reality after the second Infitada.  “The Palestinian Israelis must become part of the solution!”  (Further, your reporter summarizes that Israel itself is central to the success or failure of the Arab Spring!)

13-17

Palestine Children’s Relief Fund Event

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The humanitarian crisis in the Middle East is at the forefront of concerned humanitarians throughout the world.  While may organizations attempt to address at least some of these needs, the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund works with the most helpless victims of the turmoil there – the children.

The Southern California chapter of the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund (PCRF) will hold a dinner in Granada Hills, Ca on Sunday, May 15th at the St. Andrew and St. Charles Episcopal Church. The event will begin at 4:00pm.

There will be two featured speakers, Dr. Musa Nasir and Dr. Hugh Watts. Dr. Nasir is the Chairman of the Board of Directors for the PCRF and was one of the founding members in 1991. Dr. Watts is a pediatric orthopedic surgeon affiliated with the Shriners Hospital in Los Angeles. He has travelled frequently to Palestine to provide his medical expertise to patients and to medical personnel who are being trained there.

In addition, there will be videos of two children brought to Los Angeles for treatment by the chapter. The touching story of their journey from seriously impacted health to a normal life has brought past audiences to their feet and has further inspired the chapter members.

The attendees will enjoy Middle Eastern music and arts and crafts.

The event is distinct from the gala held in the Fall by the PCRF chapter. It is largely informational, an effort to reach people in the San Fernando Valley and parts of Ventura County. Of course, donations to this worthy cause will be welcomed.

Tickets are $25 if purchased prior to the event and $35 at the door. For further information, please contact Lulu Emery at  (714) 960-1215 or Lily Karam at (562) 432-0005.The PCRF is a 501 (c) (3) non profit and non political organization.

The Palestine Children’s Relief Fund was formed in 1991 in response to the urgent medical needs of children in Palestine. Since its founding its scope has expanded to include the entire Middle East. Children are treated free of charge by medical teams sent to the Middle East if local treatment is an option. If not the children are transported at no charge to the United States or a small number of other nations where they can receive state of the art medical treatment. The medical teams that visit the Middle East also provide on site training to local doctors.

In recent months teams have included a pediatric urology team from the Bay area to Gaza; a Chilean surgery team to Nablus, and a pediatric surgery mission to Gaza and the West Bank.

During the October 2010 banquet/fundraiser the PCRF announced that it will now enter the field of pediatric oncology.

PCRF has received international acclaim from such famous figures as Bishop Desmond Tutu and former US President Jimmy Carter.

Other projects include a Women’s Empowerment Project, summer camps, wheelchair distribution and Emergency Relief.

The foregoing is but a small example of the work of PCRF. Readers should access its web site: www.pcrf.net for a complete story of its work.

13-16

KINDERUSA Fundraiser

April 22, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

As the situation in Gaza continues to deteriorate under the boot of Israeli oppression, groups which provide direct aid to this beleaguered land become all the more worthy of support and endorsement. They shine a laser like beam on the suffering there and then provide outstanding aid. One such group is KINDERUSA (Kids in need of development, education and relief) which focuses primarily on the smallest victims of war and occupation — the children.

KINDERUSA held a banquet/fundraiser this past Saturday night in Garden Grove, Ca. Titled: “Operation Survival”, the event filled the dining hall to capacity.

Two screens in the dining hall showed film clips from footage shot in Gaza. This presentation included horrific scenes of destruction caused by Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead” as well as — at the other end of the spectrum — scenes of children enjoying the basic staples of childhood with the relief that KINDERUSA provided to them. In scenes that were particularly poignant, children in Gaza enjoyed summer camp activities, a staple in Western nation but not in this occupied territory until a KINDERUSA program was implemented.

Dr. Jess Ghannam, a member of KINDERUSA’s Board of Directors, was the Master of Ceremonies. Dinner followed evening prayers.

Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, Chairwoman of KINDERUSA, was introduced by Dr. Ghannam. She told her audience that 81% of monies raised for KINDERUSA go directly to projects. Only 19% is used for various administrative expenses. In Gaza KINDERUSA partners with local organizations to optimize their efforts.

KINDERUSA aims not only to encourage local agriculture, for example, but to give families choices over their purchases. This concept she juxta positioned with the donation of food baskets which eliminates choice.

KINDERUSA, Dr. Al-Marayati continued, works in the West Bank, Lebanon, and now Pakistan as well as Gaza. Their work has been expanded to include children with diabetes and children who are educationally disadvantaged. Dr. Al Marayati, an obstetrician and gynecologist, spoke about one particular dark aspect of the many Israeli checkpoints, an aspect perhaps not familiar to the public. The Israelis make no allowances for pregnant women in labor, women who are on their way to a hospital to give birth. These checkpoint delays can and often do result in birth taking place outside of a hospital, an unhealthy and possibly fatal complication for mother and child. In addition, cancer sufferers must pass through these checkpoints to and from their chemotherapy visits. This is often discouraging, lessening the number of people who seek treatments because they do not want to endure the accompanying stress.

KINDERUSA was in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead.

John Ging, the Director of Operations of UNRWA in Gaza, was the keynote speaker. Mr. Ging arrived at LAX from abroad a few hours before his presentation. The recent volcano eruptions in Iceland and their attendant flight delays raised fears that he would not be able to make the trip. Dr. Laila Al-Marayati, in introducing him, commented on our dependence on God in such circumstances.

Dr. Ging spoke of the three aspects of Israeli control of Gaza. He said it is “illegal, inhuman, and insane.”

Operation Cast Lead, he said, only exacerbated an already horrific situation. Israel imposed a blockade in 2007 after electoral victories by HAMAS. They declared Gaza a hostile entity.
Gazan water has to be treated in the home because of its intrinsic biological impurity.The sewage system does not work, and an unpleasant odor pervades the water even after treatment. The inhuman treatment of Palestinians is rooted in disrespect by the Israelis of international law. He traced the origin of this oppression to 1948 and the displacement of one million Palestinians. He called for the right of return, the right to compensation and the right to resettlement for Palestinians. The Palestinians must work with the problems and decide on the solutions. Since 1967 Israel has been an occupying power and has practiced, among other matters, collective punishment. The world has an obligation to protect the people who suffer under collective punishment.

What is insane, he asked? It is insane to subject people to the brutality that Gazans must endure and not comprehend that you are feeding radical and extreme elements. He encouraged his audience to travel to Palestine and see the truth of what he has said first hand.

He described the Palestinians he had worked with as extremely protective of their children and, despite their predicament, resilient, hopeful and positive.
Mr. Ging urged his audience to give generously.

“Mr. Ging is on scene. He certainly knows what he is talking about”, said one young woman after hearing the presentation.

Dabke followed the event. Palestinian embroidery, contributed by the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund ( PCRF) , was available for purchase.

For more information on KINDERUSA and/or to make a donation, please access them at: www.kinderusa.org.

12-17

Indispensable IslamOnline Must Not Fail

April 15, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ramzy Baroud, Countercurrents.org

A widely popular Islamic website has been, until very recently, an undisputed success story. IslamOnline arrived at a time that millions of Muslims needed a common platform and a unifying outlet. Here was a website that neither shunned nor alienated. Its influence was upbeat and positive, rather than destructive or divisive. While it wasn’t an apologetic outlet, it reached out to patiently and progressively present Islam and Muslim issues to the world. These were understood and communicated by hundreds of scholars and qualified journalists, who toiled day and night from their Cairo offices.

Then something happened to abruptly bring the noble mission to an end. The success story suddenly became a terrible nightmare for hundreds of IslamOnline’s principled employees. The website (IslamOnline.net) remained online, but it was barely updated. Instead, videos were circulated on youtube, showing tired-looking IslamOnline staff chanting in the lobby of their building in Cairo. They were demanding the return of their editorial freedom and rights. They were calling for justice. These bright journalists, some of the finest in the region, should have been sitting behind their computers screens writing, editing and managing ‘live dialogues’ between inquisitive readers and learned scholars. Instead they were seated on the floor with signs and banners, shouting in coarse voices.

Something had gone horribly wrong.

Hadeel al-Shalchi tried to explain in a recent Associated Press report: “The Qatari government has forced out the moderate leadership of a popular Islamic Web site and plans to reshape it into a more religiously conservative outlet, former employees of the site said.”

According to the AP report, “The site was thrown into turmoil…when the owners attempted to change its approach, prompting 350 of its workers in Cairo to go on strike. Management in Doha then cut off their access to the site and have been updating it with news articles but not the diverse content IslamOnline is known for, said the former employees.”

IslamOnline is funded by al-Balagh, a Doha-based company. Al-Balagh was headed by well-respected Sheik Youssef al-Qaradawi, a most sensible and judicious religious authority. He is known, and much liked, for his progressive views on Islam. Al-Qaradawi is also very popular among Muslims around the world, not least because of his daring political views, his strong anti-war, pro-resistance stances and moral clarity on many issues. In short, al-Qaradawi is the antithesis of religious clerics who would do as they are told.

A striking IslamOnline editor described to me how the crisis developed. It sounded something similar to a coup: the Sheik was removed from al-Balagh, the site’s directors were relegated, a new management was installed (in fact imposed), and even the website passwords were changed so that employees could no longer access it. Devastated and enraged by the unwarranted moves, about 350 employees went on strike – only to find themselves subject to legal investigation by some company lawyers for exercising what is universally accepted as a fundamental right. The editor tells me that they were harshly criticized in particular for their uncompromisingly courageous coverage on Palestine and Gaza. Indeed, IslamOnline had worked tirelessly to bring greater awareness of the struggle in Palestine, to Muslim and non-Muslim readers alike.

Following the tragic events of September 11, few websites have played the vital role that IslamOnline has. Its editors did not serve the cause of fanatics, with their dreadful interpretation of the world and themselves, and nor did they adopt the mouthpiece position in favor of Arab governments. Equally important, they did not try to falsify a ‘moderate’ position to please any government – Arab or any other. Instead, they truly reflected and genuinely expressed the views of mainstream Muslims from all walks of life, and from all over the world. It was truly an impressive feat to see such an independent editorial line emerging from one Arab capital and largely funded by another.

But it seemed too good to be true – thus the terrible, chaotic and devastating changes that brought this vital to a standstill. The very means of presenting an eloquent Muslim voice to the world has been threatened.

The story of IslamOnline is being presented as that between rival Arabs: governments, groups and individuals. Reductionist terminologies– such as conservatives vs. moderates – are once again permeating the often predictable Middle East discourse. Many questions still remain unanswered.

In fact, the story of IslamOnline pertains more to media freedom and editorial independence in Arab countries than much of the above. The struggle is between the self-serving politicking few, and hundreds of media professionals – brilliant and inspiring young women and men who made up the staff at IslamOnline. For them, IslamOnline was not just another job. It was a mission, a calling even, and millions of readers around the world appreciated their work, every word of it.
One can only hope that IslamOnline will find its way back, with its current employees and current editorial line intact. The success story must not be allowed to end. Individual ambitions cannot stand in the way of this rare generational mission that is now simply indispensable.
- Ramzy Baroud (www.ramzybaroud.net) is an internationally-syndicated columnist and the editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His latest book is “My Father Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London), now available on Amazon.com.

Gaza Freedom Marchers vs Egyptian Police

March 25, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Gaza has become the central focus of the human rights struggle. Many groups have called for its liberation, and many are striving to bring aid to that beleaguered area. This concern has accelerated since the launching of Israel’s Operation Cast Lead last year and the devastation that this operation wrought.

A coalition led by Code Pink had announced plans to enter Gaza through Rafah during a three week period which would coincide with the first anniversary of Israel’s destructive campaign. While in Gaza the group planned to march from Rafah to the Eretz crossing – the entry into Gaza from Israel – and symbolically link there with marchers from Israel.

Mary Hughes-Thompson, familiar to readers of The Muslim Observer and to activists worldwide, was a participant in the planned Gaza Freedom March. Ms Thompson is a member of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and has travelled to the Occupied Palestinian Territories several times. She  is co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement and was on the first ship to reach Gaza in August 2008, breaking a decades long siege. She has given The Muslim Observer an interview.

The story of the Gaza Freedom March (GFM) and its failure to achieve its announced goal is a story whose central factor and key players are Egyptian collaboration. The Egyptian police used an intimidating physical presence to thwart the peaceful demonstrators.

In late December some 1400 international activists assembled in Cairo prepatory to travelling to El Arish and then on to Rafah.  On arriving in Cairo they were told by the Egyptian authorities that they would not be permitted to assemble or to travel to Gaza.

Code Pink as speaker for the Gaza Freedom Marchers announced a press conference. Immediately after the announcement they were told by Egyptian authorities that they could not hold a press conference.

TMO:  Am I correct that the Gaza Freedom Marchers went to Cairo with the expectation that the proper protocol had been observed and that they would be permitted to travel to Rafah?

Ms Thompson:  The Egyptian authorities had agreed to facilitate our travelling to Gaza.  They had asked that the names and passport information for all participants be provided to them by November 30th, and this was done.

TMO:  What reason did the Egyptian authorities give for disallowing a press conference?

Ms Thompson:  I do know they had originally granted permits for both the press conference and for the orientation meeting which was scheduled to be held December 27th.  A few days earlier Egypt suddenly withdrew the permits which meant we could not hold either event.

TMO:  Could you tell us what threats were made to taxi cab drivers and/or bus drivers to prevent the group from using these means of transportation?

Ms Thompson:  They were told their licenses would be revoked.

TMO:  Could you tell us the behavior of the Egyptian police when they blocked the exits from a number of hotels where activists were staying?

Ms Thompson:  They blocked exits from a number of the hotels where activists were staying.  We had several policemen stationed outside our hotel at all times, and every time we left we were asked where we were going and when we would be back.  The first couple of days a policeman came with us in our taxi and stayed with us all day.  Each time we took a taxi from our hotel, a policeman questioned the driver, took his license number and ID, and, on one occasion, sat on the hood of our taxi refusing to let us leave.

TMO:  Did the GFM group at any time engage in or threaten violence?

Ms Thompson:  I would definitely say no to that. There was not a great deal of violence at all but what there was was on the part of the Egyptian police trying to control the crowds and trying to lock us into our hotels to prevent us from assembling.

TMO:  Did you have an opportunity to interact with the Egyptian people?

Ms Thompson:  While in Egypt we met several high profile people who were actively engaged in protesting. In fact, we went to the courthouse one day to support a local lawyer who was part of a group trying to challenge the Egyptian government’s building of the wall along the Rafah border. At the end of our trip Yvonne Ridley hired a van to take us to the pyramids (so she could videotape Hedy). {TMO: Hedy Epstein, an 85 year old Holocaust survivor and a Palestinian activist}, and our driver pointed to the spot on which we had been roughed up a few days earlier and said:  “The other day there was a revolution there.”

TMO:  Would you describe for our readers the details of the Egyptian police activity vis a vis your group at Tahrir Square?

Ms Thompson:  We decided that on the day we had planned to march to Erez crossing, we would hold a symbolic march in Cairo, and go as far as the Egyptian police would let us.  We started in Tahrir Square, opposite the Museum, and we ended there.  We came in small groups of two or three, from all directions, and the police were waiting for us.  They stopped my group (me, Hedy, and her two friends from St Louis, Sandra and J’Ann) and wouldn’t let us go to the meeting point.  We refused to leave, and insisted we were tired and needed to sit on a bench on the sidewalk.  Suddenly we saw a swarm of people crossing the street, and we ran to join them.  We were immediately surrounded by policemen three deep, and they wouldn’t let anyone in or out.

Generally the police didn’t use rough tactics, and I think my grey hair and cane might have helped me.

Even assembly in small groups was not permitted and any such gatherings were quickly surrounded by Egyptian police in riot gear.

Eventually through the intervention of Susan Mubarak, the head of the Egyptian Red Crescent Society, 100 of the Gaza Freedom marchers were told they could travel to Gaza and bring with them the supplies they wanted to provide to the people there. This happened before the event at Tahrir Square.

TMO:  Thank you Ms Thompson on behalf of The Muslim Observer. You have given us an insight into events in Cairo, an insight not readily accessible in the media.

12-13

Israeli politician Livni hails Dubai Hamas killing

March 16, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

BBC News

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh

Mr Mabhouh died in his hotel room in Dubai last month

Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni has applauded the controversial killing of a Hamas commander in a Dubai hotel by suspected Israeli agents.

"The fact that a terrorist was killed, and it doesn’t matter if it was in Dubai or Gaza, is good news to those fighting terrorism," she said.

It is thought to be the first time a top Israeli has made such a comment.

Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was found dead in his room on 20 January, having been electrocuted and suffocated.

His alleged killers used fake British, Irish, German and French passports, according to the authorities in Dubai, which released pictures of the suspects, none of whom were caught.

Mr Mabhouh was one of the founders of Hamas’s military wing.

The Israeli secret service Mossad has been widely accused of carrying out the killing but Israel has repeatedly asserted there is no proof its agents were involved.

‘Fighting terrorism’

Mrs Livni, the former foreign minister who leads the parliamentary opposition for the Kadima party, did not indicate who was behind the killing.

"The entire world must support those fighting terrorism," she told a Jewish conference in Jerusalem.

"Any comparison between terrorism and those fighting it is immoral."

The current Israeli Foreign Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, responded to allegations of a Mossad plot last week by saying: "Israel never responds, never confirms and never denies."

Dubai security cameras picked up 18 members of what local police believe was a hit team.

Diplomatic tension between Western states and Israel has grown over the killing.

Egypt/Palestine : The Wall of Shame

February 11, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Tariq Ramadan

2010-02-10T110526Z_497589140_GM1E62A1H2L01_RTRMADP_3_PALESTINIANS-ISRAEL

Palestinians tries to break off bricks from a building at an abandoned airport that was destroyed by an Israeli air strike in the southern Gaza Strip February 10, 2010. Israel launched an air strike in the southern Gaza Strip in response to Palestinian rocket fire, an army spokesperson said on Wednesday.

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

It is common knowledge that the Palestinians have long been direct victims of the directionless, spineless and hypocritical polices of the Arab leadership. It is equally common knowledge that the State of Israel need make no effort to impose its vision, its methods and its objectives. Given the support of the United States, Europe’s guilty silence and the compliant passivity of the Arab regimes, we know what to expect. The foreign policy of most Arab states has been described with good reason as “pro-Zionist.” Their cowardice and treachery comes as no surprise.

Following last year’s murderous attack on Gaza by Israeli forces, we may have thought we’d seen the worst. That judgment failed to take into account the ingenuity of the “worse yet” scenario produced by the Egyptian regime and the “religious authorities” of al-Azhar. In the name of “national security”, of the fight against “terrorism”, and ultimately, of combating “corruption”, “smuggling” and “drug trafficking”, the Egyptian government is building a wall reaching twenty meters below ground level to stop the “Gazans” from carrying out their “illegal” activities and from digging “smuggling tunnels.” Of course, the Egyptian government has no intention of confining the inhabitants of Gaza to their hell; of course, the measure is dictated only by concern for national security! So persuasive is the argument that the committee of religious experts of al-Azhar quickly endorsed the government decision, declaring it to be “islamically legitimate” (“in conformity with the Shari’a”) for the country to protect its borders. (The al-Azhar scholars were responding to a fatwa issued by the International Union of Muslim Scholars that had ruled the exact opposite, that the Egyptian decision was “islamically unacceptable.”)

For shame! So this is how justice is mocked, how power and religion are misused. The Palestinian people, and most of all the inhabitants of Gaza, are denied their dignity and their rights; deprived of access to food, to water and to basic health care. And now, the Egyptian government becomes the ally of Israeli policy at its worst: isolating, strangling, starving, and smothering Palestinian civilian life after having eradicated hundreds. The aim is clear: to choke off all resistance and to destroy its leadership. The Egyptian government has blocked convoys attempting to deliver badly needed aid to the Palestinian people in an effort to raise the siege of Gaza. The mobilization that brought hundreds of women and men from around the world to Rafah was met by refusal upon refusal by the Cairo authorities, along with a strategy of selective humiliation.

For shame! No wonder the Israeli government purring with contentment. After all, a new and “promising” start for the “peace process” has been announced! There will be something for everybody: the United States, along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt has spared no efforts to draft a new and “comprehensive” program. A splendid “peace process” indeed, in whose name civilians have suffered months of blockade before their leaders are invited to take their place at the “free” and “respectful” negotiating table. Israel can keep on purring: it can play for more time without making the slightest concession. Settlement activities are to be temporarily frozen—except for construction projects already underway. Finer negotiations would be hard to find!

It cannot be repeated often enough: the Egyptian “national security wall” is a wall of shame. The religious authorities that have legitimized it have behaved exactly like the notorious “ulama” (Muslim scholars) or “Islamic councils” that openly serve power, whether of dictators or the forces of colonialism, or of some self-styled Republic specializing in the manipulation of religion. What can possibly remain of their credibility after issuing a “political fatwa” that lends the Islamic endorsement of craven scholars to the power of dictatorship? Silence would have been far better.

We must condemn these unacceptable acts, and stand beside those who resist with dignity. If successive Israeli governments know one thing—with which we must agree—it is this: the Palestinian people will not surrender. For those who may still harbor doubts, we must add a second certainty, that of time: History is on the side of the Palestinians; it is they who represent, today and tomorrow, hope for the noblest human values. To resist oppression, to defend one’s legitimate rights and one’s land, to never yield to the arrogance and to the lies of the mighty. As for the power of the Israelis, the Egyptians and others, as for the fatwas of government-appointed ulama, these things too will pass; they will pass, and will be forgotten. Happily forgotten. For the duty of memory is transformed into forgetfulness when it comes to the names and the acts of dictators, traitors and cowards.

12-7

Once More to Gaza

February 11, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMNS

Readers of The Muslim Observer are familiar with the Free Gaza Movement which in August of 2008 sailed two ships from Cyprus to Gaza breaking a decades long blockade by Israel. Four more missions followed successfully. The sixth voyage resulted in an attack by Israeli Naval forces that severely damaged the ship putting the lives of all aboard in jeopardy. The captain was able to bring the ship safely to a port in Lebanon; during the seventh attempt Israeli threats to the safety of the passengers along with terrible weather forced the ship to return to port.The eighth vessel was hijacked by the Israeli Navy, resulting in the confiscation of the vessel and the imprisonment of its passengers and crew in Israel. Despite repeated requests from Free Gaza attorneys, the ship has not yet been returned.
This courageous undertaking was the inspiration for other subsequent movements to aid the beleaguered people of Gaza.

Those who believed that the mission was over, that the dream had ended, did not reckon correctly with the dedication and courage of the people of the Free Gaza Movement. This spring a flotilla of six to ten boats will again sail to Gaza. Of these, five have been funded by IHH from Turkey, and a third, a cargo ship, has been funded by donations from the people of Malaysia. This time the Israeli Navy will be faced with a small navy, a navy of freedom fighters.

The ships will carry reconstruction material essential to the rebuilding of Gaza yet forbidden to them by the Israelis.

Fundraising is essential as is maximum publicity. Returning members of Viva Palestina and the Gaza Freedom March make excellent speakers for fundraising events. Since the Israeli occupiers do not permit the importation of paper or paper products, the Free Gaza Movement has launched a campaign which it has titled: The Right to Read. Books that are desperately needed are listed on the group’s web site: <www.freegaza.org>. If reconstruction material is to be donated, please contact friends@freegaza.org.

Three leaders and founders of the Free Gaza Movement were recently honored by the San Jose Peace and Justice Center. Greta Berlin, Paul Larudee and Kathy Sheets were each given a Gertrude Welch Peace and Justice Award.

The California organization established the award to honor those who made an outstanding contribution to social justice and peace both locally and globally.
Those who support the goals of the Free Gaza Movement but are not able to make the trip are urged to work in an auxiliary capacity.

In addition to fundraising and publicity supporters can urge their members of congress or parliament to join the voyagers. The Movement already has Members of Parliament from South Africa, Turkey, Malaysia, Europe, and South America on board.

Members of a land crew, support crew and media are also needed for the coming journey.

Suggestions, volunteering and contributions may be made at the above cited web site.

12-7

Haiti Fundraiser

February 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, MMnS

Despite Islamophobia rampant throughout the world and Muslims everywhere under attack, when disaster strikes as it has in Haiti, Muslims react instantly with charity and a deep sense of humanity.

If the foregoing seems to describe a paradox, to Muslims, helping others in distress regardless of religion, is a Koranic mandate. This past weekend Islamic Relief held a successful fundraiser in Anaheim, Ca to raise funds for disaster relief in earthquake ravaged Haiti. The speakers described the Islamic duty to support this cause citing Koranic chapters and centuries of precedent.

Before a capacity crowd the evening, which began with a recital from the Koran, featured such noted Muslim figures as Dr. Muzammil Siddiqi, Dr. Maher Hathout and Imam Zaid Shakir. 

A video showing the devastation in Haiti played during the length of the evening.

Dr. Siddiqi said that natural disasters are trials, both for those who are stricken and those who are safe. For the former, it is a test of faith; for the latter, it is a test of charity.

“We are all part of the human family”, Dr. Siddiqi told his audience.

When Dr. Maher Hathout took to the podium he asked his audience to imagine what life must be like for people whose very existence changed in a matter of seconds.

“We do what we do because we are followers of the Koran and of Mohammed (pbuh).”

Imam Zaid Shakir of the Zaytuna Institute spoke of the parallel between the tragedy of Haiti and the tragedy of Gaza. In the former there is mobilization through out the world to come to the aid of the Haitians. For Gaza, one year after the devastating attack by Israel, rebuilding has not begun and aid convoys are turned away. Despite this the people of Gaza have raised money for the suffering people in Haiti.

Islamic Relief leader Anwar Khan presided over fundraising and spoke of his experiences in Haiti. He had just returned from a two day visit, and his testimony was particularly compelling because he spoke as an eye witness.

“The smell of death was everywhere”, he said.

The 7.0-magnitude earthquake left an estimated 1.5 million people homeless, and initially 200,000 were killed. Many survivors have died since due to malnutrition and dehydration and injuries received during the quake. People are sleeping in the streets with nothing under them but bricks. With a shaky infrastructure to begin with, there is very little that the earthquake did not damage or destroy. Homes, schools, places of worship, government buildings – all suffered damage and those that are not level are unsafe.

Islamic Relief set up temporary shelters in tented areas for 120 families. They worked with and befriended the Haitians whom they helped. This contrasts with many other relief efforts in which the volunteers felt the need for body guards and also the need to construct barbed wire fences between themselves and the Haitians. The humane ambiance of Islamic Relief’s work in addition to the direct aid is an outgrowth of religious faith.

“I never realized how devastated that poor country was” said one woman after hearing Brother Khan speak.

The evening was presented by Islamic Relief in coordination with the Islamic Shura Council of Southern California. Sponsors were CAIR-LA, MPAC, MAS, MSA-West and COPAA.

Islamic Relief is a charitable organization which has operated for a quarter of a century to alleviate poverty, illiteracy and suffering and to bring aid and comfort to victims of natural and man made disasters. They are often the first responders to any emergency, and their work covers every part of the globe. They operate without reference to nationality, creed and color. They partner with other aid groups both local and international.

The list of their activities is encyclopedic. Here are a few: an orphan support program; water and sanitation development; education, and income generation. They have been in Pakistan in the aftermath of devastating earthquakes there; in Gaza when Israeli bombs were dropping; in Ethiopia during a famine, and in our Gulf States in the aftermath of Katrina.

To find out more about Islamic Relief and/or to contribute, please access them at: www.islamicreliefusa.org.

12-6

Israel is Immune From Criticism

January 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Brian Cloughley

Bombing-in-Gaza-001
The Goldstone report, which HRW supported, accused Israel of a disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorise a civilian population. Photograph: Hatem Omar/AP

The state of Israel has descended – plummeted – to one of the lowest levels of conscious barbarity that is currently evident in this horrible world.

Any nation that has behaved towards a subject people, as Israel has to Palestinians, is worthy only of utter contempt. On Sunday January 4 I heard a rabbi on the BBC’s morning religious program saying that he supported Israel’s air strikes on Gaza. A man of God actually endorsed the killing of hundreds of people. To say that I was – and am – aghast at the sentiment expressed is to put it very mildly. This religious leader, a person supposed to spread and preach tolerance, patience, charity and peace, was supporting war crimes of immense gravity. His approval of the killing of Arabs was blood-chilling.

And this rabbi was British. Here we have a British citizen supporting hatred and bigotry on a BBC religious program. But of course he isn’t really British. He is an Israeli religious propagandist of British citizenship whose main allegiance is to Israel. There are thousands like him in the UK and the US. They unconditionally promote Tel Aviv’s plans and policy and wield amazing influence over politicians and businesses. Killing Palestinians is Israeli policy, and these people spare no effort to justify it.

Here’s a resident of Gaza talking to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz about the horrors experienced by Palestinians (and congratulations to Haaretz for having the courage to print it): “I keep the children away from the windows because the F-16s are in the air; I forbid them to play below because it’s dangerous. They’re bombing us from the sea and from the east, they’re bombing us from the air. When the telephone works, people tell us about relatives or friends who were killed. My wife cries all the time. At night she hugs the children and cries. It’s cold and the windows are open; there’s fire and smoke in open areas; at home there’s no water, no electricity, no heating gas. And you [the Israelis] say there’s no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Tell me, are you normal?”

No, they’re not, is the short answer, and the ruthlessness is epitomized by the evil Israeli foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who is using the Gaza war to establish her credentials as a reliably hard-nosed barbarian. She declares “there is no humanitarian crisis in the [Gaza] Strip and therefore there is no need for a humanitarian truce.”

It was reported on January 5 that Israeli troops are using white phosphorus (WP) artillery shells in Gaza, supposedly to create smoke screens to conceal their advance.

American troops used WP – fondly known as Willy Pete – in their destruction of the Iraqi city of Fallujah, and the US tried to lie its way out of the war crime, but junior officers unintentionally blew the lies apart by writing in the magazine Field Artillery that “WP proved to be an effective and versatile munition. We used it for screening missions . . . and, later in the fight, as a potent psychological weapon against insurgents in trench lines and spider holes . . . We fired ‘shake and bake’ missions at the insurgents using WP to flush them out and high explosive shells (HE) to take them out.” In fact WP is an effective killer, and anyone who inhales particles will suffer a particularly hideous and painful death. As recorded by The Independent newspaper in Britain “In the aftermath of the battle [at Fallujah], the State Department’s Counter Misinformation Office issued a statement saying that WP was only “used very sparingly in Fallujah, for illumination purposes. They were fired into the air to illuminate enemy positions at night [which isn’t the propose of a smoke-shell], not at enemy fighters.” When The Independent confronted the State Department with the first-hand accounts of soldiers who participated, an official accepted the mistake and undertook to correct its website.” Big deal. Lie, lie and lie again, until you’re found out and it’s impossible to deny the facts. And the Israelis seem to be taking the example, as usual, and are stoutly denying what has been seen by independent witnesses.

Article two, Protocol III of the 1980 UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons states: “It is prohibited in all circumstances to make the civilian population as such, individual civilians or civilian objects, the object of attack by incendiary weapons.” But Israel is only following the US example. “Shake and bake” is such an attractive military option that it would be a shame to spoil their fun, especially when it has rabbinical approval.

Here is part of what is laid out in Protocol 1, Additional to the Geneva Conventions, 1977 . . . General Protection Against Effects of Hostilities: “Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate: An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.”

Israel, supported energetically by Washington (and using US-supplied aircraft, bombs and rockets), has caused “incidental loss of life” and general civilian casualties on an enormous scale. The Israeli military and the Israeli people knew full well that their genocidal attack on Gaza would kill civilians. The use of white phosphorous in built-up areas is worthy of the Nazis at their most brutal. Stalin and Mao would nod approvingly. It wasn’t considered important that there would be countless civilian deaths. Nobody cares, and least of all American politicians.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton refuses to comment on the atrocities. The vice-president has been silent. President Obama? As Reuters reported : “Obama . . . has not commented on the Middle East crisis since Israel launched attacks on Gaza nine days ago. His advisers insist that only President George W Bush can speak for America until then.” But it was noted that “The president-elect has commented on the global economic crisis and his plans to try to pull the US economy out of recession.”

Of course he has. And were it not for the power of Israel in America he would no doubt comment adversely on the slaughter in Gaza, because he is a decent man.
But Mr. Obama dare not criticize Israel, even for its use of chemical shells. Nor can any American who wishes to enter or remain engaged in politics. The kiss of political death in the United States of America is to censure Israel. It can’t be done.

And that is why apartheid is permitted in Israel; it’s why the mass-punishment blockade was enforced months before the attack went in; and it’s why the near-genocide in Gaza is allowed to continue.

Does anyone remember the hearing on the so-called Israeli-Palestine peace process in the US House of Representatives in February 2007? Of course not. It was a farce. And why was it such a revolting and hideous charade? – Because it was a three card trick.

The main witness, of the three cards who were called, was one Martin Indyk, a former official of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee which is the richest and most powerful lobby group in the country (two of whose members are currently under a mysteriously delayed investigation for spying for Israel). From there, inevitably, he went to be US ambassador in Tel Aviv. (And, incidentally, whose book on the Middle East was the subject of a glowing review in last week’s Economist.) Another witness was David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (founded by Indyk; it’s all very chummy in pro-Israel sewers), which is funded extensively by American interests that support Zionism. (Among other connections, it is closely associated with the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University.) And was the third witness a counter-balance to two energetic supporters of Zion? Could he or she present a rather less biased view of the Middle East? Perhaps a person who would make the point that Israel has contemptuously ignored UN Security Council resolutions concerning illegal occupation of Palestinian lands?

Not a bit. The third member was a comic quasi-intellectual character called Daniel Pipes who once declared that Muslim immigrants to the US were “brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and not exactly maintaining Germanic standards of hygiene.” (Germanic? – How quaint.) Pipes founded the Middle East Forum (MEF) which encourages university students in America to report lecturers and professors who they consider to be anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian. (In Hitler’s Germany there were awards given to young people who identified and reported those they thought to be pro-Jewish; I know a very elderly German lady who did this when she was 15. She is now terribly ashamed at the memory, because she actually informed on her own father. How times change. Or don’t, of course.)

In 2006 Pipes was given the ‘Guardian of Zion’ award, an annual prize to a prominent supporter of Israel, by the Rennert Center for Jerusalem Studies at Bar-Ilan University in Israel.

With a galaxy of partisan propagandists like Indyk, Makovsky and Pipes being the only people selected to give evidence on Israel-Palestine to the nation’s legislators in Washington, there was no chance whatever that the Congressional Sub-Committee would be presented with a balanced view of the Israel-Palestine problem. The deck was stacked, and the legislators listened. They had no choice, because of the power of the Israel lobby. They’ve been shaken and baked.

There is little doubt that the bias towards Israel will continue in the legislature and administration of the United States of America, no matter what Obama might really think, and no matter how many Palestinian children the Zionists have slaughtered. The Israelis are behaving like genocidal people, but those who stay silent about their atrocities are not far behind in the gutter stakes.

Brian Cloughley’s book about the Pakistan army, War, Coups and Terror, has just been published by Pen & Sword Books (UK)

12-5

Israel and Egypt Continue to Squeeze Gaza

January 21, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ann Wright, t r u t h o u t | Op-Ed

Two weeks ago, almost 2,000 internationals came to Egypt and Gaza in a massive show of civil society’s support for the people of Gaza. Nearly 1,400 persons representing 44 countries in the Gaza Freedom March and over 500 persons with the Viva Palestina Convoy let the people of Gaza know of their concern for the tragic consequences of their governments’ support of the Israeli and Egyptian blockade.

Yet, two weeks later, with the apparent approval of governments (United States, European Community and Canada) that support the quarantine, blockade and siege of Gaza, Israel and Egypt have tightened the squeeze to wring the lifeblood out of the people of Gaza.

US Military Team Visits Underground Wall Construction

The US government continues to assist Egypt in building an underground wall to cut off tunnels under the border of Gaza and Egypt. According to Reuters, on January 14, 2010, three US military personnel from the US embassy in Cairo visited Rafah to follow up on the barrier project. According to security sources in Rafah, visits by US military have been taking place monthly.

In a press conference this week in Washington, US State Department spokesman Gordon Duguid said, “What we’d like to see is for Hamas to stop using the border crossings as methods for smuggling in weapons and let’s get the weapons smuggling stopped.” Duguid did not address the use of the tunnels to get life-saving food and materials prohibited by Israel.

In December 2009, three Palestinians were killed after a tunnel collapsed beneath the Egypt-Gaza border. The three were reported missing, and later found by rescue workers.

Deadliest Week Since Last Year’s Israeli Attack

Last week, January 6-12, was the deadliest week for the Gaza Strip in the past year since the January 18, 2009, ceasefire that ended Israel’s “Cast Lead” offensive.

According to the United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israeli air force bombing attacks killed seven Palestinians in Gaza, including three civilians. The attacks came in response to an increase in the number of mortar shells and rockets fired by Palestinian factions from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel that caused no injuries or property damage.

Since the ceasefire a year ago, a total of 84 Palestinians, including at least 27 civilians, and one Israeli (a soldier) have been killed. Another 160 Palestinians and seven Israelis were injured in Gaza and southern Israel.

On January 8, 2010, US aircraft flown by Israeli air force personnel bombed tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border, killing three Palestinians, including a 15 year-old boy, and wounding another two. Another Palestinian was hurt in a separate airstrike. In two other incidents, on January 6 and 10, Israeli aircraft targeted and killed four Palestinian militants, three of them in one airstrike. Five additional airstrikes, resulting in no casualties, were carried out during the week. Also this week, on four separate occasions, Israeli forces drove tanks into Gaza and conducted land-leveling operations.

Israelis Increase Border Zone Into Gaza

On January 7 this year, the Israeli air force dropped leaflets into areas next to the border fence with Gaza, warning residents to keep a distance of at least 300 meters from the border with Israel and to avoid cooperating with “smugglers” in the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border. This doubled the buffer zone along the border from 150 meters to 300 meters, but Israeli forces have opened “warning” fire at farmers as far as 1,000 meters (3,200 feet) from the border.

A parallel ban for Gaza fishermen is applied to sea areas beyond three nautical miles from the coast, though often this distance is less in practice. This week, in nine separate incidents, Israeli naval forces opened “warning” fire at Palestinian fishing boats along Gaza’s coast, forcing them to return to shore.

The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) reported that on January 6 and 9 this year, unknown persons detonated bombs in a pharmacy and two coffee shops in Gaza City; no one was hurt, but property damage was reported.

Two Killed in January in Tunnels and Seven Youths Burned in Tunnel Fire

In January 2010, two Palestinians died in two separate incidents involving the collapse of a tunnel under the Gaza-Egypt border while they were working inside it. At least 70 people have died and 123 others have been injured in the tunnels since the end of the “Cast Lead” Israeli attack on Gaza.

On January 16 this year, seven Palestinians from Gaza were burned in a fire that broke out in one of the tunnels connecting the border towns of Rafah, Gaza and Rafah, Egypt. The seven burned tunnel workers were treated at An-Nasser and Ash-Shifa hospitals in Gaza City.

Digging tunnels and working in them is one of the few jobs available for Palestinian youth in Gaza. Tunnel workers reportedly earn $25 per day, a huge sum in the current Palestinian economy. However, they are subjected to daily bombings by US F-16 aircraft flown by the Israeli Air Force, plus tunnel collapses and fires.

Accidents in the tunnels are frequent. According to the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Mezan, 120 people have been killed working in the tunnel trade in the past three years.

According to OCHA, no commercial gasoline or diesel fuel entered Gaza via Kerem Shalom during last week. Egyptian gasoline and diesel, which is transferred through the tunnels under the Gaza-Egypt border, remains available on the open market, with nearly 100,000 liters of diesel and 100,000 liters of gasoline transferred into Gaza per day.

Israeli Tanks Shell Beit Hanoun

Israeli tanks operating near the northern Gaza border near Beit Hanoun targeted civilian properties with heavy artillery fire on January 15, 2010. Tank shells hit civilian homes on the outskirts of the town, causing material damages but no injuries.

Egypt Builds Anchorage for Border Patrol Boats

Egypt is continuing fortification of its borders with Gaza, this time by sea. According to Reuters, Egypt is constructing a port for patrol boats that will block sea routes into Gaza for merchandise, food and weapons.

The border patrol boats will keep Palestinian fishing boats in Gazan coastal waters. Egypt has said it believes the boats are being used to carry out smuggling operations, though there have never been reports of such incidents. “It is to secure the area. It will be used to direct fishing boats in the area to ensure they do not cross the Israeli sea border and risk getting fired at,” the security sources told Reuters.

As Egypt completes the 14-kilometer underground wall along the Rafah border, Egyptian surveillance of the Mediterranean Sea increases the strangling of Gaza. The tunnels are the only way Gazans can bring goods into the Strip. Israel has maintained a tight blockade of the area, letting in only 36 types of goods for the past three years.

Future Aid Missions Must Go Through Red Crescent

On January 6, hundreds of Palestinians demonstrators, protesting Egypt’s delay in allowing the aid convoy Viva Palestina into Gaza, as well as Egypt’s plans to build the underground steel wall, clashed with Egyptian forces at the Gaza-Egypt border. As a result, an Egyptian soldier was shot dead and 13 Palestinians were injured, including six who suffered gunshot wounds. Eventually, the convoy entered on the same day, carrying food and medical supplies.

However, in response to the clashes, Egypt introduced a new mechanism, through which future aid convoys into Gaza will go through the Egyptian Red Crescent.

No Internationals Allowed Into Gaza

During December, no internationals were allowed into Gaza through the Rafah crossing, until 92 persons from the Gaza Freedom March were allowed in for 48 hours on December 30. During January, only the Viva Palestina convoy personnel were allowed in for 24 hours. Many international persons have letters of invitation from non-governmental organizations to assist in a variety of ways. Only one other international has been allowed into Gaza in January. Egypt has denied the requests for all other internationals. The ability of citizens of the world to assist Gaza when their governments will not is tragically being strangled.

12-4

(Former) Rep. Cynthia McKinney, and Gaza

January 14, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Sacramento– January 10th–(Ex-Representative) Cynthia McKinney spoke here at the Salam Center, a Community nucleus for the Islamic Community of the Greater Sacramento Area as part of a program put together by the new American Muslims for Palestine (AMP).  Before the speeches by Cynthia and Hatem Bazian (whose comments your journalist will report on in a future article), we ate a communal Halal dinner at the Center. 

McKinney is an Afro-American Person of the Book who served six terms in the U.S. House of Representatives gaining the ire of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the U.S. India Political Action Committee (USINPAC) for her strong support of the Islamic nations of Pakistan and Palestine. The two lobby organizations’ political “war chest” money and power cause her to lose her seat in a prominently Black District twice despite the fact she had served six terms in Congress. 

She has doubts facts about September 11th, 2001, also; so, she served on the Citizens Commission on 9/11.  After looking at the details of that day in New York City, she signed the 9/11 Truth Movement asking for new investigations on the unexplained aspects of that incident. 

While still in the Lower House, she presented Articles of Impeachment against former President Bush, Vice President Cheney and (then) Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Further, Cynthia McKinney’s educational background and experience makes her solidly authoritative on foreign affairs.

During Tel Aviv’ attacks upon Gaza she attempted to enter the Strip with humanitarian supplies — twice unsuccessfully by sea and once successfully by land. 

On her first endeavor, the blockading Israeli Navy rammed her ship.  Mentioning that she was not a Palestinian, she asserted “That I [would] die is one of the [most] honorable [things] I could” do. 

On the second effort, McKinney found herself surrounded by Israeli War boats.  All the passengers and crew were “kidnapped” (captured), and imprisoned for ten days.  Cynthia was, additionally, banned from Israel for ten years – including the Occupied Territories (i.e., Palestine). 

After she was released from detention and deported, she received a call from the British Member of Parliament, George Galloway, who is the director of Viva Palestina which has entered Gaza with conveys of trucks containing relief supplies, called Ms. McKinney and asked her to come with his trucks across the Rafah crossing from Egypt into shattered Gaza.  The (prior) Congresswoman described that the horrible devastation of the diminutive State was over-powering, but, on the other hand,  she attested to the defiant spirit of the people.

“We have to resist” our (own) government (U.S.) “…like the Palestinians” the Israeli.  “Washington D.C. is ground Xerox,” too.  Describing her experience on the Coastal Strip, “I was the one whose spirit was uplifted…In my heart, I am a Palestinian!”

12-3

Joe Sacco’s New Book

January 4, 2010 by · 1 Comment 

Graphic novel on IDF ‘massacres’ in Gaza set to hit bookstores

By The Associated Press

selfportrait_sacco Fans say graphic novelist Joe Sacco has set new standards for the use of the comic book as a documentary medium. Detractors say his portrayals of the Palestinian conflict are filled with distortion, bias and hyperbole.

One thing is certain – the award-winning author of “Palestine” leaves few readers indifferent.

Sacco’s work has more in common with gonzo journalism than your Sunday comic strip: He travels to the world’s hot spots from Iraq to Gaza to Sarajevo, immerses himself in the lives of ordinary people, and sets out to depict their harsh realities – in unflinching ink and paper.

One of his biggest supporters is award-winning Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman, who directed the 2008 Golden Globe winning cartoon ocumentary “Waltz for Bashir.”

“Whenever I’m asked about animation that influences me, I would say it’s more graphic novels. A tremendous influence on me has been Sacco’s ‘Palestine,’ his work on Bosnia and then Art peigelman’s ‘Maus,’” he said in a telephone interview.

“His work quite simply reflects reality.”

The American-Maltese artist’s latest book, “Footnotes in Gaza,” chronicles two episodes in 1956 in which a U.N. report filed Dec. 15, 1956 says a total of 386 civilians were shot dead by Israeli soldiers – events Sacco said have been “virtually airbrushed from history because they have been ignored by the mainstream media.”

Israeli historians dispute these figures.

“It’s a big exaggeration,” said Meir Pail, a leading Israeli military historian and leftist politician. “There was never a killing of such a degree. Nobody was murdered. I was there. I don’t know of any massacre.”

Sacco’s passion for the Palestinian cause has opened him up to accusations of bias.

Jose Alaniz, from the University of Washington’s Department of Comparative Literature, said Sacco uses “all sorts of subtle ways” to manipulate the reader.

“Very often he will pick angles in his art work that favor the perspective of the victim: He’ll draw Israeli soldiers or settlers from a low perspective to make them more menacing and towering.”

Alaniz also said Sacco draws children “in such a way to make them seem more victimized.”

Sacco himself admits he takes sides.

“I don’t believe in objectivity as it’s practiced in American journalism. I’m not anti-Israeli … It’s just I very much believe in getting across the Palestinian point of view,” he said.

In “Palestine,” which won the 1996 National Book Award, Sacco reported on the lives of West Bank and Gaza inhabitants in the early 1990s. “Safe Area Gorazde,” which won the 2001 Eisner Award for Best Original Graphic Novel, describes his experiences in Bosnia in 1995-96.

Sacco has been lauded by Edward Said, the renowned literary scholar and Palestinian rights spokesman, who said in his foreword to “Palestine”: “With the exception of one or two novelists and poets, no one has ever rendered this terrible state of affairs better than Joe Sacco.”

“Footnotes” – to be released in the United States on Tuesday – sees Sacco’s cartoon self, with the now trademark nondescript owlishly bespectacled eyes, plunge into the squalid trash-strewn, raw concrete alleys of Rafah, and its neighboring town of Khan Younis.

Sacco draws crowded narrow streets, full of prying schoolchildren and unemployed men. His desperate characters – fugitives, widows and sheiks – mix long past fact with fiction.

“What I show in the book is that this massacre is just one element of Palestinian history … and that people are confused about which event, what year they are talking about,” he said.

“Palestinians never seem to have had the luxury of digesting one tragedy before the next is upon them.”

Sacco said in doing so he is trying to create a balance to what he calls the United States’ pro-Israeli bias.

A scene in “Palestine” shows an Israeli woman asking: “Shouldn’t you be seeing our side of the story?” Sacco’s cartoon self replies: “I’ve heard nothing but the Israeli side most of my life.”

Sacco says he puts himself into his comics because he wants his readers to see and feel what he does.

“I’m not pretending to be the all powerful, all knowing journalist god … I’m an individual who reacts to people who are sometimes afraid … On a human level, of course that colors the stories I’m telling.”

Folman, who both wrote and directed the 2008 animated documentary film about a 19-year-old Israeli soldier still troubled by nightmares about the Lebanon War, says Sacco has brought something rare to the cartoon genre.

“The way he illustrates says everything about the writing – it’s so unique, there is nothing quite like him,” he explained.

“I really admire the guy … And I feel from his work that we share exactly the same opinions about what’s happening in the Middle East … The day will come when I will meet him and hopefully work with him.”

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