30,000 Israeli Jews and Arabs gather to oppose their government’s policies

August 2, 2017

At the end of May, Peace Now reported that 30,000 Israelis (above) raised their voices against 50 years of occupation and in support of a two state solution.

Peace Now is a movement of Jewish and Arab Israeli citizens who see the pursuit of peace, compromise and reconciliation with the Palestinians on the one hand and with the Arab states on the other, as necessary to guarantee Israel’s future security and its identity as a state.

30,000 Jews and Arabs, Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, old and young, arrived from all across Israel to show that many support a two state solution, oppose the government’s policies and seek to end the occupation, which is hurting Palestinians and deteriorating Israel’s democracy.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in Jewish-only colonies, which are deemed illegal by international law, throughout occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank.

However, two months later, there was an incident at Abu Rajabs’ family home, in the southern occupied West Bank, raising tensions in the city. The clearest account is given by IMEMC News here.

In 2012, Israeli settler colonizers took over the top two floors of the home, forcing the Abu Rajab family to huddle into the lowest level of their home. The home has been the subject of a long-standing legal case, with settlers claiming that they legally purchased the property. The Abu Rajab family rejects that claim, and Israel’s civil administration has said the settlers have been unable to provide proof of that purchase.

Since that time, the Abu Rajab family has been continually harassed, including having their entrance and exit to the home blocked, being beaten and threatened, having soldiers occupy their home and assist the settler colonizers in their takeover, and having one of the sons of the Abu Rajab family abducted and put into prison without charge for years. Throughout 2015, Israeli settlers camped outside the home for months, harassing the Abu Rajab family and preventing them from leaving.

This video shows one altercation, but it is unclear what is happening. The most disturbunig shots were of a large crowd of y oung israels repeatedly calpp9ng and cheering..

IMEMC News reports that the family had filed six different complaints with the Israeli court system, which eventually ruled in their favour and ordered the settlers to evacuate.

Now, in 2017, the family finds themselves once again filing a complaint with the Israeli police, as the settlers have returned to force them from their home in violation of international and Israeli law.

Peace Now has called on the Israeli government to evict the settlers from the home.

Will the Israeli court see that their decision is upheld and implemented?


As Jeremy Corbyn implied: “The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

June 7, 2017

It is the 50th anniversary week of the Six-Day War of 1967 when Israel seized 1,200 square water-rich kilometres of the Golan Heights from Syria and later annexed it – though its right to this land has never been recognised by the international community.

Donald Macintyre, who lived in Jerusalem for many years and won the 2011 Next Century Foundation’s Peace Through Media Award, recalls in the Independent that fifty years ago Shlomo Gazit, head of the Israeli military intelligence’s assessment department, heard detailed reports of the destruction that morning of almost the entire Egyptian air force by Israeli jets – his 23-year-old nephew being among the few missing Israeli pilots. He then started work on a clear-sighted blueprint for the future of the territories Israel had occupied, arguing that “Israel should not humiliate its defeated enemies and their leaders.”

Jerusalem: an open city or UN headquarters?

There were then, as now, many leading Zionist Israelis who believed that occupation was a wholly wrong course. Gazit outlined plans for an independent, non-militarised Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza Strip; the Old City of Jerusalem would become an “open city … with an international status resembling that of the Vatican”.

A British Quaker, Richard Rowntree, advocated moving the UN Headquarters from New York to Jerusalem and years later Sir Sydney Giffard, a former British Ambassador to Japan, presented the social and economic advantages to Israelis and Palestinians of moving the UN Headquarters to the vicinity of Jerusalem (Spectator link only accessible if account created). Whilst recognising difficulties and obstacles, Giffard felt that UN member states giving determined support to this project “could enable the UN to effect a transformation – both of its own and of the region’s character – of historic significance”.

But after 50 years the Palestinians, as Macintyre points out, “a resourceful and mainly well-educated population, are still imprisoned in a maze of checkpoints closures and military zones, deprived of civil and political rights and governed by martial law (denounced by Mehdi Hasan here, destruction of sewage system pictured above). And all this nearly three decades after Yasser Arafat agreed to end the conflict in return for a state on Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem – 22% of historic Palestine (Even Hamas, so long one of many excuses for not reaching a deal, last month issued its qualified support for such an outcome)”.

“The West should reflect on its part in prolonging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”

Under this heading, Macintyre points out that the US provides Israel with over $3bn (£2.3bn) a year in military aid and the EU implements trade agreements which exempt only the most flagrant economic activity in the settlements from its provisions, leading Benjamin Netanyahu to believe he can maintain the occupation with impunity.

He summarises the potential gains of a peace agreement for Israel: “full diplomatic and economic relations with the Arab world, an end to the growing perception of Israel as an apartheid state, the reduction of costs – moral and financial – to its own citizens of using a conscript army to enforce the occupation”.

Co-existence in Iran

In several Stirrer articles, opening with this one, Richard Lutz reports on his visits to Iran – as a Jew, albeit lapsed – and Roger Cohen’s account in the New York Times is not to be missed. He – like Lutz, “treated with such consistent warmth” in Iran, says, “It’s important to decide what’s more significant: the annihilationist anti-Israel ranting, the Holocaust denial and other Iranian provocations — or the fact of a Jewish community living, working and worshipping in relative tranquillity. Perhaps I have a bias toward facts over words, but I say the reality of Iranian civility toward Jews tells us more about Iran — its sophistication and culture — than all the inflammatory rhetoric”.

As so many civilised Israelis and Palestinians work for peace, some details recorded here, and the settlement of Neve Shalom (above) shows what is possible, Macintyre ends by saying that it is not just the Israelis and the Palestinians who should be reflecting this week on the impact of what is surely the longest occupation in modern history:

“It is time for the Western powers to reflect on their part in prolonging a conflict which will never end of its own accord”.

 

 

 

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Academics declare mass boycott of Israeli universities despite ‘the pressures that can be put on people not to criticise the state of Israel’

October 27, 2015

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c3 2 statement343 university lecturers in subjects including chemistry, mathematics and political science, from 72 institutions, including Oxford, Cambridge, the LSE and University College London are to boycott Israeli universities in protest at their “deep complicity” in their government’s “violations of international law”.

Making their boycott in an individual capacity, they said that they would not accept invitations for academic visits to Israel or co-operate with Israeli universities in any way because they were “deeply disturbed by Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land”.

They also accused the Israeli government of “intolerable human rights violations that it inflicts on all sections of the Palestinian people, and its apparent determination to resist any feasible settlement”.

The boycott has appeared as an advertisement in The Guardian today.

The Times’ Social Affairs Correspondent Rosemary Bennett continues:

“Speaking on behalf of the signatories, Jonathan Rosenhead, from the LSE, said that Israeli universities were “at the heart of Israel’s violations of international law and oppression of the Palestinian people . . . Israel’s ongoing oppression of Palestinians has led tens of thousands of Palestinians to take to the streets in mass protest”. In the Guardian he added: He said: “These signatures were all collected despite the pressures that can be put on people not to criticise the state of Israel. Now that the invitation to join the commitment is in the public domain, we anticipate many more to join us.

“Rachel Cohen, an employment expert and senior lecturer at City University, said that the Israeli state presented itself as an “enlightened funder of academic pursuits yet it systematically denies Palestinian academics and students their basic freedoms, such as the freedom of movement necessary to attend international academic conferences, or simply to get to lectures on time.”

“Other signatories include the philosopher Ted Honderich, professor emeritus of the philosophy of mind and logic at University College London, and Conor Gearty, professor of human rights law at the LSE”.

The letter, which – as an Israeli site says – follows one seeking to promote coexistence and dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, partly to counter cultural boycotts of Israel, emphasised that the boycott was not against individuals and that the academics would “continue to work with our Israeli colleagues in their individual capacities”.

Ms Bennett reports that Richard Verber, senior vice-president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, questioned why academics were singling out Israel “in such a discriminatory fashion”. He told Jewish News: “At a time of immense, often barbaric upheaval in other parts of the Middle East, Israel remains a beacon of academic excellence and progressive thinking.”

But readers of this website could remind him of wholesale acts of barbarism, carried out by Israeli settlers and government- sanctioned military action.


Pro-peace Tel Aviv rally, postponed for a week by police

August 18, 2014

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Thousands gather at a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv, on day 40 of Operation Protective

Ten thousand demonstrators gathered on Saturday evening for a pro-peace rally in Tel Aviv under the slogan, “Changing direction: toward peace, away from war.”

The rally in Rabin Square comes two days after another demonstration expressing solidarity with residents of communities along the Gaza border. Right-wing activists held a counter-demonstration nearby at the same time.

The event’s Facebook entry opens: “Following a painful month of war and death, in view of waves of incitement and hatred that are tearing apart Israeli society, we call for a demonstration for peace and democracy. The next round (of violence) can be avoided. We don’t have to sink into an abyss of ever-crueler wars, of extreme hatred and a destruction of our neighbors and ourselves”.

meretz galonSpeaking at the demonstration, Meretz party chairperson, Zahava Gal-On, who has consistently criticized Netanyahu, calling on him not to obey the warmongers, said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has failed miserably by refusing to take the diplomatic path to peace. She accused the prime minister of a “diplomatic freeze: refusing to adopt the Arab Peace Initiative; the breakdown of U.S.-Israel relations, the refusal to recognize the Palestinian unity government and the widely authorized building in the settlements, which destroyed any chances of a peace agreement with the Palestinians. She continued:

“You could have achieved the framework you’re willing to accept now without paying the price of 64 dead soldiers and civilians, the death of 2,000 Palestinians, and the horrible destruction in Gaza, including almost half a million people uprooted from their homes.”

The Facebook entry ended: “Only an agreement will ensure long-term security and quiet for residents of the south and of the entire country. There is another way – immediate dialogue with Palestinians to ensure a fair peace, the opening of Gaza and a determined stand of Arabs and Jews against racism and for life. Only a two-state political solution will guarantee independence, justice, security and hope for all people living in this land.”


The full Haaretz article can no longer be read without subscription.

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The brave, beleaguered Israeli peace movement

July 22, 2014

John Reed in Ashkelon reports that, as of Monday, more than 500 Palestinians in Gaza had been killed in Israeli shelling from the land, air and sea.

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Above (FT): Civilians take cover in a Southern Israeli air raid shelter as several rockets are fired from the Gaza Strip

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Above: Palestinians have nowhere to hide

Members of Israel’s Peace Now and its pro-peace activist camp are increasingly being shouted down or physically attacked

At a demonstration in a ‘mixed city’ Haifa, counter demonstrators beat participants, including the city’s Israeli-Arab deputy mayor, a family physician, Dr. Suhail Assad and his son, chanting “Death to Arabs”. More detail in Israel’s daily, Haaretz.

On another march in Jerusalem on Sunday evening organised by parents at Hand in Hand, a bilingual school for Israeli and Arab children, participants were heckled by passers-by, one of whom shouted “Go to Gaza”.

In Tel Aviv last week, about 250 Jewish protesters video were set upon, punched and pushed by a well-organised group of rightwingers in an attack that left several people with bruises, black eyes, or other injuries. Another, which mustered about 1,000 people, was attacked by rightwing activists, who threw eggs and plastic bottles.

missile downed iron dome shield

The Iron Dome exploded an incoming rocket overhead as the two groups fought in what one participant called a “surreal” moment.

 


‘Why I sympathize with the Palestinians’: by Dr Alick Cameron, who died recently

June 24, 2013

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These are the observations and analyses of a British doctor who was serving in Palestine as the ‘nakba’ (catastrophe) emerged. Dr Alick Cameron MB ChB MD DO MRCGP DHMSA qualified from Edinburgh University in 1946 and spent most of his medical life as a general practitioner in Britain. ~ David Halpin.

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Why I sympathize with the Palestinians

 

Introduction:

On occasions lately I have been challenged on my support for the Palestinian cause. In order to clarify my position I decided to put it down in writing. This piece has no literary pretensions, nor is it, except in a limited and personal way, any sort of history of the conflict.

In 1947, as a recently qualified doctor, I was called up to do my two years National Service, being posted to Palestine. I had little idea what to expect, apart from what I read in the papers, supplemented by books. I was already familiar with the T.E.Lawrence genre, and the excellent Orientations, by Ronald Storrs. Britain was responsible for administering the country under an international mandate, set up in 1920; the country was occupied mainly by Arabs, but there was a powerful movement of Jews wishing to take over the country, mainly from Europe, who sought to bypass the quotas for immigration laid down by the administration, causing a flood of “illegal” immigrants.

Many of these were the poor and oppressed remnants of the Nazi death camps. I had been horrified by the holocaust, who had not? In fact as a senior medical student I had volunteered to go to Belsen and been accepted, only to be thwarted at the last moment because some colleagues ahead of me had contracted typhus.

The papers contained frequent reports too about terrorist atrocities against British soldiers, something I later experienced at first hand when a Red Cross vehicle in which I was travelling was blown up by a terrorist operating a roadside bomb. Jewish terrorism was naturally much on our minds.

Among the many peaceful would-be settlers were some violent people, grouped in such organizations as the Stern gang and the Irgun Zvai Leumi, whose chief, Menachem Begin, was later to be prime minister of Israel. They were prepared to stop at nothing, firstly to kill British soldiers, and ultimately, it turned out, to evict the indigenous Palestinians from their homeland.

I think I was not prepared for the magnitude of the operation. 100,000 troops, in tented camps, surrounded by barbed wire, were required – this at a time when Britain was severely impoverished by the war in Europe. It seems as if the King David Hotel Massacre, at the centre of British Administration in July 1946, when 91 people were killed, had been the turning point when the problem was handed over to the UN. The UN response was to recommend partition of the country, but the terms proposed had been manifestly so unfair to the Arabs that the British declined to have anything to do with it.

I arrived in Palestine in early 1947, via a troopship to Port Said. Once ashore and deposited in Palestine we were, even as medics, required to carry revolvers and never allowed to venture out unaccompanied. All during that year there was endless discussion over the mechanics of partition and many of us spectators looked on in amazement as this supposedly neutral body proceeded in a grossly unfair way to favour one side against the other.

Despite large-scale immigration the Jews still formed less than a third of Palestine in 1947 – even in the proposed Jewish state there were more Arabs than Jews. The Arabs, 70% of the total population, and owning 92% of the land, were allocated 47% of their country, while the Jews, 30% of the population, received 53%. In the Beersheba area an Arab population of 103,820 was supposed to submit to 1,020 Jews.

Not surprisingly, the Arabs, owners of the land for generations, rejected it out of hand. On 29 November the General Assembly of the UN, with heavy lobbying from the US, voted in favour of the partition proposals. The American influence was blatant and the trickle of arms (including tanks and aircraft) for the Israelis became a flood.

The British set 15th May 1948 for the end of the mandate, and sporadic fighting broke out between the two sides following the UN vote in early 1948. Jewish terror tactics, previously directed at the British, were now targeted on Arab villages, a notorious example being the village of Deir Yassin when Irgun terrorists slew 254 civilians on 9th April. Attacks followed on other villages, many being purposefully destroyed. Palestine was painfully dismembered and Deir Yassin appeared as a cynical act of intimidation to trigger the mass exodus of refugees.

My connection with Palestine was now temporarily suspended, being sent home to do a parachuting course. I was by now too involved with the unfolding of events there not to continue to follow them at a distance. On the day Israel declared its independence on 14th May there were already 300,000 Palestinian refugees, and Zionist forces had already occupied large chunks of territory designated for the proposed Arab state. By the winter of 1948 about 800,000 Palestinians had become homeless.

I quietly simmered with the injustice of it and the irony that Jews were now indulging in the sort of persecution of which they had complained –with justification – for centuries. I was uncomfortable too with the part Britain had played in all this, from the peace settlement after the Great War, the Balfour Declaration, and much since. The empty rhetoric of neighbouring Arab states on the Palestinians’ behalf did not cut much ice.

My military service ended in March 1949. After considering my position, I volunteered to go to Jordan to which huge numbers of Palestinians had fled, and where there was a British Red Cross commission. The large, tented camp to which I was sent numbered 17000 people. The young newly qualified Jordanian doctor there was about to go to the US for postgraduate study. Nursing and ‘welfare’ staff, truly remarkable ladies, all British, were already well-installed. Of locally employed staff there was a midwife and a pharmacist, and a number of willing helpers among the refugees, to whom we were able to pay a small wage. Among these was Mohammed Issa Shorbaji, who became my righthand man, and whose qualities and intelligence shone like a beacon and on whom I came to depend completely. He kept all the records in the clinic, though he had no medical experience, acted as interpreter and my tutor in Arabic.

I was immediately won over by the inmates themselves, enduring the discomfort of canvas tents, knowing that their own homes were occupied by strangers, from which they had been hounded with great brutality; existing now on only basic rations, with limited opportunity for employment and no visible future, they were patient and uncomplaining, seeming to show no bitterness, only a philosophical acceptance of their lot. If I visited a sick person in their tent, I could not escape without being offered a glass of tea, nor in the whole time that I was there was anything stolen, though all my belongings were permanently unlocked and accessible.

The day’s routine started at 7 a.m., broke off at 12.30, resumed at 5pm, until 7 or 8. Consultations (about 3000 per month) and minor surgery (about 50 per month) were done in the tented clinic; when I was single handed the anaesthetic was given by a nurse. Major surgery went to the Red Cross hospital at Salt, about 2 hrs by road to the South and West. Of necessity, my medical education developed fast.

The camp was situated alongside the pretty little village of Sukneh, about ten miles north of Amman, the capital. In November it was decided to move the whole camp to the Jordan valley, to land presented by King Abdullah where there were three wells with mechanical pumps. This exercise presented considerable logistical difficulties. We had sent on advance parties to prepare the site, dig latrines, etc. The actual journey lasted a week and was more or less completed by mid-December, all families travelling by lorry, together with baggage, goats, chickens, etc. One advantage was that we were able to construct more substantial medical and administrative buildings, made with home made bricks of clay and straw (in biblical style) in place of the former tents. The name of the new camp was Al Karameh, it was situated on the East bank of the Jordan river, about three miles from Jericho.

During 1950 the Red Cross operation in Jordan was wound up, and succeeded by UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency). I was offered a job by WHO in the Gaza strip, but declined, partly on the grounds of health (I had been off-colour for some time) and partly because I wanted to return home to do some postgraduate study.

My friend Mohammed Issa (Abu Hassan) Shorbaji stayed on in the camp with his large family. He did not at that stage have much option. He had been a gardener on an RAF station at Aqir and succeeded in starting a very successful market garden at Karameh, creating an intensive irrigation system from the wells. Truck loads of vegetables went each week to Jerusalem, and his several brothers and other relatives were employed in the business. He prospered and in 1967 he moved to Tabouk in northern Saudi Arabia, where he became farm manager to a judge. We continued to correspond to the end of his life. He came in 1979, with his wife, to visit me when I was living in Kent, asking me to arrange a visit to a dairy farm, which I was happy to do. Out of curiosity in 1958, I asked him to put down in writing how he came to leave his village in Palestine, when he would have been about 25. He replied:-

‘I was driven out of Zarnouka village, near Rehovoth, on May 15 (the day the British mandate was over). Our village was attacked by the Jews at 3 o’clock in the morning. At that time I got up and heard the people of our village in great disorder. I went directly to the mosque and called the people to prayer (which we call‘Adan’). As we began to pray the Jewish army attacked the mosque. They began to shoot and throw hand bombs, but we continued our prayer. My house was about 200 metres from the mosque; my mother hearing the bombs thought that I must have been killed, so she ran quickly to the mosque among the heavy shots. The enemy threw a hand bomb and my mother fell on it to save me…and that was the end of her life. At sunrise they entered the mosque and shot many of us and took the rest captive. As for me, I was left beside my mother that lay dead in the mosque, guarded by two soldiers. One of these guards searched me and took my watch, a gold ring and£50…’ My friend spoke Hebrew fluently and he heard them discussing whether or not they should kill him. There was a good deal more in the same vein.

He was then imprisoned throughout the following year, under very harsh conditions. Mohammed Issa was a devout Muslim, but my own religion was never a problem for him. He remembered that I had visited the Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem at Christmas 1949. When he visited me in Kent he requested that I would take him to a church, which I did; he asked me then if it would cause any offence if he said a prayer, and I assured him that it would not, so he knelt in front of the altar and prayed in the Muslim fashion.

A few months later I had a telephone call from Saudi Arabia. It was his eldest son calling to tell me that his father had died suddenly from a heart attack.

After more than half a century the Palestinians are still the same people, but the world has not listened to their cries; inevitably their attitudes have hardened, as more and more Israelis settle on their land, as their olive groves and orange trees are bulldozed, as their children are slaughtered, their houses bombed and reduced to rubble. Separated by razor wire and a monstrous wall from their land, humiliated constantly by officious guards at check points: suicide bombs would not be our way, nor would it have been the way of the gentle people I knew in Karameh in 1949, but regrettably a few have taken this route through desperation, through despair, through the constant threat of genocide. #


“Diplomacy can only operate if there is peace”

May 8, 2013

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Recently, a former UN Regional Administrator in Kosovo and Bangladesh Ambassador to Japan, Rashed Ahmed – President of the Japan-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry – sent news of his article published in the Daily Star, ‘Bangladesh foreign policy: breaking new grounds’.

It is long and wide-ranging, covering many subjects, including the value of the proportional representation voting system, the contribution of Professor Yunus and microcredit to Bangladesh and the wider world and the relationship of Bangladesh to India, USA and Japan. The whole article can be read by following the link given above.

Israel

“The unresolved Arab Israeli conflict is giving fodder to extremism, militancy and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. President Obama, in his second term, is expected to take a stronger stand and initiative to convince both the Palestinians and the Israelis to achieve a negotiated settlement based on the two state solution. President Obama’s move to appoint Chuck Hagel, known for his firmness with Israel when it comes to US national interest, as the defence advisor is a welcome development.

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“Bangladesh can help the process with active diplomacy at the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (now renamed Organisation of Islamic Cooperation – an international organisation with a permanent delegation to the United Nations) for opening dialogue with Israel. This will strengthen President Obama’s hand to find a peaceful and durable diplomatic solution to the Arab Israeli conflict . . .

“For Bangladesh’s foreign policy and diplomacy to be successful in Breaking new grounds; it is of critical importance for Bangladesh to scrupulously avoid getting embroiled in disputes between and amongst countries or play one against the other; we need to understand that there is both cooperation and competition between and amongst the super, big and emerging powers including USA, EC, China, India, Russia and Japan.

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“We should play a constructive role bilaterally and multilaterally to try to defuse tensions, resolve conflicts and work collectively for peace. Diplomacy can only operate if there is peace; war or conflict is, therefore, said to be the vanishing point of diplomacy”

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