Showing posts with label nonviolent resistance. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nonviolent resistance. Show all posts

Friday, June 15, 2012

Peaceful Protest Against Segregation in Hebron Ends in Arrests

Too often, Palestinian resistance to the Israeli occupation is portrayed in the media as violent.  It is said that the Palestinian cause would be well served through nonviolence, if only some "Palestinian Gandhi" would emerge. Indeed, according to Joe Klein of Time Magazine, "Ever since Israel won control of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the Palestinian national movement has been defined by terrorism, intransigence and, until recently in the West Bank, corruption. It has never been known for dramatic acts of nonviolence."  Meanwhile, the daily nonviolent resistance of Palestinians and their allies from around the globe is commonly all but ignored.



One recent and striking example of this non-violence occurred in the West Bank city of Hebron.  This traditional hub of Palestinian life and commerce, which currently plays host to a growing population of over 500 Jewish Israeli settlers, has experienced significant segregation in recent years.  One glaring example is Shuhada Street, from which Palestinian pedestrians have been banned since 2001.

In an effort to resist this racist prohibition, a group of Palestinian, Israeli, and international women on Wednesday organized a march on Shahuda street in direct challenge to occupation policy.  Dressed in traditional Palestinian garb, they were met with harsh resistance as they peacefully walked the street.  Assaulted by settlers who attempted to block their path, Israeli activists were cursed as "Traitors... worse than those Arabs."   Such attacks were soon followed by the arrival of heavily armed Israeli soldiers who "pushed a few of the women to the ground and started hitting them," then proceeded to arrest seven Israeli and international activists as punishment for their peaceful challenge to segregation.

Nonviolent protests such as these as well as the violence with which they are met should serve as a wake up call to the international community.  Where is the "Palestinian Gandhi"? There are in fact many of them, tirelessly resisting the Israeli occupation and standing up for justice. Their peaceful struggle can no longer be ignored.



Friday, June 15 2012|+972blog

Women challenge segregation of Hebron street in direct action; seven arrested

Palestinian, Israeli and international women activists dressed in traditional Palestinian garb attempted to walk down Shuhada street, Hebron’s main commercial thoroughfare. After only a few minutes, they were stopped by soldiers, and seven people were arrested in total.

By Noa Shaindlinger

A group of Israeli and international female activists joined Palestinian women on Wednesday in a direct action in Hebron to protest the ongoing ban on Palestinian freedom of movement on Shuhada street. The street, which was once the lively commercial centre of Hebron, was closed off to Palestinian vehicular traffic after the 1994 massacre of 29 Muslims in the Ibrahimi Mosque by Baruch Goldstein. Since 2001, Palestinian pedestrians were barred from the street, turning it into a Jewish-only zone...

Read more here

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Palestinian Academics Condemn Cornell University's Collaboration with Technion

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott (PACBI) of Israel has issued a statement condemning Cornell University's collaboration with Technion - Israel Institute of Technology. Cornell and Technion are building a multi-billion dollar science and technology campus together on Roosevelt Island in New York. Technion, like other Israeli academic institutions, is complicit in Israel's continuing occupation and violations of Palestinian human rights and international law. Joining US Campaign member groups US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) and Cornell Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), PACBI is urging residents of New York, US civil society, and people of conscience to mobilize against the Cornell-Technion partnership. Sign and share Cornell SJP's petition opposing Cornell's shameful collaboration with Technion and check out USACBI's resources page on the Cornell-Technion partnership! 


PACBI | March 4, 2012
An Appeal for Action: End Cornell University Collaboration with Technion

The Palestinian academic community was deeply disturbed by the recently revealed plan of collaboration between Cornell University and Technion - Israel Institute of Technology.  The two institutions have won a multi-billion-dollar competition held by the City of New York to establish “a 2 million square foot engineering and applied sciences university campus” on Roosevelt Island, NY [1].  Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at Cornell University have petitioned the City of New York and Cornell University to end this collaboration with an Israeli institution that is "directly implicated in war crimes [2]."  Similarly, the US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) has launched an appeal calling on students and faculty to put pressure on their university to withdraw from this troubling partnership [3].
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) would like to join these groups in deploring the collaboration between US higher institutions of learning and Israeli Academic institutions complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and the rights of Palestinians.  In view of our focus this year on academic boycott, we call on US civil society to bring the injustices of this venture to light.  In the first instance, all New York City residents should, rightfully, be outraged that their tax dollars are being apportioned in the service of such an endeavor, and we appeal to them to pressure the City of New York administration to end this collaboration.  Moreover, we ask students, staff, and faculty at institutions around the country, including student groups such as SJP, as well as workers, labor unions, and other civil society organizations in New York City, to mobilize against the administration of Cornell University to end its partnership with Technion.  More importantly, we call on people of conscience to mobilize on the issue of the Cornell-Technion partnership, and academic boycott more broadly, through street protests, educational venues, media presence and other such mobilizations.
Technion Complicity
Technion's record of complicity in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights is too long to reproduce here, but here are some highlights:
-    It has a partnership with Elbit Systems, which is one of Israel’s largest private weapons manufacturers.  Elbit manufactured the drones that Israel used in its crimes against civilians in Lebanon 2006 and Gaza 2008-09. This partnership has played a leading role not only in the construction and surveillance of the apartheid wall in Palestine, but also along the U.S.-Mexico border through its subsidiary, Kollsman.

-    Technion trains its engineering students to work with companies dealing “directly in the development of complex weapons in the process of researching their academic theses” [4].  In one example with Elbit Systems, the reward has been the funding of research grants in upwards of half a million dollars to Technion’s students conducting research [5].

-    One of the institute’s most notorious projects resulted in the development of a remote-control function on the Caterpillar’s 'D9’ bulldozer “used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian houses and farms and the development of a method for detecting underground tunnels, specifically developed in order to assist the Israeli army in its continued siege on the Gaza Strip” [6]

-    Technion has deep relations with Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, one of Israel’s largest government-sponsored weapons manufacturers famous for its “advanced hybrid armor protection system” used in Israel’s Merkava tanks [7]. The institute has developed an “MBA program tailored specifically for Rafael managers” which further solidifies its relationship between academia and Israel’s military-industrial complex [8].

-    Technion rewards its students who perform their compulsory military service.  It also granted Israeli army reservists who participated in the Israeli massacre of Gaza in 2008-2009 “academic benefits in addition to the usual benefits for reservists” [9].
Why Academic Boycott?
In 2004, Palestinian civil society called for an academic boycott in the spirit of the South African anti-apartheid movement.  In our statement, we have maintained that a boycott of Israeli academic institutions is necessary due to the complicity of these institutions in the system of oppression that has denied Palestinians their basic rights guaranteed by international law.


In our 2004 call we stated that the academic boycott
is in line with the authoritative call by the Palestinian Council for Higher Education (CHE) for "non-cooperation in the scientific and technical fields between Palestinian and Israeli universities." Academic institutions in particular are part of the ideological and institutional scaffolding of the Zionist settler-colonial project in Palestine, and as such are deeply implicated in maintaining the structures of domination and oppression over the Palestinian people. Since its founding, the Israeli academy has cast its lot with the hegemonic political-military establishment in Israel, and notwithstanding the efforts of a handful of principled academics, is deeply implicated in supporting and perpetuating the status quo. [10]
While it is common to think of universities as ivory towers separate from society, this view ignores the deep roots of the academy in society, and in shaping our knowledge of the world.  Universities influence political power, shape future generations, and structure the moral and ideological underpinnings of our societies.  In the case of Israel, the academy gives the state a veneer of being liberal, tolerant, and just.  This is an image that serves to combat and whitewash the state’s ongoing occupation, colonialism and apartheid.
Why Israeli Institutions?
In response to a call for academic boycott of Israel, one might respond that US academic institutions collaborate with other academic institutions around the world, as well as with their own government that is involved in human rights abuses, war and occupation.  This argument is often used as a red herring to distract activists, and as an attempt to delegitimize the movement.  However, it is critical for us to recognize this as a legitimate concern when it comes from truly conscientious activists and observers, and from people who are invested in advancing ethical forms of resistance against all kinds of oppression.
The above argument can be broken into three parts.  First, we must recognize the voice of Palestinians who suffer under Israel’s intricate multi-tiered system of oppression.  In this sense, an important element is the call by an overwhelming majority of Palestinian civil society for an international boycott of Israel that is embodied in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.  In the 70s and 80s, no ethically minded person would have screamed that the anti-apartheid movement was hypocritical for asking for the boycott of South Africa and not, say, Israel, the U.S. or the Soviet Union.  Thus, it rings hollow and suspicious when people question Palestinians and international solidarity activists for applying the boycott to Israel but not other places.  The BDS movement is explicit in its solidarity with oppressed people around the world fighting against all forms of oppression.  It similarly calls on others to stand with Palestinians in their time of resistance.
Second, we are keenly aware that US academic institutions partner with other foreign academic institutions.  To the extent that these foreign institutions are complicit in their governments’ abuses of international law and human rights, in ways similar to the complicity of Israeli academic institutions, then we also condemn such partnerships.  We doubt, however, that there are, as of yet, any joint ventures within US borders between Saudi Arabian academic institutions, for example, and a US institution.  It is no coincidence that Israeli institutions enjoy greater access to US academic networks, including the funding that these networks enable.  This is what makes the tactic of boycott crucial, effective, and urgent when applied to Israel.  We also stress again that Israel’s atrocious violations of international law remain violations even if there are other countries that commit the same.
This leads to our third argument, where it should not be denied that academic institutions in the US collaborate with their own government, arguably the world's leading and most violent violator of human rights, if we take Iraq and Afghanistan as case studies.  We believe these partnerships should end, and a campaign against Cornell-Technion should strive to raise awareness on US academic complicity, inviting various sectors of local communities to share their experiences and build mutual solidarities.  However, this should not prevent a serious and legitimate call to boycott collaborations with Israeli institutions.  The herculean task of disengaging US academia from the US military industrial complex should not deter or demobilize activists from a call to boycott Israel and its complicit institutions.  Did any morally conscientious person call on US academia to boycott its government before boycotting the apartheid South African regime?  Could American university administrations, morally speaking, argue against the boycott of apartheid South Africa, simply because their own institutions were developing technology for the US government?  We hardly think so.  We cannot defer the rights of people around the world as we wait for the US superpower to clean its house.  However, we must also not hold back from our collective struggles against the abuses of the US government.
In this way, we, at PACBI, along with our coalition partners in Palestinian civil society wish to express our solidarity with oppressed segments of US civil society, and ask that you hear our call and put pressure on your academic institutions and city councils to boycott apartheid Israel.  This is what we ask for in our struggle for freedom, justice and equality.

Notes:
[1] http://english.al-akhbar.com/content/new-york-host-israels-top-drone-lab
[2] http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/in-opposition-to-cornell-universitys/
[3] http://www.usacbi.org/2011/12/open-letter-to-cornell-university-dont-collaborate-with-apartheid/
[4] Uri Yacobi Keller, The Economy of the Occupation: A Socioeconomic Bulletin. (Jerusalem: Alternative Information Center, 2009), 10. http://usacbi.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/economy_of_the_occupation_23-24.pdf.
[5] ibid, 10-11
[6] ibid, 9
[7] “Structures of Oppression: Why McGill and Concordia Universities Must Sever their Links with the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology,” 4. http://www.tadamon.ca/wp-content/uploads/Technion-English.pdf
[8] Ibid., 3-4
[9] Keller, 12-13 (see link above)
[10] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1108

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Rally Tomorrow to Support Olympia Food Co-op!


Responding to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, the Olympia Food Co-op voted in July 2010 to boycott Israeli products until Israel ends the occupation, respects Palestinian human rights, and complies with international law. Pro-Israel forces responded by filing a lawsuit against the Co-op in September of last year. The lawsuit alleges the Co-op's board acted beyond the scope of its authority and committed procedural violations in enacting the boycott.


In November, working with the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the Co-op fought back by filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit on the grounds that is a form of legal and financial intimidation designed explicitly to silence free speech and penalize political participation. In legal terms, this kind of lawsuit is referred to as a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP) and Washington state has an anti-SLAPP statute to deter such lawsuits.


A hearing on the Co-op's motion to dismiss the SLAPP suit will take place this Thursday, February 23 at 9:00am at Thurston County Superior Court in Washington State. US Campaign member group the Rachel Corrie Foundation, along with Olympia Food Co-op members, Olympia BDS and others are rallying people to the hearing and will be gathering outside the courthouse before and after to demonstrate support. If you are in the area, please join them in defending for your constitutionally guaranteed right to political participation and fight against those who wish to silence and intimidate the voices of justice.

For those of you unable to join the rally tomorrow, you can sign the statement of solidarity to show your support for the Olympia Food Co-opCCR will be doing live updates and media coverage via its Twitter feed, @theCCR, and will be using the hashtag #RighttoBoycott. Follow them on Twitter and help spread the word!

For more information about the lawsuit, please visit the CCR case page. The CCR has also prepared a very informative fact sheet about the lawsuit and the right to boycott that can be downloaded here.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Two US Delegations Endorse BDS and Call for Action in the US

The Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel has been endorsed by two US delegations recently returned from fact finding missions to occupied Palestine and Israel.

US Campaign member group US Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (USACBI) organized a delegation of five distinguished scholars for a trip to Palestine and Israel in January. The delegation, composed of professors working at US universities, witnessed firsthand how Israel routinely denies the academic freedom of Palestinian scholars and students. According to a press release issued by USACBI, the delegation noted:

… Israel has consistently closed Palestinian universities under security pretexts and restrictions on freedom of movement mean that it is often very difficult for students to attend universities; international and Palestinian scholars living abroad are denied visas for faculty appointments in the occupied territories.  Furthermore, some 80 students from Birzeit University are held in Israeli prisons and detention centers, 10 of whom are currently being held without charge or trial. The delegation also reported that Israel thwarts Palestinian research capacities by restricting imports of equipment necessary for teaching basic science and engineering. It is all but impossible for Gaza students to attend West Bank universities, or for scholars from Ramallah, Gaza City, and East Jerusalem to meet in the same room.

While the primary focus of the trip was on educational discrimination, the delegation also had the opportunity to visit the 5,000 person Aida Refugee Camp near Bethlehem, as well as hear testimony from Palestinian families living in Sheikh Jarrah who were forcibly evicted from their homes in East Jerusalem by the Israeli military. After witnessing how the "subordination, humiliation, and suspicion" of the occupation regulates the daily lives of Palestinians, as well as numerous violations of Palestinian civil and legal rights, the delegates urged their academic colleagues to support the academic and cultural boycott of Israel. In a brief statement included in USACBI's press release, the delegates stated:

We believe that the perpetuation of the international travesty of colonial occupation in a post-colonial world must be brought to an end.  For it ultimately threatens the rights, dignity and security of everyone who believes in self-determination, equal justice and human rights.
Read USACBI's full press release here. 

LGBTIQ Activists Call for an End to US Aid to Israel and Endorse BDS

A diverse group of academics, artists, and cultural workers from the LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, interest, and queer) community also traveled to Palestine/Israel in January. Upon their return to the US, the delegation released an open letter and petition emphatically endorsing BDS and calling on the queer community and its allies to "stand in solidarity with queer and other Palestinians and progressive Israelis who are working to end the occupation; oppose the state of Israel's practice of pinkwashing; and support efforts on the part of Palestinians to achieve full self-determination including building an international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement."

In their open letter, the delegates strongly reject Israel's practice of pinkwashing -- using the issue of gay rights to deflect attention away from the daily violations of Palestinian human rights:

Key to Israel's pinkwashing campaign is the manipulative and false labeling of Israeli culture as gay-friendly and Palestinian culture as homophobic. It is our view that comparisons of this sort are both inaccurate - homophobia and transphobia are to be found throughout Palestinian and Israeli society - and that this is beside the point: Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine cannot be somehow justified or excused by its purportedly tolerant treatment of some sectors of its own population. We stand in solidarity with Palestinian queer organizations like Al Qaws and Palestinian Queers for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (PQBDS) whose work continues to impact queer Palestinians and all Palestinians.

… We urge LGBTIQ individuals and communities to resist replicating the practice of pinkwashing that insists on elevating the sexual freedom of Palestinian people over their economic, environmental, social, and psychological freedom. Like the Palestinian activists we met, we view heterosexism and sexism as colonial projects and, therefore, see both as interrelated and interconnected regimes that must end.

As queer activists in the US, they condemn US complicity in maintaining the occupation and call for an end to US aid to Israel and support for the BDS movement in the US:

We name the complicity of the United States in this human rights catastrophe and call on our government to end its participation in an unjust regime that places it and us on the wrong side of peace and justice.

We support efforts on the part of Palestinians to achieve full self-determination, such as building an international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement which calls for the fulfillment of three fundamental demands:

The end of the Occupation and the dismantling of the Wall
  (jidar).
The right of return for displaced Palestinians.
The recognition and restoration of the equal rights of citizenship for Israeli     citizens of Palestinian descent.

We call upon all of our academic and activist colleagues in the US and elsewhere to join us by supporting all Palestinian efforts that center these three demands and by working to end US financial support, at $8.2 million daily, for the Israeli state and its occupation.
Read the open letter in full and sign the petition here 


 Testimonials from the Delegates Published on The Feminist Wire


Darnell L. Moore, who traveled to Palestine as part of the LGBTIQ delegation and is an editorial collective member of The Feminist Wire (TFW), solicited reflections and commentaries from US-based scholars, activists and cultural workers about their experiences in Palestine. Those writings have been collected and published online at TFW Forum on Palestine. Several participants from the USACBI and LGBTIQ delegations contributed moving and thoughtful pieces to the forum, including powerful commentaries from Neferti X.M. Tadiar and Jasbir K. Puar. Tadiar calls upon us to "forge new relations beyond the province of interests and inherited forms of social belonging to which we might have become tethered and, for those of us not already called, to feel the suffering and aspirations of Palestinians as also our own," in  "Why the Question of Palestine is a Feminist Concern." Puar's piece, "The Golden Handcuffs of Gay Rights: How Pinkwashing Distorts Both LGBTIQ and Anti-Occupation Activism," offers insightful analysis of Israel's pinkwashing agenda, homonationalism and the radical impact of Palestinian Queers for BDS (PQBDS) on Palestinian society. She argues that by "foregrounding the Occupation as its primary site of struggle, PQBDS is slowly, strategically and carefully insisting upon and creating systemic and thorough changes in the terms of Palestinian society itself. "










Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Weapons maker target of area protest


Below a newspaper in Meadville, PA, covers Monday's protest against Combined Systems, Inc., which manufactures the tear gas projectiles illegally used by the Israeli military to injure and kill Palestinian demonstrators. As we posted yesterday, US Campaign member group Adalah-NY discovered important details on shipments of U.S. tear gas to Israel linked to the injury and killing of both Palestinians and U.S. citizens in this article. To organize with us to end military aid to Israel, sign up here!

By Keith Gushard
January 16, 2012
Meadville Tribune

JAMESTOWN, PA — “Silence is betrayal,” “End chemical warfare,” “Democracy for all” and “Honor Dr. King and the right to protest oppression” were just some of the signs carried by protesters.

Why about two dozen people chose to march two miles on a cold Monday morning from downtown Jamestown into rural Mercer County was straight-forward, according to Werner Lange of the Coalition for Peace in the Middle East.

 “We’re here to try to put an end to one of the major weapons manufacturers whose products have killed countless people,” said Lange, who also is a professor of sociology at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. “It’s time to put a spotlight on it.”

The protesters picketed peacefully Monday in front of Combined Systems Inc. of Jamestown, a maker of tear gas, smoke munitions, other non-lethal and lethal munitions and crowd-control devices. The company’s production complex is located two miles west of the borough on Route 58.

The company’s security director said Monday that company officials were out of town and would have no comment on the protest. Messages left for company officials by the Tribune on Friday and Monday did not get a response.

ARTICLE CONTINUES...

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hands Not Bombs: From the cave of your invented neighbors

The following was written by former US Campaign intern Tamara Masri. It appeared yesterday (Martin Luther King, Jr., Day) on 972mag.com.

“Dare to look for the handprints, dare to acknowledge the humanity of an invented people.” A Palestinian-American student, writer and activist takes a journey of discovery, in an essay inspired by the culture and literature of liberation, an ancient symbol, and a prehistoric cranium.
The author against a mural she painted on the separation wall.
"Do not take the sun out of my palm," it reads.
By Tamara Masri
January 16, 2012
+972 Blog


Skulls of early man flashed across the screen. Dr. Bailey looked at no notes as he described the anatomical features of the ancient cranium. “Female Neanderthal found in Mt. Taboun, Israel”.. For the first time in my Biological Anthropology class, I felt a small jolt in my gut. Until that moment, the babble and jargon revolving around some chick named Lucy had flooded my head with a kind of collegiate wonder. Like the unfamiliar New England snow, the names given to the various early stages of man wafted around and settled within me. The exact location of the Garden of Eden no longer seemed to matter. Though every concept Dr. Bailey spoke was completely foreign to me, it was not the word Neanderthal that had gotten my attention. It was the fact that I had never heard of a place called Mt. Taboun. For Dr. Bailey, the name of the site might have been as dry as the bones unearthed there. But for me the word hung in the air like a piece of ripe fruit, forbidden fruit, and the Mitochondrial Eve within me was reaching for it. Forbidden, that is, for a Palestinian.

Dr. Bailey continued, now speaking of cave paintings found around the world. He was explaining how early man pressed their palms against cave walls; blowing red ochre around the outline of their hands. He raised his own hand slowly, revealing an open palm. “Hands. Why have we always been so fascinated by them?” Long after class ended the question lingered in my mind, a feather floating on a red ochre breeze.

Now I see hands everywhere. On bathroom stalls, imprinted in cement, worn as amulets, the once unnoticed shape now follows me. And I wonder, why hands, indeed? The figurative hands of past literary greats are imprinted on my memory as well. Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish once wrote, “Don’t leave the palm of my hand without the sun.” During elementary school, those elusive Arabic words rolled on my tongue, heavy with syllables but lost in meaning. Other symbols I knew well: keys, the sea, Jaffa oranges. Those are the symbols that are etched into every psyche identified as Palestinian. While the land dwindles with each passing year, those are nostalgic symbols of loss that have never failed to be passed down to the next generation—our negative inheritance.

But for hands, the connotation has never been clear. The symbols of loss we carry around with us, sometimes emerging in the midst of controlled and intellectual New England conversation. Those symbols introduce an uncomfortable tide that shifts the once placid conversation into the uncharted waters of “politics”. Friends at school come back from their Birthright trips; conversation is pleasant when they speak of the deep blue of the Mediterranean. I think of how in Palestine, my friends call it the “white sea”. And for the life of me, I don’t know why. Perhaps because when you stand on a rooftop, balance on your tiptoes, and the haze has cleared… you can see a white glimmer. That’s the only way they’ve ever seen that water. But in Birthright pictures, the sea is a deep blue. I begin to speak of our white mirage of a sea, and I see the straining tide tugging at the corners of their bright faces. Politics. I give a tight smile and swallow the symbols. Can I blame them? The Palestinians are just one uncomfortable paradox that doesn’t fit into their newly discovered Jewish “Narnia”.

The next picture: An innocuous camel ride, a boy helps them climb on to the spitting beast’s back. Their bright faces are the dots of exclamation points. How exciting, foreign, authentic! But my friends don’t even know the best of it: it is all already theirs. Their paradox now pulls at the fringes of my smile: an exotic welcome home in a land in which that boy helping them has no place. He wears the familiar tight smile, a chapped crescent moon carved into dark skies of his skin. The silent smile of submission.

This camel, this ride, this land…it’s their birthright, their Manifest Destiny, not his. I’ve seen him and those rides times before. The stage is set: American teenager and camel in center, the boy edging to the picture’s frame. Another photograph snapped, another album of legitimacy complete. Later it will be posted on Facebook, or perhaps even developed, anything to build the sentimental bedrock of the newfound homeland. My friends move onto the next room of this new house of a country, we awkwardly stand between their frames. Place a golden Israeli coin into our dirt-caked palms, and we stand a little further. The faux sun that has pacified the oppressed, unprivileged, and unwanted—my people— for 63 years. No different than the colonized the revolutionary writer Frantz Fanon once described; we are the wretched of the earth.

When arriving in Israel last week, I handed the soldier my American passport. The passport is the only reason I can use that airport. The soldier is a girl my age, a gun strapped around her shoulder; I smile tightly as I hand her the booklet. Every time I do this I hope she doesn’t open it. It is because of my American passport that I know that the Mediterranean Sea isn’t white, but blue. I want her to see the rolling blue waves of my star-spangled passport. I want her to see the white of my colonial skin. But she does not look at me as she opens the booklet, and suddenly she sees something in the fine print: the red that flows in my veins. “The middle name. Eman. It’s Arabic for what?” She doesn’t believe the lie that my parents would name me after David Bowie’s wife. I scramble trying to explain that I carry only an American passport. I am red, white and blue. She only raises her hand, “Stop talking. A Palestinian is a Palestinian.” And I am sent into a room for interrogation. With every question, the image of her hand - that primitive outline of what makes us all human - kept flashing. Driving home I hand over my passport at each military checkpoint for inspection, now freshly scarred with yet another short-term visa. Being the persistent visitor who can’t seem to get enough of the Israeli State is my only fragile connection to home.

Hands continue to emerge in places where I least expect them. I walk through the streets of Jerusalem, and only now do I notice the hand talisman hanging on the walls of old Palestinians homes in Jerusalem. An Israeli girl walks by, a hand amulet glitters on her neck. Hamseh in Hebrew, Khamsah in Arabic - the hand signifies protection. The irony is blatant. A sole symbol of semblance amongst the two peoples, adorned as protection against the wrath of the other.

The hand itself is such a versatile appendage, completely at the will of the mind’s great machinery. The symbolism of the hand appears to be just as boundless and malleable. Perhaps those hands did not emerge cosmically, but rather I finally chose to see them. I read a poet’s verse and adopt the universal symbol of the human hand as our own. It’s a vain and naïve attempt of just another kid trying to find “meaning.” But that’s what a forgotten people do. We collect the detritus of our ancestors; mold them into ornaments to adorn the colorful, crumbling inner cathedrals of our intricate and fragile identities. And so I hunt—in search of that symbol that can’t be taken.

Now more than ever I have visions of running up to that girl in the cubicle, pressing my hand against the glass that separates us. I want her to look at that hand, at something she can’t take away from me. I want to tell her that we are just a people of hands—not carrying bombs but suns within our palms. It is not the red of blood she sees but the red of ancient ochre outlining my handprint. The symbol is a primal bond far older than our teenage selves, far older than this conflict and all the visceral bitterness that has set us so far apart. Though we may emphasize the unique intricacies of those scars in our palms, holistically our hands are the same. I want her to not only see, but to believe in our equality.

But I did none of that as I returned to the masses of the oppressed and tired prisoners. People were killed during the non-violent demonstrations commemorating Al-Nakba, referring to the Palestinian Diaspora. When I heard my cousin was injured, I sent him a message to which he replied, “Everything is fine.” He did not mention that he may be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life. An Israeli asked me if he regretted his “mistake”.

After those words sank in, I spent the next month making mistakes in the village of Bil’in.

Every week for the past six years the people of Bil’in and many Israeli supporters protest the separation wall. I went, hoping that clouds of burning tear gas would fill the void of helplessness. Through the haze and chaos, I saw a man in a wheelchair heaving himself up a hill against a crowd of running protesters - toward the gas, bullets, soldiers, wall. I did not know how he could withstand the physical pain, all I could see was his relentless battle to photograph the injustice he was forced to swallow as the law of his life. When I spoke to Rani Burnat he replied in hushed, gentle whispers. A quiet disposition radically contrasts to the image of a man hurling himself and the mechanism that binds him towards the grey fumes of chemicals. Every week more images, more characters, more stories burn within me. A boy once ran between the recovering protesters, yelping with joy. He carried a strange electrical box wrapped in loose wires like a trophy. Someone told me that he had dissembled a security device from the wall itself. He ran ahead of the crowd, up the hill toward the soldiers. He moved swiftly through the smoke, eventually throwing the device over the fence. He ran down the hill cheering, weaving between the descending tear gas torpedoes, dodging and dancing. The celebration and the struggle, inseparable. You see, for the wretched of the earth, everything is a wedding.

I still can’t help but think Darwish was speaking of something distinctively meaningful. Suns in the palms of our hands. The image resonates with gravitas similar to that of the Israeli whistleblower Mordachai Vanunu’s first words when he was released from prison, “You tried, but you cannot break the human spirit!” In fact, it was the photograph of Vanunu’s palm pressed up against a car window inscribed with the details of his kidnapping that told the world of his own injustice. His hand served as a fleshy canvas of truth. Saying such words after 11 years of solitary confinement for “treason,” I wouldn’t have ever believed him. But after living in the urban prison that the Palestinian Territories prove to be, I know his words are true. Perhaps this is what Darwish meant. To take the sun, the spirit, out the palms of the innocent is impossible. Under the smoke and sun, there will always be jubilee.

I think back to Dr. Bailey’s statement: “The most intact Neanderthal remains were found in Taboun, a cave in Israel.” If that cave had to go through a checkpoint, surely it wouldn’t pass with a name like that. The cave itself, with its ethnic name, betrays the country that has adopted it. Taboun in Arabic means oven. And though I may be denied of ever seeing this relic, I can feel the temperature rising in this oven-cave I call my home. The fumes of third world traffic exhaust trace the tight circles of the confined motion of a buzzing people with too much energy - too much potential - and nowhere to go. These grey walls we’ve been placed in only incubate the heat of all these wasted suns.

It is no wonder the handprint was the first art form. Early man must have been so fascinated with hands because that print was proof of his own existence on this Earth. And that is in fact the only crime Palestinians are guilty of: sheer existence. But there is a consolation in knowing that other hands across the world have experienced the similar struggles. A man at Bil’in once told me, “Didn’t Martin Luther King have a dream? Why not us?” I smile at the wonderful naïveté of the cliché, but cannot help but think of the question Langston Hughes once posed, about what happens to a dream deferred.

Indeed, Dr. King’s words have never been more applicable than today, “I have tried to stand between these two forces, saying that we need emulate neither the “do-nothingism” of the complacent nor the hatred and despair of the black nationalist.” The equivalent forces that have always polarized the Palestinian image have never been more unpopular. Like in Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, they too have been busy projecting images on these cave walls. But it is far too hot now to keep watching the players take turns at shadow games between the flames of empty promises. Though this prison I write from may be larger than Dr. King’s cell in Birmingham, I am reminded of the fact people do overcome. I do believe that the wind of red ochre blows within Palestine. An age has come in which making handprints on these walls has never been so alluring. The walls may rob us of our freedom, but let them remind the outside and ourselves of our own humanity.

For us, Plato’s cave is no allegory but a 63-year old reality we have endured. Darwish, Vanunu, a boy with the camel, a girl with the gun. They are all just hands, some with prints, some without. Their existence within a conversation carries a certain tension, but they are not political. The hands I speak of, the hands I have held, are not about politics. Politicians have hands too, but as Stephan Walt of Foreign Policy noted a few months ago when referring to Congress; hands may also “applaud for apartheid.” The sound of those hands applauding is amplified with Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich’s sentiment, when he called the Palestinians an “invented people” in early December.

Mustafa Tamimi. Bassem Abu Rahma. Jawaher Abu Rahma. These are the “invented” names that chose to protest non-violently in the past few months. American-made “non-lethal” teargas torpedoes took their lives, human hands no longer.

Let it be known that the hands of the Palestinians are open, empty, and reaching. Whether you hold onto that extended hand now or wait to shake it after all is said and done, that is your choice. Our dream is no different from that of Martin Luther King Jr., Langston Hughes, or any people who have been oppressed. Together we share the dream of justice “deferred.” Ours has been blooming in the form of non-violent resistance, and only now are you seeing the blossom. In this garden of a world that my generation will inherit, I know that I will struggle to protect that delicate bud from the weeding hands of the various gardeners we never asked for. And though I take solace in reading the literature of the oppressed, I am reminded that there are multiple fates for a dream deferred. Even blossoms are ephemeral, if they spend their lives fighting the violent heat insulated between these cave walls. Dare to look for our handprints, dare to acknowledge our humanity. For it is the only thing we have left, the only thing we really need.

Here’s to the wretched, the indigenous, the “invented” people who brought me into existence. Our emergence from this cave is inevitable. With fists unclenched, flickering suns illuminate the path to freedom.

Tamara Masri is a sophomore at Tufts Univeristy in Medford, Massachusetts. She lives in Ramallah.

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Earth to Congress, We have a Problem

By Mike Coogan, Legislative Coordinator

Representative J. Randy Forbes' recent trip to a series of illegal Israeli settlements typifies much of what is broken with Congress these days and lays bare an unprecedented level of hypocrisy. While Representative Forbes was gallivanting along apartheid roads connecting Israel's illegal settlements, Palestinians were preparing to engage in an act of civil disobedience to highlight the lack of freedom and equality that has long characterized their lives. On November 15, nonviolent Palestinian Freedom Riders challenged segregation on Israeli buses plying routes between West Bank Israeli colonies. Rep. Forbes, holding to American principles, should have been the first to commend them.

Notably, he did not.

In fact, the Congressman frequently professes his intention to work for religious freedom around the globe, but has failed to say anything about Israel's denial of religious freedom and equality to Tuesday's Freedom Riders and millions of other Palestinians. Palestinians are at the mercy of Israeli occupation authorities if they hope to pray at Christian and Muslim holy sites in occupied East Jerusalem. That’s not freedom of worship; it is systemic religious and racial discrimination.

Coogan
Forbes' penchant for self-selecting those who should be allowed to enjoy freedom was on full display during a recent meeting I had with his staff. Before the discussion about the Palestinian bid for membership in the UN and Israeli violations of U.S. laws could begin, the legislative assistant informed us that Rep. Forbes supported Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu without reservations.

The message was simple: Israel can violate human rights and U.S. laws with impunity, but Palestinians will be subject to swift and devastating sanctions for nonviolently exercising their right to self-determination in the U.N.

To follow up on the legislative assistant's statement, we asked how the Congressman could possibly justify unconditional support for a leader who shows reckless disregard for U.S. law, Palestinian human rights, and American interests.

Astonishingly, we were informed that there is no difference between Netanyahu's policies and U.S. interests. There are differences between Americans in the Republican and Democratic parties, but no differences between Netanyahu’s policies and American interests? The idea is absurd and the sentiments behind it dangerous. We ought not cede our principles to the policies Netanyahu crafts for subjugating Palestinians.

The fundamental nature of an alliance and core American interests appear to be lost on Representative Forbes and his staff. Members of Congress seemingly lost the message sent out by military officials, human rights groups, and civil society organizations across the country: Israel is not a useful asset in the region, but a strategic liability. Quite simply, we do ourselves no favor by backing and funding Israel’s domination of another people.

For example, according to Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently told the National Security Principals Committee that the U.S. has received nothing in return for copious and unconditional support to Israel. During the same meeting, Gates reportedly went on to say that Netanyahu was both ungrateful and endangering Israel’s own security.

General David Petraeus stated in March of 2010 that unconditional support for Israel was damaging U.S. standing in the region and fomenting widespread anti-American sentiment.

Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department have documented clear and flagrant human rights violations by the Israeli government with U.S.-supplied weapons.

And in addition to concerns about human rights and U.S. security, taxpayers simply cannot afford to give Israel over $731 million in military aid over the next nine years as we underfund our own social programs and watch the deficit skyrocket.

Before Rep. Forbes makes more token statements about the promotion of religious freedom and equality, he should think about how his actions in support of Israel’s discriminatory policies fundamentally undermine the principles he claims to hold dear. After all, throwing Palestinian Freedom Riders off buses bound for occupied East Jerusalem is every bit as wrong as throwing American Freedom Riders off buses bound for the Jim Crow South.


Mike Coogan is a member of Virginians for Middle East Peace and the Legislative Coordinator for the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Israelis Accuse BNP Paribas of Caving to BDS Pressure

In an article (below) in last Thurday's Haaretz, Israeli officials angrily accused French bank BNP Paribas of pulling out of Israel in response to civil society pressure in France. While BDS activists are currently directing robust campaigns against French companies like Veolia, BNP Paribas does not appear to have been targeted by BDS activists. The bank itself has said that it is pulling out in response to the ongoing financial crisis in Europe.

While it may be difficult to ascertain exactly why BNP Paribas is exiting Israel, it is not difficult to explain Israel's enraged response: it is terrified by the growing international momentum of BDS. The palpable fear and anxiety exhibited by Israeli officials in the Haaretz article is further evidence of the strength of BDS as a powerful nonviolent resistance strategy.

Rage in Israel as BNP Paribas pressured to pull out

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Banks Supervisor David Zaken and their top officials believe the bank’s board of directors caved to pressure groups, contrary to its claims.

By Moti Bassok

The powers that be are furious at BNP Paribas for shuttering its operations in Israel, and suspect it is acting due to Arab and anti-Israeli pressure in France, the bank’s home base.

Bank of Israel Governor Stanley Fischer, Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz, Banks Supervisor David Zaken and their top officials believe the bank’s board of directors caved to pressure groups, contrary to its claims.This is the first case in years of a foreign bank leaving Israel. BNP Paribas has had operations in Israel since 2003. Most of its business here involved financing large projects that involve French companies.

The bank recently decided to shut down its local offices and dismiss its 60 employees. The bank claims this is because it sustained serious damage from the Greek crisis. Yet the only foreign branch is closing is its Israeli one, even though BNP Paribas has branches all over the world, including in Israel’s neighbor countries.

The French bank is leaving a very limited representation in Israel. It does not need the Bank of Israel’s approval for this, even though its operations are still supervised by the central bank.

Fischer and Zaken held several harsh discussions with BNP Paribas executives, which brought no results, and also denounced the bank’s actions in internal meetings. Fischer reportedly said that one of his goals as Israel’s chief banker was to convince large foreign banks to do business in Israel. There is no reason for BNP Paribas to leave, he reportedly said.

The Bank of Israel said it could not comment on a specific bank.

DePaul University Students Declare Victory in Sabra Hummus Campaign

Just prior to Thanksgiving, US Campaign coalition member group DePaul University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) announced an important victory in its campaign against the sale of Sabra hummus in university dining halls. Earlier this year, DePaul SJP launched a campaign to have Sabra hummus removed from campus dining halls because it is partially owned by the Strauss Group, which provides material and financial support to Israeli military units. After an inquiry into the activities of the Strauss Group, the university elected to continue selling Sabra hummus. However, the university has quietly introduced the sale of an alternative brand of hummus in the university's dining halls providing students with the opportunity to make ethical consumer purchases.

The battle over Sabra hummus at DePaul reminds us that grassroots efforts often lead to progressive change even when our primary goals have not been immediately achieved. DePaul SJP's Sabra hummus campaign raised awareness of how our consumer choices can render us complicit in supporting Israeli occupation and apartheid. The availability of an alternative brand of hummus is an important victory that takes on added significance as pro-Israel groups begin to counter BDS actions in the US with events like this week's "Buy Israel Week."

DePaul University students declare victory in Sabra hummus campaign

PRESS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 23, 2011

DePaul University students declare victory in Sabra hummus campaign

Following SJP’s campaign to remove Sabra hummus from campus due to students’ concerns about the product’s connection to human rights abuses, DePaul provides alternative hummus brand in its dining halls.

CHICAGO, IL (November 23, 2011)—DePaul University Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) declare a major victory in their campaign against the sale of Sabra hummus products after University dining services introduced an alternative brand of hummus to campus this fall quarter. The decision was made after SJP’s yearlong campaign to draw attention to the complicity of Sabra’s parent company, the Strauss Group, in Israel’s military occupation of Palestine.

Student activists identify the University’s decision to introduce an alternative brand of hummus as a revision of the University’s decision to continue selling Sabra hummus. SJP member Maryam Salem said, “We’re happy that student concerns over Sabra hummus have finally been heard. A lot of students were disappointed by the University’s decision to keep Sabra back in the spring. But now, by offering an alternative brand of hummus, students have an ethical product they can choose.”

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Growing Impact of BDS Creating Anxiety amongst pro-Israel Groups

The growing success of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign internationally has Israel’s US supporters panicked. In response to the surging momentum of BDS, pro-Israel groups have launched "Buy Israel Week," which will run Nov. 28 to Dec. 4.

The initiative, with counts BDS target Ahava as one of its sponsors, is frantically being promoted as a way to counteract the BDS movement and those that “work to undermine Israel’s right to exist.”

Such foolish hyperbole, designed to demonize a nonviolent resistance movement and deflect attention away from Israel’s systematic human rights violations, reveals the growing desperation of Israel’s supporters, as the rogue nation is increasingly isolated due to its illegal occupation and apartheid regime.

In fact, the BDS movement continues to grow and gain momentum precisely because it is a powerful nonviolent resistance strategy. Our steadfast work organizing and educating at the grassroots level is working to ensure that US consumers don’t buy “the coolness” of Israeli consumer products.

It is clear the pressure we are bringing to bear on Israeli interests is having an impact. International BDS efforts are playing a key role in contributing to Israel’s isolation. Those efforts are also changing the lopsided discourse in the US that still overwhelmingly favors Israel. Through solidarity and a commitment to nonviolence, our movement will succeed in holding Israel accountable to its obligations under international law.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Power of an Insurrectionary Imagination


By Jody Scholz
US Campaign intern
I recently had the good fortune of attending a conference in Atlanta sponsored by US Campaign coalition member group Friends of Sabeel-North America (FOSNA). The conference, From Birmingham to Bethlehem: The Power of Nonviolence in the US and Palestine-Israel, featured a variety of workshops and plenary speakers linking the nonviolent resistance of the US Civil Rights movement to the ongoing nonviolent Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and apartheid. Legendary civil rights activist Dr. Bernard LaFayette implored conference attendees to join in solidarity actions with the Palestinian Freedom Riders, Dr. Beverly Guy-Sheftall spoke of her trip to the West Bank in June as part of a US delegation of women of color feminists, led by US Campaign Advisory Board member Barbara Ransby, which subsequently endorsed the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel. Kennesaw State University Professor Jesse Benjamin led a packed workshop on whiteness in the Jewish-Christian Zionist embrace, and US Campaign National Organizer Anna Baltzer gave a dynamic presentation chronicling expanding apartheid conditions on the ground in Palestine-Israel eloquently advocating for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) as a powerful form of nonviolent resistance.
FOSNA has organized 33 regional conferences across the US over the last nine years and they have several scheduled for next year. If you have the opportunity to attend one, I would highly encourage you to do so. It was a challenging and richly rewarding experience.
In keeping with FOSNA’s mission of engaging North American Christians on the issue of a just peace in the Holy Land, many of the workshops focused on the moral, legal and theological basis from which US churches can work to end US complicity in the occupation. One of the recurring points of discussion throughout the conference was how US churches should respond to calls for “balance” when discussing the Palestine-Israel conflict. This is a particularly tricky issue for progressive US churches, many of whom feel a need to atone for Christian anti-Semitism and complicity in the Holocaust, and have admirably dedicated themselves to building relations with the Jewish community via interfaith dialogue and reconciliation.
While invoking the need for balance in discussing the conflict seems reasonable enough, it is almost always employed as way of normalizing the relationship between the oppressor and the oppressed. Several conference speakers, notably author and activist Mark Braverman, noted that in practice this means interfaith dialogue far too often results in Christian theologians refusing to condemn or even discuss Israeli human rights abuses against the Palestinians. And where there is criticism of Israel, it is almost always accompanied by recognition of Israeli suffering as somehow on par with the suffering of Palestinians living under the scourge of apartheid and occupation. The apparent reasonableness of entreaties for balance and dialogue helps explain why normalization is such an insidiously powerful and effective discourse.
The issue of normalization was also the focus of a skills-building workshop led by a Columbia University SJP member, cartoonist and solidarity activist Ethan Heitner, and US Campaign National Organizer Anna Baltzer at last month’s National Students for Justice in Palestine Conference. Columbia SJP and Adalah-NY, of which Heitner is a member, are both US Coalition member groups. Palestinian solidarity organizations on US campuses are often challenged by Zionist student groups to organize events together to present both perspectives of the conflict. In order to help student groups (and other solidarity activists) better understand and explain how normalization legitimizes Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people, Keilani and Heitner created a comic. The comic, titled “Nothing Normal About It,” does a great job of bringing to life how normalization misdirects attention away from Israeli crimes and frustrates our efforts to educate people in the US about the conflict.


As we continue to confront the discourse of normalization in the US, we must remember the importance of speaking differently. Our challenge is to articulate narratives that move beyond the entrenched vocabulary of the dominant discourse. This discourse serves not only to limit the scope of permissible discussion, but it also works to demoralize our spirits (so aptly depicted in the comic) and lock our imaginations. Cultural activism of the kind embodied by Keilani and Heitner’s comic enables us to question the dominant ways of seeing things and to present alternative views of the world because it opens up our imaginations, or what Jennifer Verson has referred to as our “insurrectionary imagination”:
An insurrectionary imagination is at the heart of cultural activism. It is a sense of possibility that is not limited by copying a pattern or following a design that somebody else created, or by what Augusto Boal (2002) calls the “cop in the head.” We all have that voice, the one that tells us our ideas are stupid, they won’t work out, they are too difficult or are bound to fail.
Cultural activism relies on killing the cop in your head and expressly tries to develop this insurrectionary imagination to create performances and actions. This living practice addresses complicated questions about how we build the world that we want to live in. Insurrectionary imaginations evoke a type of activism that is rooted in the blueprints and patterns of political movements of the past but is driven by its hunger for new processes of art and protest.

Rafeef Ziadah’s spoken word performance of her poem “We teach life, sir,” exploded across the internet this past week because she creates a narrative which simultaneously unmasks the violence of the Israeli occupation and the complicity of a noxious discourse that excuses Israeli brutality by invoking that great racist colonial trope of the Palestinians as uncivilized barbarians who can only be tamed through brute force. In a mere four minutes, Ziadah turns that discourse, so often repeated in the media, inside out and exposes its moral shallowness. This is the power of the insurrectionary imagination.
As we move forward as a movement, we must be consciously open to seeing, speaking, listening and thinking differently. We must believe in the power of our imaginations to help dissolve the boundary between dream and reality to create a world of unbounded freedom for all.