Monday, March 31, 2008

Daily - Group efforts of SAFE

Recognizing the importance of the group behind a leader

To the Daily:

While I am thoroughly honored to have been recognized by the Daily in its "Students of the year" (03/26/2008) for my participation in Students Allied for Freedom and Equality - a diverse group of student activists organized to promote justice, human rights, liberation and self-determination for the Palestinian people - I would like to note that our success as an organization cannot be attributed to just one person. Nothing could have been achieved this year had it not been for the hard work and dedication of all SAFE's members, especially my co-chair Hena Ashraf, Bre Arder, Faria Jabbar, Ryah Aqel and Kamal Abuarquob.

This year, SAFE was steadfast in its effort to provide the campus community with a holistic and analytical outlook at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It did this in spite of being harassed by Internet and campus watchdogs who attempted to intimidate SAFE into silence through libelous blog postings and offensive fliers, which sometimes compared the SAFE members to the Ku Klux Klan. By ignoring and properly reporting these cowardly acts of hate and discrimination, SAFE demonstrated that it is possible to engage in a civil and analytical debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

As members of an institution of higher learning, we have a fundamental obligation to uphold the principles of freedom and equality. SAFE calls on people from all backgrounds and political persuasions to support peace and justice in the Middle East.

Andrew Dalack

LSA sophomore

The letter writer is the co-chair of SAFE

Friday, March 28, 2008

Palestinians Fear Two-Tier Road System

Published: March 28, 2008
Khaled Abu Aker contributed reporting from A Tira, West Bank.

BEIT SIRA, West Bank — Ali Abu Safia, mayor of this Palestinian village, steers his car up one potholed road, then another, finding each exit blocked by huge concrete chunks placed there by the Israeli Army. On a sleek highway 100 yards away, Israeli cars whiz by.

“They took our land to build this road, and now we can’t even use it,” Mr. Abu Safia says bitterly, pointing to the highway with one hand as he drives with the other. “Israel says it is because of security. But it’s politics.”

The object of Mr. Abu Safia’s contempt — Highway 443, a major access road to Jerusalem — has taken on special significance in the grinding Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For the first time, the Supreme Court, albeit in an interim decision, has accepted the idea of separate roads for Palestinians in the occupied areas.

The Association for Civil Rights in Israel told the Supreme Court that what was happening on the highway could be the onset of legal apartheid in the West Bank — a charge that makes many Israelis recoil.

Built largely on private Palestinian land, the road was first challenged in the Supreme Court in the early 1980s when the justices, in a landmark ruling, permitted it to be built because the army said its primary function was to serve the local Palestinians, not Israeli commuters. In recent years, in the wake of stone-throwing and several drive-by shootings, Israel has blocked Palestinians’ access to the road.

This month, as some 40,000 Israeli cars — and almost no Palestinians — use it daily, the court handed down its decision, one that has engendered much legal and political hand-wringing.

The one-paragraph decision calls on the army to give a progress report in six months on its efforts to build separate roads and take other steps for the Palestinians to compensate them for being barred from Highway 443. It is the acceptance of the idea of separate road systems that has engendered commentary, although legal experts say there is a slight chance that the court could reconsider its approach when it next examines the issue.

“There is already a separate legal system in the territories for Israelis and Palestinians,” said Limor Yehuda, who argued the recent case for the civil rights association on behalf of six Palestinian villages. “With the approval of separate roads, if it becomes a widespread policy, then the word for it will be ‘apartheid.’ ”

Many Israelis and their supporters reject the term, with its implication of racist animus.

“The basis of separation is not ethnic since Israeli Arabs and Jerusalem residents with Israeli ID cards can use the road,” argues Dore Gold, president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a conservative research organization. “The basis of the separation is to keep out of secure areas people living in chaotic areas. If the Palestinian Authority, which has thousands of men under arms, had fought terror, this wouldn’t have been necessary.”

The court’s latest decision is significant because it accepted the idea in principle put forth by the army — that while it had no choice but to ban Palestinian traffic from the road because of anti-Israel attacks on it, some of which it says originated from the surrounding villages, it would build separate roads for the Palestinians.

The court has never ruled on the legality of separate roads, despite a growing network of them around the West Bank. If this interim decision reflects its view that such a system is legally acceptable, that represents a big new step. A court spokeswoman said the justices would not comment.

David Kretzmer, an emeritus professor of international law at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, wrote in an op-ed article in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz of what he called the “judicial hypocrisy” of Israel’s reign over the territories manifest in this case.

He said that while the changed security circumstances of recent years may have forced a change in the road’s mixed use, “the unavoidable conclusion is that, as unfortunate as this may be, Israelis should not be allowed to travel on the road that was built, let’s not forget, for the benefit of the local population.

“But the military government has, of course, decided otherwise: Israelis will be allowed to travel on the road, while Palestinians — for whom, the court’s ruling says, the road was paved — cannot use it, and access to the road from local Palestinian villages will be blocked.”

For many Israelis, however, the dozens of attacks that have taken place on the road in recent years are reason enough to ban Palestinian traffic there and to limit Palestinians to other routes. In 2001, for example, five Israelis were killed by gunfire on Highway 443 and since then a number of others have been injured from stone-throwing.

Still, the legal case seems more complicated. In The Jerusalem Post, Dan Izenberg wrote that international law and Israeli court decisions were unambiguous on the fact that the road should primarily serve Palestinians rather than Israelis, but that the court was in a delicate position just now because of growing public discontent with it over other issues.

“The High Court in this case cannot stray too far from the interests of the Israeli public, especially at a time when it has more than its share of enemies,” he wrote. “The court knows that Israelis who rely on Highway 443 would not easily accept a ruling that causes them such inconvenience.”

Gershom Gorenberg, an Israeli who wrote a book critical of Israeli settlements, runs a blog called South Jerusalem ( on which he has posted documents from the 1960s and 70s showing that the governments planned to expand the Jerusalem corridor with settlements and a bigger road after conquering East Jerusalem in the 1967 war. In that sense, he says, the government and army were never honest in what they told the Supreme Court about the purpose of Highway 443.

“Think of the road itself as a settlement,” he said, “part of the conscious effort to change the character of the area, giving it an Israeli stamp. The point was to make it impossible for Israel ever to return certain parts of the land. It is true that Palestinians had free movement on 443 in the 1980s and 1990s before the restrictions were imposed. But to claim that it was built for them does not line up with the paper trail. The cover story of this road has been blown.”

For the 30,000 Palestinians who live in the surrounding villages, lack of access to Highway 443 has been a constant source of difficulty. In one village, A Tira, 14 taxis have permits to travel the road during daylight but locals say that has not eased the burden much.

Each morning, a crowd gathers at the blocked entrance to A Tira, waiting for the Israeli soldiers to open a gate so they can take one of the taxis to Ramallah, the capital of the West Bank.

“Ten days ago, my brother had a heart attack and we had trouble transferring him to a Ramallah hospital,” lamented Said Salameh, 51, a taxi driver who has a permit for the road, as he stood by the entrance one recent morning. “When the gate closes at night, we can’t move outside the village.”

Sabri Mahmoud, a 36-year-old employee of the Palestinian Authority, agreed. “I am always late to work because of this,” he said. “Our life is controlled by the opening hours of the gate. You feel like you live in a cage.”

For many legal commentators in Israel, the most distressing part is that by giving Highway 443 to Israelis and barring Palestinians, Israel is protecting its citizens not from terrorism but from traffic — granting them an alternative to the crowded main Jerusalem road.

Ms. Yehuda, the civil rights lawyer, said that the Supreme Court’s 1982 ruling specifically stated that if the point of the road was primarily to serve Israelis, then it may not be built. Yet now, she added, “The state is essentially aiming to safeguard the convenience of the service road for Israelis who commute from Tel Aviv and the central plains to Jerusalem and vice versa.”

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Daily - Students of the Year

The civil debater

Andrew Dalack

When Fadi Kiblawi created Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a pro-Palestinian student group, in 2001, the group's initial attempts to discuss the contentious Israeli-Palestinian conflict with other campus groups often ended in bickering.

"Back then, around the beginning of the Second Intifada, it was a very emotional issue that often became very personal and ugly - and that affected the discourse," Kiblawi said. "There wasn't that level of civility."

Seven years later, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains as contentious as ever. But campus discourse on the conflict, Kiblawi said, is far more constructive and civil than it was during his days as a leader of SAFE.

Kiblawi attributes much of that change in the dialogue on Middle East issues to LSA sophomore Andrew Dalack, one of SAFE's current co-chairs.

"Andrew has done a great job this year opening up the debate, creating civil discussion on campus," Kiblawi said.

Increased civility in Israeli-Palestinian discourse was unexpected this year, considering the controversy in September over the University Press's distribution of a book called "Overcoming Zionism" that advocates a single-state solution. But under Dalack's leadership, the group organized events that garnered greater attention than SAFE has typically received on campus, like speeches by Joel Kovel, the author of "Overcoming Zionism," and Profs. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, whose lecture drew a capacity crowd at the Natural Science Building earlier this month.

SAFE also hosted Palestinian Awareness Week in February, featuring a week of events focusing on Middle Eastern issues that included a lecture by an Israeli professor who spoke on the occupation of Palestinian territories from Israel's perspective.

By bringing academics, journalists and scholars of varying viewpoints to campus, Dalack said he was trying to "raise the bar" of the debate surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a more academic level.

"We wanted to make sure that anybody who wanted the tit-for-tat, back and forth arguing would be marginalized, and that people who really wanted to engage in a more intellectual discussion could do so," Dalack said.

-Andy Kroll

Friday, March 21, 2008

UM 'Israel Lobby' event draws hundreds

By Will Youmans - The Arab American News
Friday, 03.21.2008

ANN ARBOR — Two years ago, two prominent American scholars broke the silence on a taboo often referred to as the "third-rail of politics," the disproportionate power of the Israel lobby. A fairly obscure intellectual journal, "The London Review of Books," published their essay, "The Israel Lobby."

In it, John Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago, and Stephen Walt of Harvard, claimed that American policy in the Middle East is not guided by national interests. Instead "U.S. policy in the region derives almost entirely from domestic politics, and especially the activities of the "Israel Lobby.'"

This article sparked a thunderous debate, bringing about backlash from pro-Israel scholars, activists and politicians. Organizations like the Anti-Defamation League criticized the essay and its authors, claiming it resembled the "Jewish conspiracy" tales peddled by anti-Jewish racists.

Despite the anger directed towards these leading scholars of politics, hundreds of thousands of people downloaded the article and a longer version from a Harvard website. The authors released a book in which they refined their arguments and bolstered them with research. It became a New York Times bestseller.

It is no surprise then that four hundred and fifty people crammed into an auditorium at the University of Michigan on Friday, March 14, 2008 to hear them present their case.

The event was arranged by the Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a student group at the university founded in 2001.

Campus officials were concerned the event would invite hostility from Israel's supporters on campus. The student newspaper reported that Sue Eklund, the outgoing associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students, wanted to create a "notion of campus climate" by welcoming controversial speakers.

The event went smoothly, however. Pro-Israeli activists passed out literature before the event and were not disruptive.

Professor Ron Stockton, who teaches political science at the University of Michigan, Dearborn, introduced the professors by explaining the impact of their writings and suggesting that communication technologies enhance the flow of such ideas. He said such advances can transform societies, citing the rise of Barack Obama as an example.

Professor Walt opened with a detailed and thorough argument proving the lobby, a "loose network" exists. He clarified that such a lobby is "as American as apple pie." However, he said he was concerned because of its disproportionate weight in foreign policymaking. Professor Meirsheimer centered on the more difficult part of their work, that the lobby's policy positions and influence are bad for the United States and Israel.

Not everyone was pleased with everything they said. Sairah Husain, a junior at the university, said "although I disagreed with their support for the existence of the state of Israel, to even say what they did was big." Many questioned them on this point during the question and answer session.

They cited centuries of Jewish suffering as one reason Israel has a right to exist.

However, Mearsheimer and Walt argued that Jimmy Carter was correct. In the absence of a viable two-state solution, the situation there will resemble apartheid.

After the event, I asked Professor Mearsheimer what is the difference between that point and now. He said when the demographic balance swings in the Palestinians' favor, their largely rightsless existence will mirror apartheid. This, he pointed out earlier, is an analysis shared by Israel's Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert.

The professors wrote about this topic in the hope of opening up the debate on America's relationship with Israel. They felt this discussion was muffled by those who are quick to silent critics and unwilling to engage in open debate. At the University of Michigan last Friday, they found a large group of people more than happy to listen and consider their views.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Israelis, Palestinians fight on Facebook

By LAURIE COPANS, Associated Press Writer
Tue Mar 18
JERUSALEM - Israelis and Palestinians have taken their conflict to Facebook.

Jewish settlers living in the West Bank were incensed to discover they had to choose Palestine, not Israel, when filling out the address section of their profile pages on the popular social networking site.

Palestinians hope the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem will make up a Palestinian state as the result of peace negotiations now under way. But Jewish settlers want the land to remain under Israeli control, rejecting their own government's policy favoring creation of a Palestinian state.

Following an Israeli campaign, Facebook decided to allow residents of some Jewish settlements the option of listing Israel or Palestine as their country, settlers said.

Facebook Inc. did not immediately respond to an e-mail requesting comment.

Channah Lerman, a Jewish settler who organized a protest of the issue, said Tuesday that Facebook was letting some settlers list their state as Israel.

"Slowly they have added a few bigger settlements to the list," Lerman wrote. "But the bottom line is that the majority of settlements are not (yet) listed."

Some Jewish settlers were upset that Palestine is even among the options.

"I am still not happy about Palestine being listed as a country of residence on Facebook (or any other site for that matter)," wrote Facebook member Ahuvah Berger. "But at least Facebook understood and respected their users enough to give them options."

Palestinians have fought their own battle with Facebook. Initially, they could only choose the West Bank or Gaza Strip as a country option. Facebook has since agreed to list Palestine as well. But more than 200,000 Palestinians living in east Jerusalem are unable to opt for Palestine as their country.

Israel annexed east Jerusalem shortly after capturing it in the 1967 Middle East war, but Palestinians claim it as their capital.

"This is a very sensitive, complicated, and emotional issue for millions of Palestinians around the world," wrote a group calling itself All Palestinians on Facebook. "For you to interfere in such a political issue and (side) with one party in the conflict is simply outrageous."

In addition, some Arab citizens of Israel want their towns designated on Facebook as part of Palestine — which the area was called before Israel was established in 1948. Israeli Arabs comprise about 20 percent of Israel's population.

Israeli and Palestinian groups on Facebook also compete to gain the most members, displaying their enrollment as the numbers grow into the thousands.

One Facebook member fed up with Israelis and Palestinians fighting on the Web has formed a group called "Arguing on Facebook is the Only Way to Solve the Israel/Palestine Problem."

"If you truly love whichever side you claim to love, you will step up to the challenge, make it your personal struggle, to (anger) people and look like the (idiot)," the group wrote.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Birthright Palestine - Summer 2008

New for 2008 - Introducing Birthright Palestine!

Birthright Palestine is a unique program by native Palestinians for Diaspora Palestinians, so as to assimilate them back into their homeland via cultural immersion. It is meant to gather first-generation, western-born Palestinians (over the age of 18-years old) in their ancestral homeland, so that they can reunite and witness firsthand how their brethren are living under illegal Israeli military occupation, while assimilating them into Palestinian society.

The program is made-up of four major components, education, tourism, hospitality, and volunteering, and was created to maintain Palestinian unity on an international level and to make foreign-born Palestinians feel at home in their homeland.

The First Annual Birthright Palestine program is to launch this summer, marking the 60th Anniversary of Al-Nakba, and is meant to counter the effects of Birthright Israel, which over the years has brought thousands of Jewish people from around the world to 'Israel' in order to encourage their adoption of Zionist ideals and learn about their 'promised land' - many of participants end up becoming Israeli citizens and illegal settlers.

Moreover, Birthright Palestine will allow for the international Palestinian community, largely living in exodus, to become more closely knit, because this program will nurture relationships between participants of Palestinian ethnic origin whom were born in different countries around the world, as well as relationships between Diaspora-born and native-born Palestinians. Also, an exchange of ideas will take place, as local Palestinians will begin to better understand the situation of Diaspora Palestinians and vice versa - possibly leading to a cohesive consensus on core issues of importance to the Palestinian Nation.

Who are we?

The concept was created by the Palestine Center for National Strategic Studies (PCNSS) is a new, non-profit, non-violent, non-factional, non-governmental organizational think tank based out of the Dheisheh Refugee Camp that facilitates student-based research guided by PhD mentors, so as to force Palestinian college students to be more critical of national political and socio-economic policies. Thus, we are primarily fueled by youth, specifically students. We also host and accommodate foreign researchers in conducting their studies in Palestine, and conduct social experiments of our own in the form of projects.

What you can do to help:

Forward this e-mail to as many Diaspora Palestinians as possible, circulate our flyer at your local events and spread the word!

For more information:

Log onto:


Call: +972-2-274-6955

Monday, March 17, 2008

Daily covers Israel Lobby event

Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, authors of the book Israel Lobby, talk before their lecture in the Natural Science Auditorium on Friday.

Controversial authors discuss book, U.S. relationship with Israel

Mearsheimer and Walt draw capacity crowd to Natural Science Building
By Andy Kroll, Daily News Editor on 3/17/08

Political scientists John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, co-authors of the hotly-contested book "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy," described to a capacity crowd Friday at the Natural Science Building who comprised the Israel lobby in the United States and why the influence was so detrimental to foreign policy decisions made by the U.S. government.

Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, a pro-Palestinian group, invited Mearsheimer and Walt, who said the U.S. shares a "special relationship" with Israel in which the American government provides Israel with "unconditional support" and an unending amount of aid - both of which result from influence of the immensely powerful Israel lobby interest group.

For the first half of the speech, Walt, a political science professor at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government, described the Israel lobby as a "loose coalition" of individuals and organizations that "works openly to influence U.S. foreign policy in a pro-Israel direction and encourage that special relationship" between the U.S. and Israel.

This coalition, he said, includes pro-Israel organizations like The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, Christians United for Israel and Zionist Organization of America; think-tanks like the Washington Institute for Near East Policy; and publications like The Weekly Standard and The New Republic.

Walt emphasized early on in his speech that he and Mearsheimer didn't believe the Israel lobby to be a conspiracy group or cabal, but rather an interest group like those that lobby on behalf of pharmaceutical companies or the National Rifle Association.

The actions of the Israel lobby, Walt said, "are as American as apple pie."

In working to ensure that the U.S. continues its special relationship with Israel, the Israel lobby functions in two main ways, Walt said.

First, he said, the lobby operates inside the Washington, D.C., beltway and within American politics by getting Israel sympathizers elected to key positions in government. He said the lobby then gives politicians clear incentives to act in the interest of the lobby and, in effect, Israel.

Walt added that pro-Israel political action committees have given $55 million over the past 15 years to congressional candidates and presidential candidates, which he compared with the $800,000 Arab-American political action committees gave to the political figures sympathetic to Arab-American interests over the same period.

In citing these statistics, Walt stressed to members of the audience the Israel lobby's political clout.

"The lobby doesn't win every election, doesn't win every time, but every congressman and presidential candidate knows you're playing with fire if you question the special relationship," he said.

The Israel lobby also works to shape public perceptions and public discourse in the U.S. so Americans view Israel favorably, Walt said.

He argued that editorial commentary, op-ed columnists and political pundits in the U.S. tend to favor Israel, and that voices critical of Israel were entirely absent from mainstream media in the U.S.

Walt also said that the lobby, in its defense of Israel, seeks to suppress and discredit anyone who does criticize the country and its actions.

He cited the criticisms of his and Mearsheimer's book by publications such as The Washington Post, The New York Sun and The Wall Street Journal, which called the claims anti-Semitic, as an examples of the media's attacks on anyone who might appear to criticize the U.S.' unconditional support for Israel.

The reason they use charges of anti-Semitism, he said, is because the case for unconditional support of Israel is so weak.

"Because that case is so weak, they have to smear, silence and discredit anyone who casts doubt on it," he said.

In the final half of the speech, Mearsheimer, a political science professor at the University of Chicago, said the lobby's influence has been largely negative and has pushed U.S. Middle East policy in ways that are neither in the American national interest nor in the interest of Israel.

Mearsheimer said no president in the last 40 years has put meaningful pressure on Israel to stop colonizing the West Bank and Gaza Strip, which directly stems from the influence of the lobby.

More importantly, Mearsheimer said the U.S.'s unconditional support of Israel and its efforts to colonize the West Bank and Gaza Strip has angered large numbers of people in the Arab and Islamic world and helped fuel terrorism against the U.S.

"American support isn't the only cause, but it is a major cause," Mearsheimer said. "Specifically, it motivates some individuals to attack the and U.S., it serves as a powerful recruitment for terrorist organizations and it generates sympathy and support for terrorists among huge numbers of people in the Arab world."

In his concluding remarks, Mearsheimer said the U.S. should end its special relationship with Israel, and instead treat Israel as it treats other democracies such as Britain, Italy and India.

"This means when Israel is acting in ways that are consistent with American interests, Washington should back the Jewish state," he said. "But when Israel is acting in ways that harm U.S. interests, Washington should distance itself from Israel and use its considerable leverage to get Israel to change its behavior, just as it would do with any other country that was acting in ways that might hurt the U.S."

Although critics of Mearsheimer and Walt have called "The Israel Lobby" an anti-Semitic work and an attack on Israel, both peppered their speeches with disclaimers expressing their support of Israel's right to exist.

Ross School of Business sophomore Sasha Gribov, chair of the American Movement for Israel, said the presence of a lobby working on behalf of Israel wasn't surprising at all to him, considering the vast amount of lobbying groups in Washington, D.C.

However, Gribov felt Mearsheimer and Walt's comments on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict were one-sided, in that the pair placed a majority of the blame on the Israel lobby, the American Jewish community and Israel for the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

"We definitely respect the right of them to express their opinion and to talk about this conflict, but they dismiss the U.S.-Israel relationship as something that is negative to American foreign policy," he said. "And we strongly believe that the U.S.-Israel relationship is of such great importance to both America and Israel."

Andrew Dalack, co-chair of SAFE, said the group hosted Walt and Mearsheimer on campus in an effort to debunk the idea that the arguments presented in their book were radical.

Prior to the talk, students distributed pamphlets outside of the Natural Science Building published by Stand With Us, a pro-Israel group, saying the claims made in "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" were based on "shoddy scholarship," amounted to a "conspiracy theory" and contained "anti-semitic undertones."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Thank you for coming to "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy"

SAFE's event "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" was an amazing success, with an overcrowded auditorium of 480 people showing up to hear the professors talk. SAFE thanks Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt for their enlightening talk and discussion, and thank you to all of those who attended, and for your support.

Monday, March 10, 2008

India’s progressive parties unite: stop military ties with Israel

Worldwide Activism, Palestinian grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, March 5th, 2008

On Wednesday, March 5 2008, progressive parties blasted the Indian government in a press conference, accusing it of “aiding and abetting” Israel in its attacks on Palestine and calling for an end to military and security ties.

Convened by the All India Peace and Solidarity Organisation and the Committee for Independent Foreign Policy, the conference launched a mass campaign as well as a signature campaign in parliament to enroll support for cutting Indo-Israeli military ties.

The conference comes only days after the major Palestinian civil society networks and the Palestinian National and Islamic Forces had released a joint appeal to the Indian people and government to cease all military trade and relations.

Key figures of five political parties addressed the media. The CPI(M), whose external backing of government is vital to the ruling alliance, were joined by the NCP, part of the government coalition, and the Samajwadi Party, the house’s fourth largest party, as well as CPI and RJD. Main national news outlets are already covering the press statements extensively.

CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat said India is "betraying" Palestine and has called for a campaign to force the Indian Government to change its stance. He was particularly critical of External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee's statement in Parliament on the situation in West Asia. The External Affairs Minister, while pledging to help the Palestinians in the midst of their hardship and misery, failed to mention or condemn the actions of the Israeli state.

"If somebody from outside this planet reads this paragraph (in Mukherjee's statement) they would think that there has been an earthquake in Palestine or a plague. The suffering, the misery. Israel is not mentioned," he said sarcastically.

Karat added that the government’s refusal to acknowledge Israeli actions must be reversed if talk about helping Palestinians is to be taken seriously.

"On the contrary the Indian government is aiding and abetting Israel through military and security collaboration," he said.

Addressing the press conference, NCP leader D K Tripathi said that the people of India are committed to the Palestinian cause, and thus there should not be any relationship with any country at the cost of the rights of Palestinians.

Asserting that the Left has already spoken out against the Government's silence on the West Asia conflict, Karat said, "my party and the other parties will get together to launch a popular campaign to mobilise people to get the Government to change this stand."

This call comes after India, which has historically been one of Palestine’s strongest allies, has recently been openly developing its military ties with Israel. Over the past 15 years, India has become Israel’s largest buyer of arms and spends more on Israeli military equipment than the Israeli military itself. In January India launched a spy satellite for Israel that gathers intelligence on Iran. India also carries out joint research projects with Israel on missiles and drones and has started intelligence sharing.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Mearsheimer and Walt Coming to UM

The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

with Professor John J. Mearsheimer
Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago

and Professor Stephen Walt
former Academic Dean, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

When: Friday, March 14th @ 7:30pm

Where: Natural Science Auditorium, Rm. 2140
830 N. University, Ann Arbor, MI

Professors John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt will discuss the impact of The Israel Lobby on US Foreign Policy. Their presentation will focus on their widely-renowned book "The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy", a New York Times bestseller. There will be a question and answer session and a book-signing immediately following the event.

This event is hosted by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE).

Article in London Review of Books

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion

Click on the title to view the link to full report put out by 8 human rights groups in Gaza, in which it says that conditions in Gaza have reached a 40-year low.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Gaza "man-made" crisis: rights orgs

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 6 March 2008

Palestinians stand inside their home in the Jabaliya refugee camp, damaged recently during an Israeli incursion and air strikes which left about 115 Palestinians dead in Gaza over five days.

JERUSALEM, 6 March (IRIN) - The humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is "man-made" and worse than it has ever been since the Israeli occupation in 1967, a coalition of British organizations said in a new report released on 6 March, urging better regional cooperation and saying Hamas can no longer be ignored.

Entitled "A Humanitarian Implosion," the 16-page report details the various effects the Israeli-imposed blockade has had in the last nine months since the Hamas takeover of the enclave, and concluded that all aspects of life have been negatively affected, including healthcare, employment and education.

The agencies, such as CARE, Amnesty, Christian Aid, and Oxfam, quoted UN statistics showing that aid dependency has risen significantly.

While in 2006 some 60 percent of Gazans needed food aid, in 2008 that number rose to 80 percent, and is expected to increase.

In 1999, before the second intifada (Palestinian uprising against Israel's occupation), UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, provided food to some 16,000 families in the enclave, while now it and the World Food Programme distribute aid to over 1.1 million people.

The report said Gaza's economy has collapsed as a "majority of private businesses have shut down and 95 percent of Gaza's industrial operations are suspended." The restrictions on imports and exports were also the cause of failings in the agricultural sector.

"As a result of the blockade and collapse of the economy, there is little money to buy food and limited food to buy. Food prices are rising and wheat flour, baby milk and cooking oil are increasingly scarce," the report said.

The Gaza Strip suffers from power outages due to the Israeli air strike on the power plant in 2006 and the restrictions on fuel imports, affecting the plant's productivity and vital institutions like hospitals, which lack 60-70 percent of their diesel needs for generators. Power outages are also affecting the water supply to about 30 percent of Gaza's residents. About 40-50 million liters of sewage are pumped into the sea daily for the same reason.

The agencies also noted a drop in the percentage of patients allowed out of the Strip for medical treatment, adding that over 20 people have died since June 2007 as a result.

Israeli response

In a response issued to IRIN, the Israeli Ministry of Defense said some 90 percent of patients are able to leave for treatment, and Israel allows in all medication and other humanitarian supplies needed in spite of Palestinian rocket fire targeting crossing points. It insisted the amount of fuel it lets in is enough for humanitarian purposes, blamed Hamas for internal distribution problems and noted that it continues to supply electricity to Gaza.

"Israel has the right and duty to defend itself and its people," Neil Durkin of Amnesty International in London told IRIN, condemning rocket fire at Israeli towns. However, security concerns could not explain bans on basic imports or patient movement, he said.

Report's conclusions

The report concluded that the violence on all sides should cease, and Israel should end its power and fuel cuts to Gaza and open the borders. In the meantime Israel's definition of humanitarian aid should be extended to include items like cement and spare parts.

"We ask that the UK government and EU [European Union] put pressure on the government of Israel to ensure that emergency assistance essential to fulfilling fundamental human rights is never used as a bargaining tool to further political goals," the report said.

Finally, the groups called for an inclusive policy that would mean dialogue with Hamas, which rules Gaza but is shunned by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, Israel and the US-led international Quartet.

Gaza conditions 'at 40-year low'

Gaza's humanitarian situation is at its worst since Israel occupied the territory in 1967, say UK-based human rights and development groups.
They include Amnesty International, Save the Children, Cafod, Care International and Christian Aid.

They criticise Israel's blockade on Gaza as illegal collective punishment which fails to deliver security.

Israel says its military action and other measures are lawful and needed to stop rocket attacks from Gaza.

Israel pulled its troops and settlers out of the Gaza Strip in 2005, but retains control over Gaza's airspace and coastline, and over its own border with the territory.

It tightened its blockade in January amid a surge in rocket attacks by Palestinian militants in Gaza.

Israel's Defence Ministry rejected the criticism in the report, blaming the Hamas militant group which controls Gaza.

"The main responsibility for events in Gaza is the Hamas organisation, to which all complaints should be addressed," a statement read.


The groups' report, Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion, says the blockade has dramatically worsened levels of poverty and unemployment, and has led to deterioration in education and health services.

More than 1.1 million Gazans are dependent on food aid and of 110,000 workers previously employed in the private sector, 75,000 have now lost their jobs, the report says.

"Unless the blockade ends now, it will be impossible to pull Gaza back from the brink of this disaster and any hopes for peace in the region will be dashed," said Geoffrey Dennis, of Care International UK.

Last week Israeli forces launched a bloody and destructive raid in northern Gaza, in which more than 120 Palestinians - including many civilians - were killed.

Israel says the measures are designed to stamp out frequent rocket fire by Palestinian militants.

Recent rocket attacks have hit deeper into southern Israel, reaching Ashkelon, the closest large Israeli city to the Gaza Strip.

Occupying power

The UK-based groups agree that Israel has the right and obligation to protect its citizens, urging both sides to cease unlawful attacks on civilians.

But they call upon Israel to comply with its obligations, as the occupying power in Gaza, to ensure its inhabitants have access to food, clean water, electricity and medical care, which have been in short supply in the strip.

"Punishing the entire Gazan population by denying them these basic human rights is utterly indefensible," said Amnesty UK Director Kate Allen.

"The current situation is man-made and must be reversed."

Other recommendations from the groups include international engagement with the Hamas movement, which rejects Israel's legitimacy and has been shunned by Israel's allies, and the Fatah party of Palestinian West Bank leader Mahmoud Abbas.

"Gaza cannot become a partner for peace unless Israel, Fatah and the Quartet [the US and UN, Europe and Russia] engage with Hamas and give the people of Gaza a future," said Daleep Mukarji of Christian Aid.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Attention - Vigil for Gaza, Thursday 1pm, Union

The destroyed Palestinian General Fedration of Trade Unions building in Gaza City, 29 February 2008

Please read and forward:
At least 66 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the Gaza Strip over the weekend, at the hands of the Israeli military. These are atrocious crimes, and we as UM students, urge other students to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and to mourn for the victims. We request students to join us in the following actions:

On Thursday we will have 200 tshirts for people to wear, on the steps of the Union, at 12pm, for up to an hour. The tshirts will say 'Free Palestine' and each tshirt will have a different name of a Palestinian that was killed in Gaza over the last few days. The point is to have a
visible vigil that will raise awareness about the crisis in Gaza. We are also aiming to have informational flyers available to hand out.

Please join us in these efforts. If you have any questions, please email either Hena Ashraf (, Andrew Dalack (, Ryah Aqel (, Nicola Kaba (, or Kamelya Youssef(

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Revealed: the US plan to start a Palestinian civil war

Report, The Electronic Intifada, 4 March 2008

Muhammad Dahlan speaks during a Fatah rally in the West Bank town of Ramallah, 15 January 2006.

United States officials including President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice participated in a conspiracy to arm and train Contra-style Palestinian militias nominally loyal to the Fatah party to overthrow the democratically-elected Hamas government in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, an investigative article in the April 2008 issue of Vanity Fair has revealed. [1]

The allegations of such a conspiracy, long reported by The Electronic Intifada, are corroborated in Vanity Fair with confidential US government documents, interviews with former US officials, Israeli officials and with Muhammad Dahlan, the Gaza strongman personally chosen by Bush.

The article, by David Rose, recounts gruesome torture documented on videotape of Hamas members by the US-armed and funded militias under Dahlan's control. Hamas had repeatedly alleged such torture as part of its justification for its move to overthrow the Dahlan militias and take full control of the interior of the Gaza Strip in June 2007.

Vanity Fair reported that it has "obtained confidential documents, since corroborated by sources in the US and Palestine, which lay bare a covert initiative, approved by Bush and implemented by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Elliott Abrams to provoke a Palestinian civil war." The magazine adds that the plan "was for forces led by Dahlan, and armed with new weapons supplied at America's behest, to give Fatah the muscle it needed to remove the democratically-elected Hamas-led government from power."

Abrams was one of the key Reagan administration figures involved in the Iran-Contra scandal in the 1980s, whereby the US illegally armed militias in Nicaragua to overthrow the ruling Sandinista government. Abrams was convicted and later pardoned for lying to Congress.

While it has been known that the US engaged in covert activity to subvert Palestinian democracy and provoke Palestinians to shed each other's blood, the extent of the personal involvement of top US officials in attempting to dictate the course of events in Palestine -- while publicly preaching democracy -- has only now been brought to light.

Bush met and personally anointed Dahlan as "our guy" in 2003. In July 2007, The Electronic Intifada reported on a leaked letter written by Dahlan and sent to the Israeli defense minister in which he confirmed his role in a conspiracy to overthrow then Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat for whose replacement Bush had publicly called. Dahlan wrote: "Be certain that Yasser Arafat's final days are numbered, but allow us to finish him off our way, not yours. And be sure as well that ... the promises I made in front of President Bush, I will give my life to keep."

The US planning to overthrow the government elected by Palestinians under occupation began immediately after the Hamas movement won a clear victory in the January 2006 election for the Palestinian Legislative Council. Hamas, however, proved "surprising resilient."

At a meeting at Abbas' Ramallah headquarters in October 2006, Rice personally ordered Abbas to dissolve the government headed by Hamas' Ismail Haniyeh "within two weeks" and replace it with an unelected "emergency government."

When Abbas failed to act promptly on Rice's order, the US stepped up its efforts to arm Dahlan in preparation for the attempted coup. Hamas foiled the coup plot by moving preemptively against Dahlan's gangs, many of whom refused to fight despite being furnished with tens of millions of dollars in weapons and training. The US-conceived "emergency government" headed by a former World Bank official, Salam Fayyad, was eventually appointed by Abbas, but its authority is limited to parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

While the United States and Israel were the driving forces behind the civil war and coup plot, others had a hand including several Arab states and their intelligence services. "The scheme," Rose writes, "bore some resemblance to the Iran-contra scandal" in that "some of the money for the [Nicaraguan] contras, like that for Fatah, was furnished by Arab allies as a result of US lobbying."

The Gaza Bombshell

After failing to anticipate Hamas’s victory over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian election, the White House cooked up yet another scandalously covert and self-defeating Middle East debacle: part Iran-contra, part Bay of Pigs. With confidential documents, corroborated by outraged former and current U.S. officials, David Rose reveals how President Bush, Condoleezza Rice, and Deputy National-Security Adviser Elliott Abrams backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever.
by David Rose April 2008

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Day the Earth and Sky Traded Places

Gazan Holocaust


Around 10:30pm on the night of February 28, M and his wife S spoke in low tones in a dark room dimly lit by a battery-operated lamp. They were trying to decide if it was still safe to send their children to school and decided in favor because the elementary school building is in a safer part of the city near a number of international offices. The electricity in the building had been out 10 hours by then and the couple pulled blankets around them to keep warm in the damp winter air. They live on the 6th floor of Shifa Tower, an 11-story apartment building housing more than a hundred families.

When the blast occurred that took out the Interior Ministry building across the street, there was no time to think about what to do. M flew into his children's bedroom and threw himself over the sleeping body of his son, Basel, to shield the young boy's body from the glass shattering in the windows beside his bed. Then after a matter of seconds the three young children, two girls and the boy, were taken to the windowless kitchen, all of them now fully awake and crying out in terror. M threw blankets and pillows around them where they huddled for the night in restless sleep and dreams of horror, their mother sobbing silently over them as she caressed their faces.

M returned to the children's room in time for the second deafening blast that made him put up his arms instinctively. When he let them down and looked out into the night sky, it was all brown, the earth from underneath the destroyed buildings was swirling around outside the bedroom windows and he could see nothing but flying debris, smoke and a wall of dirt. For some time he could not hear well, only watch-dazed- hypnotized by the silence after the aerial strikes.

In the morning, no one went outside. "This is a black day in Gaza," M wrote; "a holocaust as (Israeli deputy defense minister Matan) Vilnai put it. There is an attack every five or ten minutes. It keeps our nerves on edge and our senses strained. There is so much rage at what is happening; especially the scenes of murdered children and babies. I am so busy I don't know how to describe my feelings. I work to avoid feeling because right now that's too unbearable."

Watch as A, a Hamas soldier, runs for his life into his house. His pursuers miss shooting him so they launch three rockets into the house on the edge of Jabalya camp killing everyone inside (four family members). They are angry now so every house in the way gets the same treatment and without the "militant" to guide their next moves: rockets fired into the interiors of homes with no knowledge of who is inside. Eye-witnesses report this and worse: a six month old baby girl becomes tiny body parts with her mother and brother. A small child is cut apart by shrapnel and screams that she doesn't want to die just before leaving this world. The mothers and fathers cannot protect them so they weep and scream at the funerals that this side of the world never views, especially during basketball season.

Who really cares about these children? Every Palestinian is a militant because everyone (sooner or later) wants Israel off their land, out of their lives, and forgotten like a horrible dream. It is for this reason that they are all equal targets: none of them is intelligent enough to understand that their land isn't their land, their lives are not their lives, and their horrible dream is their present and future. Have no pity on those who don't get it.

The night strikes from F-16s and helicopter missiles continued throughout the day on Friday the 29 and into the first weekend in March, unceasing in their ferocity and indiscriminate killing ­ revenge for the death early last week of an Israeli student at Sapir College outside Sderot. For every one Israeli life, scores of Palestinians must die. God help us now that two Israeli soldiers have been killed fighting on occupied land, against unwilling slaves; killing innocent people to maintain a 60-year-old injustice. Brace yourself, Gaza. You will pay dearly for the continuation of this crime.

Let us not reflect too much on what all this means. How, for example, would the 47-year-old Sapir College student like to know that his death has been far more useful to his State than his life? For in death he provided another pretext to carry out mass murder of the Arab Untermenschen blocking the otherwise pleasant view to the sea in the southeastern Promised Land. His death challenged the Israeli rules of combat: the "We kill and You Die" warfare, the only type allowed by the Neo-Jewish Masters and their allies in the United States who have no intention of making a just peace with the lower forms of life in their midst. The sanctimonious demand that the Qassams must be stopped is a deliberate lie intended to make you forget that the Qassams provide a near fool-proof pretext for grabbing more of Gaza and setting more of it to ruin; and that the Qassams are the result of systematic national torture and evisceration, borne themselves of occupation, caused by it, improved upon by periods of siege, sadism and mass killing.

Peace would require relinquishing regional hegemony. Peace would demand sharing the land and the resources equally. Peace might, heaven forbid, require democratic decision making in a region where the Israelis are not better, more entitled, more deserving of Their Way than everyone else in the neighborhood. Well, sorry, but these are not on Israel's agenda. The leaders of the hapless Sderot student's racially pure dreamland are grateful for his dying: Now the angry flames of intolerance can burn on feverishly. Into those flames the bodies of each dead Gazan man, woman or child should be flung, like books, to consecrate the ritual, the burnt offering, of those who owe the latter-day Israelites their Modern Day Zion. In Holy Victimhood shall We Reign Supreme.

Surely this would satisfy Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit who bellowed that if it were up to him, Israeli soldiers going into Gaza should shoot "everything that moves" like babies and toddlers, grandfathers and mothers, orange trees and wasted-away donkeys pulling cartloads of rotten vegetables; like flowers and seabirds, chickens and goats, rats and cockroaches. A scorched-earth policy will suffice. They'll create their apocalyptic wilderness and will call it peace.

No one needed Sheetrit to legitimize the strategy of creating oblivion from hell. Untermenschen who can be denied food, water, fuel, electricity, medical supplies, the right to leave and return home, the right to not to die in an ambulance that without the proper permits, the right to their own land and their own nationhood precisely because they are lesser human beings can also be picked off one by one or in groups or in families or because they are "militants," or all of the above, who deserve no fair hearing, due process, photographs, names, headlines, stories, grief or televised tear-jerker funerals to commemorate their sacrifices. In such a world contexts are an insult to the intelligence of the policy-makers.

Plea after plea from human rights organizations, legal organizations, religious charities and leaders, children's welfare organizations, medical aid projects, refugee relief societies, international humanitarian agencies, celebrities, parliamentarians, foreign policy analysts and countless others go not only unheeded but unread, unheard, a waste of one's time. Is there a reason why the carnage in Gaza is continuing before our very eyes and no State or Non-state actor strong enough to make a difference is bothering to step in? The shame is ours, for Israel and its US Master have long since resided in the lowest circle of Hell for betraying the name of humanity.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

The Gaza genocide

Laila El-Haddad writing from the US, Live from Palestine, 2 March 2008

Palestinian families are forced to flee constant Israeli air strikes just outside the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, 1 March 2008.

We celebrated Yousuf's fourth birthday today. We ate cake. And we counted the bodies. We sang happy birthday. And my mother sobbed. We watched the fighter jets roar voraciously on our television screen, pounding street after street, then heard a train screech outside, and shuddered. Yousuf tore open his presents, and asked my mother to make a paper zanana, a drone, for him with origami; we were torn open from the inside, engulfed by a feeling of impotence and helplessness, fear and anger and grief, despondence and confusion.

"We are dying like chickens" said my husband Yassine last night as we contemplated the media's coverage of the events of the past few days.

Even The Guardian (UK), in a newswire-based piece, mentioned the Palestinian dead, including the children, in the fourth to last paragraph.

In fact, a study by If Americans Knew found that the Associated Press Newswire (AP) coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict significantly distorts reality, essentially over-reporting the number of Israelis killed in the conflict and underreporting the number of Palestinians killed. The study found that AP reported on Israeli children's deaths more often than the deaths occurred, but failed to cover 85 percent of Palestinian children killed. A few years ago, they found that The New York Times was seven times more likely to comment on an Israeli child's death than that of a Palestinian.

Is it only when Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai used the word shoah to describe what will come to Gaza that some media outlets took note. Here was an Israeli government official himself invoking the Holocaust, of his people's most horrific massacre, in reference to the fate of Gaza. But it was not necessarily because Gazans may suffer the same fate that they were perturbed, but rather that this event, this phrase -- genocide or holocaust -- could be used with such seeming levity, that using such a loaded term may somehow lessen the true horror of the original act.

It is as though what has been happening in Gaza -- what continues to happen -- whether by way of the deliberate and sustained siege and blockade, or the mounting civilian death toll, is acceptable, and even encouraged. Israeli historian Ilan Pappe has said that genocide "is the only appropriate way to describe what the Israeli army is doing in the Gaza Strip" after much thought and deliberation.

But the real genocide in Gaza cannot or will not be assessed through sheer numbers. It is not a massacre of gas chambers. No.

It is a slow and calculated genocide -- a genocide through more calibrated, long-term means. And if the term is used in any context, it should be this. In many ways, this is a more sinister genocide, because it tends to be overlooked: all is ok in Gaza, the wasteland, the hostile territory that is accustomed to slaughter and survival; Gaza, whose people are somehow less human; we should not take note, need not take note, unless there is a mass killing or starvation.

As though what is happening now was not a slow, purposeful killing, a mass strangulation. But the governments and presidents of the civilized world, even our own "president" (president of what?) are hungry for peace deals and accords, summits and states. So they say, "let them eat cake!" And we do.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

I Want to be Awake, So I Know I'm Dying -- And by Whom

Fear in Gaza


I had a long day, an awful day, taking photos and writing from on the ground in Gaza City and northern Gaza.

I met with two children who survived Wednesday's Jabalyia soccer bombing: the other 4 kids were, as you likely know, killed. One of the children I saw had no flesh on their legs, had burns all over their bodies from the tank's shelling. This was one of the scariest things I have seen yet, and I have seen a lot more than that. Only today, 35 killed, still going on and 180 injured, many were women and child. Hospitals appeal for blood donation and fuel for ambulances.

I asked one boy to give me details of what happened that Thursday afternoon. The 9 year old boy cried while he told that he'd seen the decapitated head of his cousin strewn far from his body, arms and legs, far away from where they were all playing soccer. His mother added that there wasn't any electricity when her son was admitted to the hospital.

He was crying as he told the story, his tears hurting him even more than his psychological pain, as he has burns in his eyes. His mother uncovered his wounded leg where I could only see bones without flesh in places. I could not understand how he managed to lay down conscious, but knew it was a consciousness full of pain and anguish. I felt this pain in my own heart and head.

As I talked this child's mother, she said that she'd had to evacuate her children, as it's no longer safe to be in that area where the children had been playing. The kids ranged from 6 to 14 years old. The two ones who survived said they had all been playing soccer in front of the door of their house in Jabalyia when the Israeli missile hit them.

I finally came back home some hours ago, after waiting a long time to find transportation. But, eventually managing to make it back to Rafah, I collapsed for a nap for an hour. My sleep was disrupted: I awoke scared by the bombing of F-16s (I learned later on). I ran from my bed through our dark house, and seeing no one from my family inside, I ran without shoes into the street. People were out in the street, young men running. I didn't understand, didn't know what I was doing other than that I was running but didn't know to where. Most people's windows were down, shutters closed, as it is freezing cold at moment.

I was glad not to be injured by shattered glass and debris on the streets. I made it back home to write this on my laptop. But I've decided going back to sleep is not a good idea, no matter how exhausted I am. If I have to die (not my wish) , I want to be awake, so I know I'm dying, and by whom. Not asleep.