Wednesday, January 30, 2008

It's coming...

Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) is sponsoring Palestine Awareness Week, a five-day presentation of different aspects of Palestinian issues, from February 11th through February 15th. Event topics include Introducing Palestine, Exploring the Structure of Israel's Occupation, The Cultural Resistance of Palestinian Film, Aspects of Apartheid: South Africa and Israel, and Visions of Peace. Speakers include Thomas Abowd (WSU professor), Neve Gordon (visiting associate professor), Rima Hassouneh (UM professor), Tirtza Even (UM School of Art), Hani Bawardi (UM-Dearborn professor), and Ali Abunimah (prominent Palestinian academic). The overall purpose of the events are to further educate the campus body about a variety of issues concerning Palestine and Palestinians.

Monday, Feb 11th, 7:30pm, 100 Hutchins Hall
Introducing Palestine
- Prof Thomas Abowd (Wayne State)

Tuesday, Feb 12th, 8pm, 100 Hutchins Hall
From Colonization to Separation, Exploring the Structure of Israel's Occupation
- Prof Neve Gordon (Ben-Gurion Univ)

Wednesday, Feb 13th, 7:30pm, 100 Hutchins Hall
The Cultural Resistance of Palestinian Film
- Rima Hassouneh and Tirtza Even (UM)

Thursday, Feb 14th, 7:30pm, 100 Hutchins Hall
Aspects of Apartheid: South Africa and Israel
- Prof Hani Bawardi (UM-Dearborn)

Friday, Feb 15th, 5pm, 100 Hutchins Hall
Visions of Peace
- Ali Abunimah (Univ. of Chicago)

Also on Friday, 8:30pm, Koessler Room, Michigan League -
Words of Struggle - a poetry slam promoting Palestine
awareness and civil rights, in honor of Black History Month.

Co-sponsored by:
Human Rights Through Education
Physicians for Human Rights
Anti-War Action
Amnesty International
Students for Multiculturalism
Student World Assembly
Migrant and Immigrant Rights Awareness
United Asian American Organizations
Black Student Union
Native American Students Association
Palestinian Students Association
Lebanese Students Association
Iraqi Students Association
Muslim Students Association
Arab Unity Movement
Program in American Culture
Arab-American Studies Program
Dept. of Screen Arts and Cultures

RSVP at:

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Blockade of Gaza: Worse Than a Crime

January 26 / 27, 2008

It looked like the fall of the Berlin wall. And not only did it look like it. For a moment, the Rafah crossing was the Brandenburg Gate.

It is impossible not to feel exhilaration when masses of oppressed and hungry people break down the wall that is shutting them in, their eyes radiant, embracing everybody they meet - to feel so even when it is your own government that erected the wall in the first place.

The Gaza Strip is the largest prison on earth. The breaking of the Rafah wall was an act of liberation. It proves that an inhuman policy is always a stupid policy: no power can stand up against a mass of people that has crossed the border of despair.

That is the lesson of Gaza, January, 2008.

ONE MIGHT repeat the famous saying of the French statesman Boulay de la Meurthe, slightly amended: It is worse than a war crime, it is a blunder!

Months ago, the two Ehuds - Barak and Olmert - imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip, and boasted about it. Lately they have tightened the deadly noose even more, so that hardly anything at all could be brought into the Strip. Last week they made the blockade absolute - no food, no medicines. Things reached a climax when they stopped the fuel, too. Large areas of Gaza remained without electricity - incubators for premature babies, dialysis machines, pumps for water and sewage. Hundreds of thousands remained without heating in the severe cold, unable to cook, running out of food.

Again and again, Aljazeera broadcast the pictures into millions of homes in the Arab world. TV stations all over the world showed them, too. From Casablanca to Amman angry mass protest broke out and frightened the authoritarian Arab regimes. Hosny Mubarak called Ehud Barak in panic. That evening Barak was compelled to cancel, at least temporarily, the fuel-blockade he had imposed in the morning. Apart from that, the blockade remained total.

It is hard to imagine a more stupid act.

THE REASON given for the starving and freezing of one and a half million human beings, crowded into a territory of 365 square kilometers, is the continued shooting at the town of Sderot and the adjoining villages.

That is a well-chosen reason. It unites the primitive and poor parts of the Israeli public. It blunts the criticism of the UN and the governments throughout the world, who might otherwise have spoken out against a collective punishment that is, undoubtedly, a war crime under international law.

A clear picture is presented to the world: the Hamas terror regime in Gaza launches missiles at innocent Israeli civilians. No government in the world can tolerate the bombardment of its citizens from across the border. The Israeli military has not found a military answer to the Qassam missiles. Therefore there is no other way than to exert such strong pressure on the Gaza population as to make them rise up against Hamas and compel them to stop the missiles.

The day the Gaza electricity works stopped operating, our military correspondents were overjoyed: only two Qassams were launched from the Strip. So it works! Ehud Barak is a genius!

But the day after, 17 Qassams landed, and the joy evaporated. Politicians and generals were (literally) out of their minds: one politician proposed to "act crazier than them", another proposed to "shell Gaza's urban area indiscriminately for every Qassam launched", a famous professor (who is a little bit deranged) proposed the exercise of "ultimate evil".

The government scenario was a repeat of Lebanon War II (the report about which is due to be published in a few days). Then: Hizbullah captured two soldiers on the Israeli side of the border, now: Hamas fired on towns and villages on the Israeli side of the border. Then: the government decide in haste to start a war, now: the government decided in haste to impose a total blockade. Then: the government ordered the massive bombing of the civilian population in order to get them to pressure Hizbullah, now: the government decided to cause massive suffering of the civilian population in order to get them to pressure Hamas.

The results were the same in both cases: the Lebanese population did not rise up against Hizbullah, but on the contrary, people of all religious communities united behind the Shiite organization. Hassan Nasrallah became the hero of the entire Arab world. And now: the population unites behind Hamas and accuses Mahmoud Abbas of cooperation with the enemy. A mother who has no food for her children does not curse Ismail Haniyeh, she curses Olmert, Abbas and Mubarak.

SO WHAT to do? After all, it is impossible to tolerate the suffering of the inhabitants of Sderot, who are under constant fire.

What is being hidden from the embittered public is that the launching of the Qassams could be stopped tomorrow morning.

Several months ago Hamas proposed a cease-fire. It repeated the offer this week.

A cease-fire means, in the view of Hamas: the Palestinians will stop shooting Qassams and mortar shells, the Israelis will stop the incursions into Gaza, the "targeted" assassinations and the blockade.

Why doesn't our government jump at this proposal?

Simple: in order to make such a deal, we must speak with Hamas, directly or indirectly. And this is precisely what the government refuses to do.

Why? Simple again: Sderot is only a pretext - much like the two captured soldiers were a pretext for something else altogether. The real purpose of the whole exercise is to overthrow the Hamas regime in Gaza and to prevent a Hamas takeover in the West Bank.

In simple and blunt words: the government sacrifices the fate of the Sderot population on the altar of a hopeless principle. It is more important for the government to boycott Hamas - because it is now the spearhead of Palestinian resistance - than to put an end to the suffering of Sderot. All the media cooperate with this pretence.

IT HAS been said before that it is dangerous to write satire in our country - too often the satire becomes reality. Some readers may recall a satirical article I wrote months ago. In it I described the situation in Gaza as a scientific experiment designed to find out how far one can go, in starving a civilian population and turning their lives into hell, before they raise their hands in surrender.

This week, the satire has become official policy. Respected commentators declared explicitly that Ehud Barak and the army chiefs are working on the principle of "trial and error" and change their methods daily according to results. They stop the fuel to Gaza, observe how this works and backtrack when the international reaction is too negative. They stop the delivery of medicines, see how it works, etc. The scientific aim justifies the means.

The man in charge of the experiment is Defense Minister Ehud Barak, a man of many ideas and few scruples, a man whose whole turn of mind is basically inhuman. He is now, perhaps, the most dangerous person in Israel, more dangerous than Ehud Olmert and Binyamin Netanyahu, dangerous to the very existence of Israel in the long run.

The man in charge of execution is the Chief of Staff. This week we had the chance of hearing speeches by two of his predecessors, generals Moshe Ya'alon and Shaul Mofaz, in a forum with inflated intellectual pretensions. Both were discovered to have views that place them somewhere between the extreme Right and the ultra-Right. Both have a frighteningly primitive mind. There is no need to waste a word about the moral and intellectual qualities of their immediate successor, Dan Halutz. If these are the voices of the three last Chiefs of Staff, what about the incumbent, who cannot speak out as openly as they? Has this apple fallen further from the tree?

Until three days ago, the generals could entertain the opinion that the experiment was succeeding. The misery in the Gaza Strip had reached its climax. Hundreds of thousands were threatened by actual hunger. The chief of UNRWA warned of an impending human catastrophe. Only the rich could still drive a car, heat their homes and eat their fill. The world stood by and wagged its collective tongue. The leaders of the Arab states voiced empty phrases of sympathy without raising a finger.

Barak, who has mathematical abilities, could calculate when the population would finally collapse.

AND THEN something happened that none of them foresaw, in spite of the fact that it was the most foreseeable event on earth.

When one puts a million and a half people in a pressure cooker and keeps turning up the heat, it will explode. That is what happened at the Gaza-Egypt border.

At first there was a small explosion. A crowd stormed the gate, Egyptian policemen opened live fire, dozens were wounded. That was a warning.

The next day came the big attack. Palestinian fighters blew up the wall in many places. Hundreds of thousands broke out into Egyptian territory and took a deep breath. The blockade was broken.

Even before that, Mubarak was in an impossible situation. Hundreds of millions of Arabs, a billion Muslims, saw how the Israeli army had closed the Gaza strip off on three sides: the North, the East and the sea. The fourth side of the blockade was provided by the Egyptian army.

The Egyptian president, who claims the leadership of the entire Arab world, was seen as a collaborator with an inhuman operation conducted by a cruel enemy in order to gain the favor (and the money) of the Americans. His internal enemies, the Muslim Brothers, exploited the situation to debase him in the eyes of his own people.

It is doubtful if Mubarak could have persisted in this position. But the Palestinian masses relieved him of the need to make a decision. They decided for him. They broke out like a tsunami wave. Now he has to decide whether to succumb to the Israeli demand to re-impose the blockade on his Arab brothers.

And what about Barak's experiment? What's the next step? The options are few:

(a) To re-occupy Gaza. The army does not like the idea. It understands that this would expose thousands of soldiers to a cruel guerilla war, which would be unlike any intifada before.

(b) To tighten the blockade again and exert extreme pressure on Mubarak, including the use of Israeli influence on the US Congess to deprive him of the billions he gets every year for his services.

(c) To turn the curse into a blessing, by handing the Strip over to Mubarak, pretending that this was Barak's hidden aim all along. Egypt would have to safeguard Israel's security, prevent the launching of Qassams and expose its own soldiers to a Palestinian guerilla war - when it thought it was rid of the burden of this poor and barren area, and after the infrastructure there has been destroyed by the Israeli occupation. Probably Mubarak will say: Very kind of you, but no thanks.

The brutal blockade was a war crime. And worse: it was a stupid blunder.

Border crisis key to Gaza's future

Friday, 25 January 2008
By James Robbins
BBC diplomatic correspondent

17 January: Israel seals border following rise in rocket attacks
20 January: Gaza's only power plant shuts down
22 January: Israel eases restrictions
22 January: Egyptian border guards disperse Palestinian protest against closure
23 January: Border wall breached

Borders - especially closed borders - divide families.

So we should not be surprised by reports that one Egyptian family responded to dramatic pictures of tens of thousands of Palestinians streaming into Egypt through the breached Rafah barriers by bringing forward the date of a wedding in the hope that cousins, normally shut off inside the Gaza Strip, might be able to join them.

Egypt is under enormous pressure - from Israel and much of the international community - to get a grip and reseal the border.

Israel fears wholesale arms smuggling to extremists in Gaza.

Other governments fear the breakdown of delicately balanced international agreements meant to reassure Israel and help open the way to a comprehensive peace - the Israel-Palestine "two-state solution".

End of arrangement

But the breaches of the past few days have drawn global attention to the near total isolation of the civilians of Gaza, so that simply closing the frontier again may prove politically all but impossible.

The border was not meant to be completely closed, of course.

At the time of Israel's "disengagement" or withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, an international agreement launched new policing of the Rafah border.

Essentially, a combination of CCTV cameras providing live pictures to the Israeli authorities and a team of EU monitors at crossing points was intended to ensure proper control, and protection against the smuggling of guns and explosives which could be used to launch attacks against Israel from Gaza.

Those arrangements broke down progressively, partly after Hamas won the parliamentary elections in Gaza of January 2006, and totally after the final seizure of all power in Gaza by Hamas in 2007.

The EU teams withdrew. The border closed.

'Unsustainable situation'

It has become part of Israel's blockade of Gaza, which Israel says is a necessary response to rocket attacks from Gaza which kill and injure Israeli citizens.

Others insist the blockade amounts to illegal collective punishment of Gaza's civilian population.

Egypt is in a bind. It did not want the border breached.

The Egyptian government despises and fears Hamas. It fears opposition forces within Egypt, including religious fundamentalists, being strengthened by Hamas ideology.

But equally, Egypt does not want to be seen directly as "Gaza's jailer". So closing the border, amid scenes of Arab fighting Arab - Palestinian stones against Egyptian riot shields - is also very unwelcome.

Israel has moved to suggest that any failure to close the border by Egypt would justify Israel in handing over responsibility for the future welfare of the people of Gaza to Egypt - neatly ridding Israel of a problem, and the source of so much international criticism.

That will not happen, but the Rafah border breach and the extraordinary scenes of a mass Palestinian breakout for shopping or simply for fresh air may yet have profound political effects on the entire Middle East peace process.

The downside could be a hardening of attitudes on all sides, further complicating or poisoning the climate for concessions in the dialogue which US President George W Bush is hoping to accelerate.

The upside could be a realisation that the present situation in Gaza, and the split between Hamas there, and Fatah in the West Bank, is utterly unsustainable.

Only a comprehensive final settlement between Israelis and Palestinians offers the prospect of security, and possibly prosperity too, for all.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Gaza's last gasp

Sonja Karkar, The Electronic Intifada, 23 January 2008

By now, people watching their news programs around the world would have caught a glimpse of Gaza City in candle-lit darkness. A pretty sight indeed if it were not for the fact that most of the people in the Gaza Strip will have to depend on these candles as their only source of light now that the power plant servicing much of Gaza's population has shut down completely. There is no fuel to keep the plant running because Israel has imposed a complete lock-down of this most densely populated place on earth. That means no movement in or out of the Gaza Strip for people, or any kind of shipments in of vital food, fuel supplies and medicines. It is more than a miserable existence: it is a slow death.

This is the sixth day of Israel's draconian action against a people already suffering from the punitive sanctions imposed on them after their democratic elections in January 2006 did not yield a result palatable to Israel and parts of the international community. Israel's latest 24-hour reprieve to let in some supplies is not going to change the circumstances under which the Palestinians have had to live for the last two years. At most, these supplies will last two days. The Palestinians have been struggling to survive in conditions that reached emergency levels even before this latest siege. Hunger, poverty and unemployment are widespread and in this maximum-security prison surrounded by Israel's military cordon, disease, malnutrition and anarchy are dangerously close to breaking out.

Israel claims that its actions are in response to the homemade rocket fire aimed at the Israeli town of Sderot bordering the Gaza Strip. But by no stretch of the imagination is the firing of rockets compared to Israel's ongoing siege of Gaza an even contest. The Palestinians are imprisoned in Gaza and have no military force other than guns and homemade rockets. Israel, on the other hand, has the most sophisticated weaponry in the world at its disposal and uses it with merciless ferocity. It is bombing the Gaza Strip with its F-16 fighter planes and helicopter gun ships and is launching artillery fire from the tanks it has surrounding this tiny stretch of land. In just the last few days, some 40 people have been killed and 120 injured, most of them civilians.

Israel's responses are completely disproportionate to the damage caused by the rocket fire from Gaza, which is a symbolic retaliation for Israel's aggression and its effect is largely psychological. While it certainly makes life miserable for the residents of Sderot, Israel itself is not under threat. The number of Israelis killed and injured by these rockets has been very few compared to the exponentially more Palestinians killed in Gaza. In six years, twelve Israelis have been killed while hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in retaliation, not to mention the hundreds more that have been wounded, often permanently maimed.

Such collective punishment of an entire population is illegal under international law. Most of the Palestinians in Gaza are not combatants. Like in any other population, there is the usual mix of civil servants, doctors, teachers, lawyers, health care workers, engineers, journalists, politicians, students and the thousands of people upon whom any society depends to keep services running -- except that hundreds of thousands are now unemployed. And then of course, there are the mothers and children, the elderly and the sick, the incapacitated, the mentally impaired, the charity workers, volunteers, people who do not have a say about what decisions are made. There are also angry young men who feel helpless to protect their families and people already burdened by decades of humiliation and oppression, and many of them are fighting back as any people would do under attack, but their means are primitive and limited because they cannot leave the confines of Gaza.

Over 1,000 Palestinian civilians have gone out on the streets in protest and to beg the world to put an end to this enforced starvation and siege. People are queuing up to find bread, but no one is baking because there is no electricity. Connections with the outside world are dwindling as mobile phones and laptops run out of battery power. There is no water because the pumps need electricity. Washing machines, cook tops and ovens are useless. People cannot get to work because there is practically no fuel for cars and buses. Hospitals with generators are running out of fuel to power them, halting all surgery procedures. Babies in incubators will die once the power goes. Asthmatics on ventilators will suffer. People needing dialysis machines and heart monitors will collapse. Clinics and laboratories will lose their tests and vaccines. Soon, all communication with the outside world will cease and what are we going to do about it?

Najwa Sheikh Ahmad who works for UNRWA in Gaza and began the Candles for Gaza Campaign with her husband last year in October has written to say, "The Israeli side is doing its best to steal every joyful moment in our lives. Starting from treating us like another weird species that should have no mercy, to destroying the best happy moments that a family can have, the wedding of a son, to the slow killing of my people, like banning their right to have medical treatment outside Gaza which has seen 72 people die already, to finally controlling every border and banning the regular rights of having electricity, water and fuel -- basic needs that no one should have to bargain over. I am sitting in the dark cold with my three children and I try to keep them busy, but the days are long and dark and they feel bored and are starting to make trouble. Oh God, how exhausting it is to live this way in the 21st century."

John Dugard, UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories said that "The killing of some 40 Palestinians in Gaza in the past week, the targeting of a government office near a wedding party venue with what must have been foreseen loss of life and injury to many civilians, and the closure of all crossings into Gaza raise very serious questions about Israel's respect for international law and its commitment to the peace process."

Luisa Morgantini, the vice president of the European parliament, has expressed concern over the escalating acts of murder committed by the IOF troops in Gaza and the West Bank and has urged the EU high representative Javier Solana and the world community to work side by side to force the Israeli government to stop the violence and mass punishment against Palestinian civilians.

The UN's Emergency Relief Coordinator, the Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs John Holmes said that "This kind of action against the people in Gaza cannot be justified, even by those rocket attacks".

Israel's actions have done nothing to further the peace process over which there was so much fanfare only a few weeks ago. Where will it all stop if Israel is allowed to continue its siege? When people are taking their last gasps in their battle for survival, who knows where desperation will lead them -- mass riots, anarchy, and absolute despair where death will be better than life?

Israel might find that giving the Palestinians their freedom and allowing them the dignity of self-determination in their own land might be far more effective in bringing about a peaceful solution than all this bloodshed and misery. Fifty years have passed since Israeli Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan said, "How can we complain about Gaza's hatred towards us? For eight years, they have been sitting in refugee camps while right in front of them, we are turning the land and villages of their forefathers into our home." How much deeper must the hatred be after decades of oppression that has reduced their existence to a mere specter of life? Without a political solution that includes Gaza in negotiations to settle the wrongs done to the Palestinians, a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis is as remote as ever.

The Palestinians need candles desperately and they need your voice to speak for them. There are many ways that you can do this. Organize demonstrations or vigils, or take part in ones that are already being organized. Take the time and write to newspapers and politicians urging them to take action and bring an end to this humanitarian disaster. Also, a deluge of letters to the Israeli Embassy would allow the Israelis to see that the world does not support a siege on the people of Gaza. The power is in your hands to spread the word through your churches, work groups, clubs, neighborhood networks, and simply by talking to everyone you know. We cannot stand by and allow this slow agonizing death of a whole people to continue whatever justification Israel gives for its actions. There has to be another way that gives succor to the people of Gaza and hope for a better future than the ominous one being forced on them right at this moment.

Palestinians break out from Gaza seige - 23 Jan 07

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

"Jenin, Jenin" today, Gaza Vigil tomorrow

The film, directed and co-produced by Palestinian actor and director
Mohammed Bakri, includes testimony from Jenin residents after the
Israeli army's Defensive Wall operation, during which the city and
camp were the scenes of fierce fighting. The operation ended with
Jenin flattened and scores of Palestinians killed. Palestinians as
well as numerous human rights groups accused Israel of committing war
crimes in the April 2002 attack on the refugee camp. "Jenin, Jenin"
shows the extent to which the prolonged oppression and terror has
affected the state of mind of the Palestinian inhabitants of Jenin.

For more information on the film, please visit:

RSVP at:

Co-sponsored by the Arab American Studies Department

For more information on the Jenin massacre:

Candlelight Vigil for Gaza Humanitarian Crisis

U of M Diag Thursday 8:30 PM

The entire Gaza Strip has been under a total blockade for more than a week and on Sunday at 8pm, the only power plant in Gaza ran out of fuel and shut down, furthering the humanitarian crisis. 40% of Gazans lack running water, and approximately 75 Palestinians have reportedly died from the closure. A number of patients in intensive care units have died as their emergency life support equipment cannot function from electricity. These patients include people on dialysis, oxygen tanks, and babies in incubators -- either premature babies, or babies whose parents took them to the hospital to escape from their houses because of the cold weather. These are human beings treated like sub-humans and there has been almost nonexistent mainstream media coverage of this terrible situation in the American press. Come out and help raise awareness.

This is collective punishment and it is a direct violation of the Geneva Convention, to which Israel is a signing party.

For more on the siege in Gaza:

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Europe's Collusion in Israel's Slow Genocide

January 21, 2008

Never Again?

Europe's Collusion in Israel's Slow Genocide


The European Union, Israel's largest trade partner in the world, is watching by as Israel tightens its barbaric siege around Gaza, collectively punishing 1.5 million Palestinian civilians, condemning them to devastation, and visiting imminent death upon hundreds of kidney dialysis and heart patients, prematurely born babies, and all others dependent on electric power for their very survival.

By freezing fuel and electric power supplies to Gaza, Israel, the occupying power, is essentially guaranteeing that "clean" water -- only by name, as Gaza's water is perhaps the most polluted in the whole region, after decades of Israeli theft and abuse -- will not be pumped out and properly distributed to homes and institutions; hospitals will not be able to function adequately, leading to the eventual death of many, particularly the most vulnerable; whatever factories that are still working despite the siege will now be forced to close, pushing the already extremely high unemployment rate even higher; sewage treatment will come to a halt, further polluting Gaza's precious little water supply; academic institutions and schools will not be able to provide their usual services; and lives of all civilians will be severely disrupted, if not irreversibly damaged. And Europe is apathetically watching.

Princeton academic Richard Falk considered Israel's siege a "prelude to genocide," even before this latest crime of altogether cutting off energy supplies. Now, Israel's crimes in Gaza can accurately be categorized as acts of genocide, albeit slow. According to Article II of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, the term is defined as:

"[A]ny of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; ."

Clearly, Israel's hermetic siege of Gaza, designed to kill, cause serious bodily and mental harm, and deliberately inflicts conditions of life calculated to bring about partial and gradual physical destruction, qualifies as an act of genocide, if not all out genocide yet. And the EU is suspiciously silent.

But why accuse Europe, in particular, of collusion in this crime when almost the entire international community is not lifting a finger, and the UN's obsequious Secretary General, who surpassed all his predecessors in obedience to the US government, is pathetically paying only lip service? In addition, what of the US government itself, Israel's most generous sponsor that is directly implicated in the current siege, especially after president George Bush, on his recent visit, gave a hardly-subtle green light to Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, to ravage Gaza? Why not blame the Palestinians' quiet Arab brethren, particularly Egypt -- the only country that can immediately break the siege by reopening the Rafah crossing and supplying through it the necessary fuel, electric power and emergency supplies? And finally, why not blame the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority, whose subservient and visionless leader openly boasted in a press conference its "complete agreement" with Bush on all matters of substance?

After Israel, the US is, without doubt, the guiltiest party in the current crime. Under the influence of a fundamentalist, militaristic, neo-conservative ideology that has taken over its helms of power and an omnipotent Zionist lobby that is unparalleled in its sway, the US is in a category by itself. It goes without saying that the PA, the UN, as well as Arab and international world governments maintaining business as usual with Israel should all be held accountable for acquiescing, whether directly or indirectly, to Israel's crimes against humanity in Gaza. It is also true that each one of the above bears the legal and moral responsibility to intervene and apply whatever necessary pressure to stop the crime before thousands perish. But the EU commands a unique position in all this. It is not only silent and apathetic; in most European countries Israel and Israeli institutions are currently welcomed and sought after with unprecedented warmth, generosity and deference in all fields -- economic, cultural, academic, athletic, etc. For instance, Israel was invited as the guest of honor to a major book fair in Turin, Italy. Israeli-government funded films are featuring in film festivals all over the continent. Israeli products, from avocadoes and oranges to hi-tech security systems, are flooding European markets like never before. Israeli academic institutions are enjoying a special, very lucrative, association agreement with the relevant organs in the EU. Israeli dance groups, singing bands and orchestras are invited to European tours and festivals as if Israel were not only a normal, but in effect a most favoured, member of the so-called "civilized" world. Official Europe's once lacklustre embrace of Israel has turned into an intense, open and enigmatic love affair.

If Europe thinks it can thus repent for its Holocaust against its own Jewish population, it is in fact shamefully and consciously facilitating the committal of fresh acts of genocide against the people of Palestine. But Palestinians, it appears, do not count for much, as we are viewed not only by Israel, but also by its good old "white" sponsors and allies as lesser, or relative, humans. The continent that invented modern genocide and was responsible for massacring in the last two centuries more human beings, mostly "relative humans," than all other continents put together is covering up crimes that are reminiscent in quality, though certainly not in quantity, of its own heinous crimes against humanity.

In no other international affair, perhaps, can the European establishment be accused of being as detached from and indifferent to its own public opinion. While calls for boycotting Israel as an apartheid state are slowly but consistently spreading among European civil society organizations and trade unions, drawing disturbing parallels to the boycott of South African apartheid, European governments are finding it difficult to distinguish themselves from the overtly complicit US position vs. Israel. Even European clich├ęs of condemnation and "expressing deep concern" have become rarer than ever nowadays. Moreover, Israel's relentless and defiant violation of Europe's own human rights laws and conditions are ignored whenever anyone questions whether Israel should continue to benefit from its magnanimous association agreement with the EU despite its military occupation, colonization and horrific record of human rights abuse against its Palestinian victims. If this is not complicity, what is?

Morality aside, sinking Gaza into a sea of darkness, poverty, death and despair cannot bode well for Europe. By actively propping up an environment conducive to the rise of fanaticism and desperate violence near its borders, Europe is foolishly inviting havoc to its doorstep. Instead of heeding -- or at least seriously considering -- calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against apartheid Israel, adopted by virtually the entire spectrum of Palestinian civil society, it may soon have to reckon with uncontainable forces of irrational and indiscriminate violence and its resulting chaos.

It seems European elites are currently determined never to oppose Israel, no matter what crimes it commits. It is as if the bellowing -- and increasingly hypocritical -- slogan upheld by Jewish survivors of European genocide, "Never Again!", is now espoused by European elites with one difference: the two letter, 's' and 't', are added at the end.

Gaza diary 1: Rana Elhind

In the first installment of her diary for the BBC News website, Rana Elhindi, a Save the Children worker in Gaza, describes the impact of Israel's blockade on daily life and the aid effort in the territory.

Rana Elhindi says life in Gaza is always difficult

Right now our office has gone into emergency mode - we cannot get supplies into Gaza for our regular projects.

I've been receiving phone calls around the clock from Save the Children colleagues in Jerusalem and London.

We have had to reduce our office working hours because the fuel is not available to run the emergency generator. This all makes it very difficult for us to help the children who need it most.

If the promised 2.2 million litres of fuel is allowed in, it will mean that Gaza will only have enough fuel to keep hospital generators and some water pumps going for three days.

This won't be enough to sustain the needs of its population of 1.5 million people. It's like sticking a plaster on a wound while the wound keeps bleeding.

Stress and despair

It's another cold day in Gaza City, with frost coating the streets and the sun trying to break through the clouds.

I've been up since early this morning. In fact it's been difficult to get much sleep because it's so cold.

At this time of the year the temperature in Gaza drops to as low as 4C and houses are not equipped for the winter when the heaters are not working due to a shortage of fuel.

Life is tough in Gaza at the best of time with 80% of the population dependent on some form of aid assistance.

There have been some requests for us to assist in water delivery so children can access clean and safe drinking water.

Today I met the Coastal Municipalities Water Utility, an organisation supplying water to Gaza.

Like us they are watching to see what kind of real impact fuel supplies will have on the humanitarian situation on the ground.

Poverty is deepening here, as is stress and despair, especially among the most vulnerable, women and children.

Pressure cooker

Save the Children research shows that 40% of children suffer from insomnia in Gaza. Many children have known nothing but conflict and poverty their whole lives and the ongoing cycle of poverty and violence is having a devastating impact.

More than 50% of Gaza's population is under the age of 18 and the impact of violence and living in poverty and insecurity is damaging youngsters and their families.

The scars inflicted by living in a pressure-cooker environment are more than just psychological.

Rates of anaemia caused in part by a lack of food and adequate nutrition has increased since 2007 in Gaza, with 70% of infants aged nine months now suffering from the condition.

Diarrhoea is also on the increase partly due to the lack of clean water and the lack of hygiene.

When fuel is short, there is real concern that access to clean and safe water will lead to children in particular falling sick.

As I go to work I see people queuing for basics such as bread. Very often children are accompanying their parents as there is nothing else for them to do.

But most days the streets are empty because there is no fuel for cars.

Tomorrow I will visit the Zeitun neighbourhood in Gaza City to assess the impact that leaking sewage is having, and how Save the Children can work on alleviating the suffering.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Where does it end?

Where does it end?
Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 21 January 2008

"The residents of Gaza can walk": A gas station attendant sits at his empty station that ran out of gas due to the Israeli closure of Gaza. (Wissam Nassar/MaanImages)

Much of Gaza is once again in darkness, as Israel cut off the fuel to its only power plant. Hospital patients have reportedly died, communications are out, and movement and commerce in an already beleaguered economy have come to a near halt.

Michele Mercier, spokesperson for the the International Committee of the Red Cross, said Gaza hospitals still had medications "but it won't last for more than two or three days." Now, Gazans must also contend with the possibility of already scarce food supplies being cut off. Christopher Gunness of UNRWA, the UN relief agency, said the agency could be forced to suspend food distribution to 860,000 people because of the shortage of fuel and plastic bags.

The New York Times, always to be counted on to provide the right euphemisms, reported that "Israel's defense minister, Ehud Barak, ordered a temporary halt on all imports into the Hamas-run Gaza Strip late last week. The measure, along with stepped-up military operations in Gaza, was meant to persuade Palestinian militants there to stop firing rockets at Israel." (Isabel Kershner, "Fuel Shortage Shuts Gaza Power Plant, Leaving City Dark," 21 January 2008.)

Terms like "measures" and "persuasion" sound so gentle. But they cover up a brutal reality that Israeli leaders are keen to boast about: they are acting with premeditation to inflict suffering on the Palestinian civilian population, and they display an extraordinary degree of callousness for their victims.

Israel must instruct its army to "eliminate the rocket fire from Gaza" completely, "irrespective of the cost to the Palestinians," Israeli Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter told the cabinet on Sunday. ("Dichter: We must stop attacks from Gaza at all cost," Ynet, 20 January 2008.)

"We are impacting the overall quality of life in Gaza and destroying the terror infrastructure," Defense Minister Ehud Barak boasted.

As news of mounting suffering came out of Gaza, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert provided further confirmation that civilians were on Israel's target list: "We are trying to hit only those involved in terrorism, but also signaling to the population in Gaza that it cannot be free from responsibility for the situation." With fuel running out, he scoffed, "As far as I'm concerned, all the residents of Gaza can walk and have no fuel for their cars because they have a murderous terrorist regime that doesn't allow people in the south of Israel to live in peace."

The punishment of Gaza's population is apparently succeeding beyond Israel's wildest dreams. Unnamed Israeli "defense officials" told The Jerusalem Post on 20 January "that food supplies were running low in Gaza and would dry up by the middle of the week." ("Gaza food will run out by midweek," 20 Jan 2008). Meanwhile, the Israeli daily Haaretz cited "Israeli security officials" who said "that the electrical supply difficulties in the Gaza Strip were greater than Israel had previously expected when it cut off fuel to the coastal territory earlier in the day." ("Barak: Gaza to get one-time fuel, medicine delivery," 21 January 2008.)

Israeli leaders are usually careful to lace their statements with pro forma denials that they are deliberately trying to create a "humanitarian" crisis -- though they never define what level of deliberately inflicted suffering might cross that threshold. Gaza's residents "are hostages of a deranged regime, but there is no real humanitarian crisis there," said housing minister Zeev Boim, apparently referring to Hamas, not his own government.

The logic seems to be that Israel can do whatever it wants, as long as officials use euphemisms to describe it. As Dov Weissglas, Olmert's advisor, so notoriously put it when Israel began its strangulation of Gaza in early 2006, "It's like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won't die." But they do die, in large numbers.

Some top Israelis make it clear that they do not actually believe that Palestinian civilians even exist. Yuval Diskin, head of the Israel Security Agency (ISA), or Shin Bet secret police, responsible for hundreds of extrajudicial executions of Palestinians, told the cabinet on 13 January that the army and Shin Bet agents had "killed 1,000 terrorists in the Gaza Strip in the past two years." By B'Tselem's count Israel had killed 816 Palestinians in Gaza in the previous two years, of whom 152 were children and many others were adult civilians "who took no part in the hostilities." Thus, B'Tselem concluded, the "head of the ISA defines every Palestinian killed by Israel in the Gaza Strip as a terrorist." (B'Tselem, "Head of ISA defines a terrorist as any Palestinian killed by Israel," 13 January 2008.)

And, Israel's exasperated foreign minister Tzipi Livni explained, "Israel is the only country in the world that supplies electricity to terror groups which in turn fire rockets at it." Thus she confirmed that like Diskin, she sees no distinction between civilians and combatants -- in her view the million people plunged into darkness are all part of one giant "terror group." ("Livni: Hamas can end Gaza siege in minute's time," Ynet, 21 January 2008)

Virtually every news report on Gaza faithfully reproduces Israel's claim that it is "retaliating" for rockets fired from Gaza that have caused minor injuries and damage. When these reports -- like those from National Public Radio's Linda Gradstein or The New York Times -- do report on the high Palestinian death toll they usually claim, without citing evidence, that most of the dead were "militants" or "gunmen."

Almost ignored are the comments of John Dugard, UN special rapporteur on the human rights situation in the Palestinian territories, who countered that the "killing of some 40 Palestinians in Gaza in the past week, the targeting of a government office near a wedding party venue with what must have been foreseen loss of life and injury to many civilians, and the closure of all crossings into Gaza raise very serious questions about Israel's respect for international law." He condemned Israel for violating "the strict prohibition on collective punishment contained in the Fourth Geneva Convention."

Nor do these news reports mention that Hamas has observed unilateral ceasefire after unilateral ceasefire, never welcomed with Israeli reciprocation. And nor do they notice that Israel continues extrajudicial executions and military attacks throughout the West Bank even though no rockets have been fired from there.

Israeli officials claim that all Palestinians are justifiable targets of their wrath because they fail to stop Palestinians resistance groups from firing rockets. This is exactly the same logic that Palestinian resistance fighters use when they fire rockets at Israeli towns. "One's heart goes out to the residents of Sderot," wrote Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy today of the town that has borne the brunt of Palestinian rockets, "but one should also remember that they bear the same responsibility for the situation as do all Israelis. If a survey were conducted in this battered city, it would show that there is also a majority in Sderot in favor of continuing the occupation and siege, as everywhere else in Israel."

Where then does it end?

Gaza economy crushed by embargo

By Martin Patience
BBC News, Gaza City

Gaza's gravediggers are busy. More than 35 Palestinians - mainly militants - were killed by Israeli air strikes last week.

But at the dusty Adwan cemetery in Gaza City, the gravediggers are facing an extra challenge.

The cement that they once used to build the graves has run out and they are now using bathroom tile grout.

"We can't guarantee the quality of work," says Anwar Dramleh, 33, one of the gravediggers holding a shovel in hands.

"It might lead to water leakage as the graves are not properly finished."

Across the Gaza Strip, everyday goods are no longer everyday.

Hospitals are reporting a lack of drugs and parts for medical equipment. The price of chocolate, cigarettes and Coke has doubled, even trebled, because of the shortages.

Since the Hamas takeover of the territory in June, Gaza has been subjected to an intensified economic embargo.

The main goods crossing into Gaza has been closed and only humanitarian aid has been allowed into the strip since then.

But last week, Israel announced that it was closing all the border crossings into Gaza.

Israeli officials say this was in response to the almost continuous rocket fire from the territory onto neighbouring Israeli towns and villages.

UN agencies are warning that the humanitarian situation in the territory will worsen. On Sunday the only power plant in Gaza said that it was shutting down because of a lack of fuel supplies.

Palestinian business leaders and politicians also warn that the damage to the economy because of the embargo is now irreparable.

With no raw materials getting in and no finished products getting out, Gaza's industrial sector has collapsed. Over 100,000 Palestinians have lost their jobs in the last six months, according to local unions.

Amr Hamad, the head of the Palestinian Federation of Industries in Gaza, says that even if the goods crossing opened tomorrow, most of the business would not return.

"The Israeli importers have lost their trust in Gaza," he says. "I don't think they will come back to do business."

The food and beverage sector is the one industry in Gaza that has fared well because food has not been subject to the economic embargo.

Manal Hassan, the managing director of the Awda biscuit factory, says that her plant is one of the last still operating in the territory.

But she says that they will be forced to close in two weeks as they have run out of supplies to make the biscuit wrappers.

Like many other companies in Gaza, Awda's managers are looking to relocate abroad in neighbouring Egypt or in Jordan.

"It's a disaster for Gaza's economy," she says. "We have to be productive here, we can't just rely on international aid.

With soaring unemployment, many Gazans look for work wherever there is an opportunity.

'Death' jobs

Close to one of the crossings from Gaza into Israel, a few men working with donkeys sift though rubble for scrap metal.

The job is dangerous as Israeli troops sometimes fire at them, suspecting they are militants.

One of the workers said the job was like "walking towards death".

But he considers himself lucky to have a job - a rare privilege in Gaza these days.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Israel orders closure of Gaza crossings as Palestinian anger and casualties increase

Rory McCarthy in Gaza City
Saturday January 19, 2008
The Guardian

Moin al-Wadia lay on his hospital bed beneath a window yesterday, soaking up the last of the day's winter sunshine. Around him sat his family, with boxes of sweet pastries and bouquets of flowers, as they tried to explain the growing anger and frustration of the people of Gaza.
Wadia had been working at a mechanics' market on Tuesday morning when the Israeli military launched a major ground incursion, beginning a new round of intense fighting in Gaza. When he heard the sound of gunfire, Wadia began to leave but was knocked to the ground by the force of an Israeli shell. It sliced off his left foot, shattered his right leg and shrapnel lacerated his stomach.

Doctors at the Shifa hospital have told him his best chance for any kind of recovery is to leave for treatment abroad, perhaps in Jordan. But Israel closed the crossings into Gaza yesterday and prevented even UN trucks from delivering food aid.

It was the latest stage in an intensified Israeli operation in Gaza, but one which now effectively prevents food assistance coming in and people and exports going out. The UN refugee agency said the latest closure left it unable to deliver 15 truckloads of aid yesterday and warned of growing despair in Gaza, where 80% of the population already relies on UN food.

"It is my right to live and for my wife and children to live," Wadia said. "But the ordinary people are getting lost in this dispute. Of course we have to stop these rockets. Only a peace agreement can put an end to this violence and destruction." His wife, Wassima, said: "We just don't know what is happening. People talk about peace, but we see the opposite."

Last night the Gaza death toll over the past four days stood at 34, among them at least 10 civilians.

An Israeli warplane bombed the offices of the Palestinian interior ministry yesterday, flattening one wing of the empty building, killing a woman attending a wedding party next door and wounding at least 46 other civilians, some of them children playing football in the street, hospital staff said.

Yesterday, Israel sealed all border crossings with the Gaza Strip, in an attempt to pressure Hamas to halt the rocket fire, but the attacks continued, with 16 missiles falling in southern Israel, including one that damaged a daycare centre, although it caused no casualties.

Palestinian militants have fired more than 160 makeshift rockets into southern Israel and on Tuesday shot dead an Ecuadorian kibbutz volunteer.

Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, said no shipment would cross into Gaza without his personal approval. A spokesman for the defence ministry said the closure was a "signal" to Hamas, the Islamist group that won Palestinian elections two years ago and last summer seized full control of Gaza. The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, warned that his military operations in Gaza would continue "without compromise, without concessions and without mercy".

The fighting, the worst for more than a year, raises serious questions about the viability of recently renewed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

On the other side of Gaza City yesterday, Ahmad Yazagi received mourners at a funeral tent near his home. A few hundred metres away at midday on Wednesday his two brothers, Mohammad, 27, and Amr, 38, and his nephew Amir, eight, were killed when their car was struck by an Israeli missile. The Israeli military later admitted it was a mistake, but Yazagi said his family had received no explanation, apology or offer of compensation.

"What is our guilt? We ask to live in peace and we ask them to leave us alone," he said, surrounded by family and neighbours. "With one hand the Israelis talk about peace, with the other they continue fighting."

The deaths left Yazagi, 26, the sole wage earner for his extended family. He earns 1,000 shekels (£135) a month as a temporary labourer at the health ministry and inherits the £15,000 debt of his brother, who was setting up a scrap metal business.

The UN says about half the strip's 1.5 million people no longer have access to fresh water, because Israel has restricted fuel supplies, which in turn halts pumps and reduces electricity production. Although the UN has food for the next two months in its warehouses, the closure of crossings has limited supplies and forced up prices.

Fraud Fit For A King: Israel, Zionism, And The Misuse Of Mlk

January 20, 2003

By Tim Wise

Rarely am I considered insufficiently cynical. As someone who does anti-racism work for a living, and thus hears all manner of excuse-making by those who wish desperately to avoid being considered racist, not much surprises me. I expect people to lie about race; to tell me how many black friends they have; to swear they haven’t a racist bone in their bodies. And every January, with the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday just around the corner, I have come to expect someone to misuse the good doctor’s words so as to push an agenda he would not likely have supported. As such, I long ago resigned myself to the annual gaggle of fools who deign to use King’s “content of their character” line from the 1963 March on Washington so as to attack affirmative action, ostensibly because King preferred simple “color-blindness.” That King actually supported the efforts that we now call affirmative action--and even billions in reparations for slavery and segregation--as I’ve documented in a previous column, matters not to these folks. They’ve never read King’s work, and they’ve only paid attention to one news clip from one speech, so what more can we expect from such precious simpletons as these? And yet, even with my cynic’s credentials established, the one thing I never expected anyone to do would be to just make up a quote from King; a quote that he simply never said, and claim that it came from a letter that he never wrote, and was published in a collection of his essays that never existed. Frankly, this level of deception is something special. The hoax of which I speak is one currently making the rounds on the Internet, which claims to prove King’s steadfast support for Zionism. Indeed, it does more than that.

In the item, entitled “Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend,” King proclaims that criticism of Zionism is tantamount to anti-Semitism, and likens those who criticize Jewish nationalism as manifested in Israel, to those who would seek to trample the rights of blacks. Heady stuff indeed, and 100% bullshit, as any amateur fact checker could ascertain were they so inclined. But of course, the kinds of folks who push an ideology that required the expulsion of three-quarters-of-a-million Palestinians from their lands, and then lied about it, claiming there had been no such persons to begin with (as with Golda Meir’s infamous quip), can’t be expected to place a very high premium on truth. I learned this the hard way recently, when the Des Moines Jewish Federation succeeded in getting me yanked from the city’s MLK day events: two speeches I had been scheduled to give on behalf of the National Conference of Community and Justice (NCCJ).

Because of my criticisms of Israel--and because I as a Jew am on record opposing Zionism philosophically--the Des Moines shtetl decided I was unfit to speak at an MLK event. After sending the supposed King quote around, and threatening to pull out all monies from the Jewish community for future NCCJ events, I was dropped. The attack of course was based on a distortion of my own beliefs as well. Federation principal Mark Finkelstein claimed I had shown a disregard for the well-being of Jews, despite the fact that my argument has long been that Zionism in practice has made world Jewry less safe than ever. But it was his duplicity on King’s views that was most disturbing. Though Finkelstein only recited one line from King’s supposed “letter” on Zionism, he lifted it from the larger letter, which appears to have originated with Rabbi Marc Schneier, who quotes from it in his 1999 book, “Shared Dreams: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Jewish Community.” Therein, one finds such over-the-top rhetoric as this:

“I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews--this is God's own truth.” The letter also was filled with grammatical errors that any halfway literate reader of King’s work should have known disqualified him from being its author, to wit: “Anti-Zionist is inherently anti Semitic, and ever will be so.” The treatise, it is claimed, was published on page 76 of the August, 1967 edition of Saturday Review, and supposedly can also be read in the collection of King’s work entitled, This I Believe: Selections from the Writings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. That the claimants never mention the publisher of this collection should have been a clear tip-off that it might not be genuine, and indeed it isn’t. The book doesn’t exist. As for Saturday Review, there were four issues in August of 1967. Two of the four editions contained a page 76. One of the pages 76 contains classified ads and the other contained a review of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s album. No King letter anywhere.

Yet its lack of authenticity hasn’t prevented it from having a long shelf-life. Not only does it pop up in the Schneier book, but sections of it were read by the Anti-Defamation League’s Michael Salberg in testimony before a House Subcommittee in July of 2001, and all manner of pro-Israel groups (from traditional Zionists to right-wing Likudites, to Christians who support ingathering Jews to Israel so as to prompt Jesus’ return), have used the piece on their websites.

In truth, King appears never to have made any public comment about Zionism per se; and the only known statement he ever made on the topic, made privately to a handful of people, is a far cry from what he is purported to have said in the so-called “Letter to an Anti-Zionist friend.” In 1968, according to Seymour Martin Lipset, King was in Boston and attended a dinner in Cambridge along with Lipset himself and a number of black students. After the dinner, a young man apparently made a fairly harsh remark attacking Zionists as people, to which King responded: “Don’t talk like that. When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You’re talking Anti-Semitism.” Assuming this quote to be genuine, it is still far from the ideological endorsement of Zionism as theory or practice that was evidenced in the phony letter.

After all, to respond to a harsh statement about individuals who are Zionists with the warning that such language is usually a cover for anti-Jewish bias is understandable. More than that, the comment was no doubt true for most, especially in 1968. It is a statement of opinion as to what people are thinking when they say a certain thing. It is not a statement as to the inherent validity or perfidy of a worldview or its effects.

Likewise, consider the following analogous dualism: first, that “opposition to welfare programs is forever racism,” and secondly, that “when people criticize welfare recipients, they mean blacks. This is racism.”

Whereas the latter statement may be true--and studies would tend to suggest that it is--the former is a matter of ideological conviction, largely untestable, and thus more tendentious than its counterpart. In any event, as with the King quotes--both fabricated and genuine--the truth of the latter says nothing about the truth or falsity of the former.

So yes, King was quick to admonish one person who expressed hostility to Zionists as people. But he did not claim that opposition to Zionism was inherently anti-Semitic. And for those who criticize Zionism today and who like me are Jewish, to believe that we mean to attack Jews, as Jews, when we speak out against Israel and Zionism is absurd.

As for King’s public position on Israel, it was quite limited and hardly formed a cornerstone of his worldview. In a meeting with Jewish leaders a few weeks before his death, King noted that peace for Israelis and Arabs were both important concerns. According to King, “peace for Israel means security, and we must stand with all our might to protect its right to exist, its territorial integrity.”

But such a statement says nothing about how Israel should be constituted, nor addresses the Palestinians at all, whose lives and challenges were hardly on the world’s radar screen in 1968.

At the time, Israel’s concern was hostility from Egypt; and of course all would agree that any nation has the right not to be attacked by a neighbor. The U.S. had a right not to be attacked by the Soviet Union too--as King would have no doubt agreed, thereby affirming the United States’ right to exist. But would anyone claim that such a sentiment would have implied the right of the U.S. to exist as it did, say in 1957 or 1961, under segregation? Of course not.

So too Israel. Its right to exist in the sense of not being violently destroyed by hostile forces does not mean the right to exist as a Jewish state per se, as opposed to the state of all its citizens. It does not mean the right to laws granting special privileges to Jews from around the world, over indigenous Arabs.

It should also be noted that in the same paragraph where King reiterated his support for Israel’s right to exist, he also proclaimed the importance of massive public assistance to Middle Eastern Arabs, in the form of a Marshall Plan, so as to counter the poverty and desperation that often leads to hostility and violence towards Israeli Jews.

This part of King’s position is typically ignored by the organized Jewish community, of course, even though it was just as important to King as Israel’s territorial integrity.

As for what King would say today about Israel, Zionism, and the Palestinian struggle, one can only speculate.

After all, he died before the full tragedy of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza would be able to unfold.

He died before the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel; before the invasion of Lebanon and the massacres at Sabra and Shatilla; before the 1980’s intifada; before Israel decided to serve as a proxy for U.S. foreign policy--funneling weapons to fascist governments in South Africa, Argentina and Guatemala, or helping to arm terrorist thugs in Mozambique and the contras in Nicaragua.

He died before the proliferation of illegal settlements throughout the territories; before the rash of suicide/homicide bombings; before the polls showing that nearly half of Israeli Jews support removing Palestinians via “transfer” to neighboring countries.

But one thing is for sure. While King would no doubt roundly condemn Palestinian violence against innocent civilians, he would also condemn the state violence of Israel.

He would condemn launching missile attacks against entire neighborhoods in order to flush out a handful of wanted terrorists.

He would oppose the handing out of machine guns to religious fanatics from Brooklyn who move to the territories and proclaim their God-given right to the land, and the right to run Arabs out of their neighborhoods, or fence them off, or discriminate against them in a multitude of ways.

He would oppose the unequal rationing of water resources between Jews and Arabs that is Israeli policy.

He would oppose the degrading checkpoints through which Palestinian workers must pass to get to their jobs, or back to their homes after a long day of work.

He would oppose the policy which allows IDF officers to shoot children throwing rocks, as young as age twelve.

In other words, he would likely criticize the working out of Zionism on the ground, as it has actually developed in the real world, as opposed to the world of theory and speculation.

These things seem imminently clear from any honest reading of his work or examination of his life. He would be a broker for peace. And it is a tragedy that instead of King himself, we are burdened with charlatans like those at the ADL, or the Des Moines Jewish Federation, or Rabbis like Marc Schneier who think nothing of speaking for the genuine article, in a voice not his own.

"Jenin, Jenin"

Students Allied for Freedom and Equality presents the acclaimed documentary:

"Jenin, Jenin" (2002)

Wednesday, January 23rd
4448 East Hall

The film, directed and co-produced by Palestinian actor and director
Mohammed Bakri, includes testimony from Jenin residents after the
Israeli army's Defensive Wall operation, during which the city and
camp were the scenes of fierce fighting. The operation ended with
Jenin flattened and scores of Palestinians killed. Palestinians as
well as numerous human rights groups accused Israel of committing war
crimes in the April 2002 attack on the refugee camp. "Jenin, Jenin"
shows the extent to which the prolonged oppression and terror has
affected the state of mind of the Palestinian inhabitants of Jenin.

For more information on the film, please visit: