Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Pirates of the Mediterranean

By Yvonne Ridley*

NOT content with committing war crimes and human rights atrocities in full view of the world, Israel has now confirmed itself as a rogue state by launching into international piracy.

Dawn had not yet broken over the Mediterranean waters in which the SS Dignity was sailing when an Israeli naval gunboat appeared from the inky black and rammed the aid-bearing ship. The act of aggression on a peace mission was launched in international waters 90 miles off Gaza, without any warning to the captain of the Dignity or the crew.

Israel claimed the incident was an accident and that its naval officers had made numerous attempts to communicate with the Dignity. It was an accident that was to repeat itself three times.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told one press agency that the naval vessel tried to contact the aid boat by radio for identification and to inform it that it could not enter Gaza. "After the boat did not answer the radio, it sharply veered and the two vessels collided, causing only light damage," Palmor said.

I wonder how many traffic cops around the world have heard that line from a drunken or reckless driver in the wake of a crash.

The Israeli spokesman then went on to accuse the international activists of "seeking provocation more than ever." Isn't it amazing how Yigal and Co suddenly go belly up and adopt a victim mentality? I wonder how he will react to the news that onboard the ship, among the cargo of much-needed medical supplies and humanitarian aid were TV crew s from CNN and Al Jazeera as well as other media. For goodness sake, the Dignity was on a peace mission, armed with nothing more than humanitarian aid – hardly a match for the tooled up, hi-tech Israeli Navy and its deadly arsenal.

Sorry to be so direct, but Palmor is a purveyor of deceit, a liar – and a very unconvincing one at that. You see all sea-faring people know that there is a certain radio channel and frequency which remains open 24 hours a day. I know myself, because the Israeli Navy used that exact same frequency on one of the two Free Gaza boats as they set sail back in August 2008 to break the siege of Gaza by sea. That emergency frequency carried messages of threats and intimidation as clear as a bell.

Radio communications were used without any difficulty on the Israeli Navy several times by human rights activists from the Free Gaza Movement warning the gunboats to back off when they fired at Gazan fishermen. The westerners were on the tiny fishing ships to stop the naval bully boys terrorizing the unarmed fishermen.

And by the way, what the hell is Israel up to by banning or trying to prevent boats from entering waters not in its territory? This is the Mediterranean. Just when did Israel assume complete authority of the Med?

It is also worth pointing out that Dignity was clearly flying the flag of Gibraltar, and was piloted by an English captain with a passenger list including revered politician Cynthia McKinney from the US. The Israeli Government Press Office director was faxed the entire passenger list and press release shortly after Dignity set sail. Cynthia is a former Congresswoman from Georgia, and the 2008 Green Party US presidential candidate. She was traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict.

I know her and I can tell you she is one sassy lady. If the Israel Navy thinks this little incident is going to sink without trace then they truly are in for one rude awakening.

After reaching port safely in Lebanon, where thousands greeted the Dignity, Cynthia said: "Israeli patrol boats ... tracked us for about 30 minutes ... and then all of a sudden they rammed us approximately three times, twice in the front and once in the side ... the Israelis indicated that [they felt] we were involved in terrorist activities."

She was joined by another woman of substance, Dr Elena Theoharous MP, who is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She was going to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals.

Also on board is another good friend of mine, Caoimhe Butterly, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movement. She said: "The gunboats gave us no warning. They came up out of the darkness firing flares and flashing huge floodlights into our faces. We were so shocked that at first we didn't react. We knew we were well within international waters and supposedly safe from attack. They rammed us three times, hitting the side of the boat hard. We began taking on water and, for a few minutes, we all feared for our lives. After they rammed us, they started screaming at us as we were frantically getting the lifeboats ready and putting on our life jackets. They kept yelling that if we didn't turn back they would shoot us."

Furthermore, the attack was filmed by the journalists, and crew and passengers and no doubt we will see the full extent of that footage and the damage caused by Israel.

Of course Israel is always using the "Oops sorry it was an accident" routine. That's the excuse the Zionist State used when it hit the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 with a flurry of bombs, murdering 34 American servicemen in cold blood. In the 40 year s since, those with the blood of those shipmates on their hands have gotten away with murder.

But try as they might to rewrite what happened onboard the Dignity and the Liberty, there are some memories which will not die. And what Israel has done to Gaza in the last few days will become an epitaph for the Zionist State. Israel's deplorable attack on the unarmed Dignity is a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states, "the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes."

Delivering doctors and urgently needed medical supplies to civilians is just such a "peaceful purpose." Deliberately ramming a mercy ship and endangering its passengers is an act of terrorism and piracy.

As I write this a funeral is being planned for five Palestinian sisters who were slaughtered in their sleep when an airstrike hit the next-door mosque in .Gaza. One of the walls collapsed on to their small asbestos-roofed home and they were all killed in their beds in the densley populated Jabalya refugee camp. The eldest sister, Tahrir Balousha was 17 years old, the youngest, Jawaher, just four.

Some hours earlier Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told al Jazeera: "Hamas seeks to kill children; it fires at kindergartens, schools, civilians – because this corresponds with its extremist ideology. Our values are completely different," she said.

Her outrageous claim went unchallenged, like so many statements coming out of Tel Aviv do these days. In a way, Ms Livni is right – Israel's values are different. Hamas has killed no one's children but the Israeli cabinet members who have spent the last six months planning the Gaza massacre, have sent out their military on assaults which have killed children. The air and sea attacks, shells and missiles have killed lots of Palestinian children.

While today's continued military slaughter – and now piracy – underlines the fact that leaders in the international community seem unwilling or unable to halt the Zionist War Machine, there are international lawyers who think otherwise.

And that is why one by one, those responsible will one day be charged with war crimes ... the evidence is stacking up – Nuremberg would be quite a fitting arena to try the guilty but London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam or Madrid will do.

The Israelis might not acknowledge their guilt publicly, but Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi has canceled a study sabbatical in London for fear of being indicted for "war crimes" and former IDF Southern Commander Doron Almog clung on to his passenger seat when someone from the israeli Embassy advised him not to put one foot on the ground at London's Heathrow Airport after a suit had been filed against him for "war crimes" during his stint as head of the IDF Gaza division from 1993-95 and head of the IDF Southern Command starting in 2000. IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon and former Shin Bent director Avi Dichter are two others who are advised not to leave outside Israel.

I understand fresh writs are being prepared for the next generation of Israeli war criminals and that includes all those involved in the Gaza massacres ... which could be anyone from a lowly reservist who has just been called up right through to the top ranks and beyond.

Like the Nazi and war crime hunters of the past, we must never forgive, never forget and never submit to the demands of morally bankrupt states and politicians.
* Yvonne Ridley and film-maker Aki Nawaz sailed to Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement on the first mission to break the siege. A documentary about the trip will be broadcast on Press TV in 2009. Yvonne is a co-founder of the newly-launched Stop Gaza Slaughter (SGS) coalition.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Israel's massacre of Palestinians in Gaza

The fightback has begun

From Henry Lowi:

Gaza attacks like war crimes – Tutu

20 000 in anti-Israel protest in Cairo

2,000 protest over Gaza outside Israeli embassy in London

Arab protesters demand response to Gaza

See also:,7340,L-3646008,00.html

Will the Resistance direct its weapons against Israeli military targets, or exclusively against non-combatant Israeli civilians,? Will the Resistance disarm the people, expose the people to the slaughter and reinforce the Zionist political campaign for hearts and minds? Or will the Resistance fight the attacking army, and arm the people for their self-defence, and on that basis call for international solidarity?





Saturday, 27 December 2008

Eyewitnesses to Israeli war crimes in Gaza

International witnesses speak out from Gaza on Israeli atrocities

27 December 2008, Gaza, Palestine: Human rights defenders from Lebanon, the UK, Poland, Canada, Spain, Italy and Australia are present in Gaza and are witnessing and documenting the current Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Due to Israel's policy of denying access to international media, human rights defenders and aid agencies to the occupied Gaza Strip, many of these human rights defenders arrived in Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement's boats.

Free Gaza Movement boats have broken Israel's siege of Gaza five times in the past four months.

Eva Bartlett (Canada), International Solidarity Movement:
At the time of the attacks I was on Omar Mukhtar street and witnessed a rocket hit the street 150 metres away where crowds had already gathered to try to extract the dead bodies [from a previous rocket attack]. Ambulances, trucks, cars – anything that can move – are bringing the injured to the hospitals.

Hospitals have had to evacuate sick patients to make room for the injured. I have been told that there is not enough room in the morgues for the bodies and that there is a serious lack of blood in the blood banks. I have just learned that among the civilians killed today was the mother of my good friends in Jabalya camp.
Ewa Jasiewicz (Polish and British), Free Gaza Movment, writes:
Israeli missles tore through a children's playground and busy market in Diyar Balah. We saw the aftermath – many were injured and some reportedly killed. Every hospital in the Gaza Strip is already overwhelmed with injured people and does not have the medicine or the capacity to treat them. Israel is committing crimes against humanity, it is violating international and human rights law, ignoring the United Nations and planning even bigger attacks. The world must act now and intensify the calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Governments need to move beyond words of condemnation into an active and immediate restraint of Israel and a lifting of the siege of Gaza.
Dr Haidar Eid, (Palestinian, South African), Professor of Social and Cultural Studies, Al Aqsa University:
The morgue at the Shifa hospital has no more room for dead bodies, so bodies and body parts are strewn all over the hospital.
Sharon Lock (Australia), International Solidarity Movement:
The bombs began to fall just as the children were on the streets walking back from school. I went out onto the stairs and a terrified 5 year old girl ran sobbing into my arms.
Dr Eyad Sarraj, President of the Gaza Community Mental Health Centre:
This is incredibly sad. This massacre is not going to bring security for the State of Israel or allow it to be part of the Middle East. Now calls of revenge are everywhere.
Jenny Linnel (UK), International Solidarity Movement:
As I speak they [the Israelis] have just hit a building 200 metres away. There is smoke everywhere. This morning I went to the building close to where I live in Rafah that had been hit. Two bulldozers were immediately attempting to clear the rubble. They thought they had found all the bodies. As we arrived one more was found.
Natalie Abu Eid (Lebanon), International Solidarity Movement:
The home I am staying in is across from the Preventive Security compound. All the glass of the house shattered. The home has been severely damaged. Owing to the siege there, is no glass or building materials to repair this damage. One little boy in our house fainted. An eight-year-old boy was trembling on the ground for an hour. In front of our house we found the bodies of two little girls under a car, completely burnt. They were coming home from school. This is more than just collective punishment. We are being treated like laboratory animals. I have lived through the Israeli bombardment of Beirut and the Israel's message is the same in Gaza as it was in Beirut – the killing of civilians. There was just another explosion outside!
For more information on the Free Gaza Movment (FGM) or the International
Solidarity Movement (ISM), contact in the West Bank:
  • Adam Taylor (ISM): tel. +972 59 8503948
  • Lubna Masarwa (FGM): tel. +972 50 5633044

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Take Action: Lloyds TSB helps to enforce the siege of Gaza

In 2004, the Zionist-led Board of Deputies of British Jews, staunch defenders of Israeli crimes, accused the charity Interpal of involvement in “terrorism”, for which smear they had to later pay damages.

Lloyds TSB Chairman Sir Victor Blank is a governor of Tel Aviv University, Chair of UJS/Hillel, a member of the Advisory Board of the United Jewish Israel Appeal and is involved in Labour Friends of Israel. UJS/Hillel assists members of the pro-Israel Union of Jewish Students, a group that works to silence Palestinian voices on British campuses.

One Lloyds TSB director, Sir David Manning, is an ex-ambassador to both Israel and the USA and was Foreign Policy Adviser to Tony Blair during the planning for the invasion of Iraq.

Now Blank, Manning & Co. have moved against Interpal; Lloyds TSB has demanded that the Islamic Bank of Britain cease all dealings with the registered charity. By hitting Interpal’s banking facilities, Lloyds TSB aims to support Israel by shutting off the trickle of aid that Interpal has managed to get into occupied Palestine over the years of Israel’s brutal siege.

British bank customers, and those who support Palestinians’ right to existence, can oppose this sadistic move by Lloyds TSB. While Palestinians are facing Israeli bulldozers, snipers, torture chambers and denial of medicines and food, we have an opportunity to join in their resistance to the vast criminal alliance that is trying to crush them.
Join the planned protests outside Lloyds TSB branches in your area.
  • Organise a one- or two-person protest outside a Lloyds TSB branch near you (we’ll send leaflets and publicity materials).
  • Make sure local Lloyds TSB branches and cashpoints are kept covered with informational material, posters, stickers, etc.
  • Write, email and call Lloyds TSB to complain of their cruel move against the people of Palestine.
  • Donate to Interpal, however little, and send a message of support.
When Bush, Obama, Blair, Brown and Blank are united against the Palestinian people, we have a duty to join with Palestinians to resist the crime. The crime has now washed up on your doorstep at a Lloyds TSB Branch near you. You can make a difference.

Visit our website for more information, reports of protests and information on what you can do.

Order the above campaign stickers by emailing

Saturday, 13 December 2008

UN official calls Israel "apartheid" state

President of UN General Assembly urges Israel to be recognized as an apartheid state

The president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto, has referred to Israel as an apartheid state.

Phyllis Bennis analyses the significance of this identification as compared to South African apartheid and the popular resistance struggles worldwide that helped end it.

Isreali apartheid is built into a system of roads walls, and fences which create segregation of Palestinians and Jews both inside the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel.

Gazan Palestinians are separated from Israel and West Bank Palestinians by the siege imposed by Israel after the election of Hamas.

Bennis analyses the validity of the term "apartheid" in the case of Israel and the proposed peace plan many Arab states have presented as a possible solution.

Phyllis Bennis is a senior analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. She is the author of Before and After: US Foreign Policy and the September 11 Crisis and Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN Defy US Power. Her newest book is Understanding the US-Iran Crisis: A Primer.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Life under Israeli occupation

Testimonies from an occupied land

A documentary about life in Palestine and more especially in Nablus, the biggest city of the West Bank.

Surrounded by checkpoints, Nablus has seen during recent years its unemployment skyrock and more and more people live under poverty line.

The picture in refugee camps is even bleaker.

This is the story of Palestinians and Internationals trying to reach out to the world to end Israel's collective punishment of the Palestinians.

This movie is part of the Open Source Movies collection

Director: Frank Barat

Producer: Frank Barat

Audio/Visual: sound, color

Language: English

Contact Information:

Monday, 1 December 2008

Zionism in Leeds University campus, UK

Leeds University Union to vote on a motion to referendum which will label anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and silence pro-Palestinian groups on campus.

Leeds University Union agreed last week, by a vote of 12 to 11, to send a motion to referendum which will label anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and silence pro-Palestinian groups on campus.

The motion, shrouded in the language of combating anti-Semitism, is a reversal of a motion passed 2 years ago which gave Palestinian activists at Leeds University the rights enjoyed by their counterparts throughout the country. If passed, organisations which have an anti-Zionist platform, such as the Socialist Workers Party and the Palestine Solidarity Group will be prevented from receiving funding from the union and prevented from holding many of their events.

The motion claims, without providing any supporting evidence, that “Anti-semitism is increasing significantly both across the country and within universities and student unions.” and resolves to adopt the seemingly innocuous EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism. The EUMC working definition, which the British government has so far refrained from explicitly adopting has been seized upon by pro-Israeli groups across the country and used to silence criticism of Israel by claiming that anti-Semitism includes “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination”.

 If adopted, the motion will be shut down debate on the extent to which Israel should label itself as a state for the Jewish people as opposed to a state for all its citizens, such as the UK and all other liberal democracies. Thus an issue, which is openly discussed in academia, civil society and even within the Israeli government itself, will become forbidden on the Leeds campus.

Commenting on the motion, the Jewish peace group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians state that “We find this unhelpful, to put it mildly, and believe that it harms the struggle against antisemitism rather than helping it, by severely distorting what the real problems are.” They continue, “We hope that the University of Leeds Student Union will not be foolish enough to adopt the motion on the topic when it comes up for debate. It will do nothing to help counter the real dangers of antisemitism in our society because so much of the working definition is, in our view, misdirected“.

One of the many parts of the definition they opposed is the example of how ‘anti semitism manifests itself’: by ‘applying double standards by requiring of it (Israel) a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation’. As another peace organization, European Jews for a Just Peace noted, ‘this is a formulation that allows any criticism of Israel to be dismissed on the grounds that it is not simultaneously applied to every other defaulting state at the same time …’

Jews against Zionism, an organisation which represents over 150,000 Jews world-wide commented that “One of the well-known tactics of Zionists to silence their critics is to accuse them of anti-Semitism. Of course, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are two separate things.”

They also take issue with another part of the working definition which classes “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.” as anti-Semitic. They assert that whether it is anti-Semitic or not “depends if the accusation is made at the Jews in general, or at particular Jews. We are greatly pained when we hear blanket accusations against our people, or any people, for that matter. But certain Jews may, by their actions and words, demonstrate a greater loyalty to the Zionist state than to their own country. There is nothing wrong with pointing this out.”

A representative of the Leeds Student Palestine Solidarity Group commented that “Under current Union policy we are well within our rights to express our opposition to Zionism and defend the rights of Palestinians who suffer discrimination and human rights abuses on the basis of their race, within Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The passing of this motion would mean, however, a serious curtailment of the activities of the PSG on campus simply to satisfy the political views of another section of the student body. We believe that people should be allowed to hear both sides of the debate and make up their own minds.”

The motion will go to referendum the week beginning Friday the 28th of November and the results will be announced on Friday December the 5th.

To register your opposition to the motion contact:

University Secretary Roger Gair

University Vice-Chancellor Michael Arthur

Chief Executive of Leeds University Union Leslie Dixon

  • The status of Leeds University as an institution which encourages free thought.
  • The fact that the motion will shut down an area of perfectly legitimate debate.
  • That the reputation of Leeds University will be seriously undermined if this motion if passed.
  • Asking these officials to ensure that freedom of speech at Leeds is protected.

To learn more about how you can support the campaign contact the Palestine Solidarity Group at

Friday, 28 November 2008

Urgent statement by anti-Zionist Orthodox Jews

Statement by Neturei Karta: How long will Jewish and non-Jewish leaders who claim the mantle of civilization and morality remain silent in the face of the ongoing state terrorism practiced by the Zionist state against the Palestinian People, most visibly today in Gaza, where the Zionists believe they can starve the 
Palestinians into submission in violation of all tenets of international law, all religious values in general, INCLUDING the values of the Jewish faith???!!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Jewish settler violence leads to the arrest of peace activists

From Neve Gordon:

At dawn the activists arrived. Around 30 Ta’ayush (Arab-Jewish Partnership) and international volunteers came to the Palestinian groves adjacent to the Jewish settlement in Tel-Rumeida, Hebron, to help the landowners pick their olives. Previous attempts by the Palestinian farmers – who live behind fences and are subjected to daily violence – to reach their olive trees had been blocked by the residents of Tel Rumeida, a stronghold of the most militant and extremist Jewish settlers. Even the Israeli police are afraid of these settlers while the military routinely bows down to their commands.

A few days earlier, the activists had been informed that the settlers had entered the groves and had stolen olives from their rightful owners. Complaints to the police were ignored, while the military decided to deny Palestinians all access to the trees.

After meeting their Palestinian partners, the activists began picking the olives. They worked fast and were making considerable progress when four settlers arrived on the scene, and, without warning began beating an international activist and a press photographer, while breaking their cameras.

The settlers had come to the site accompanied by Israeli soldiers, whose job is to protect the settlers from Palestinians. It is therefore not surprising that the soldiers did nothing to prevent the violent attack, did not detain the settlers and even told the settlers that they would do well to hide before the police arrived.

The Ta’ayush activists had already called the police, informing them that the settlers were attacking the olive pickers. This time, the police arrived at the scene fairly quickly, but instead of arresting the belligerent settlers they notified the Palestinians, Israelis and Internationals that they had to leave the area since it was declared a “closed military zone.” Once again the violent oppressors had triumphed.

The activists, however, refused to accept the unjust decision, claiming that it was implemented to stop the Palestinian landowners from reaching their olives. This time the police officers and military thought it appropriate to use force and started evacuating the activists.

Three Ta’ayush activists were arrested, and were taken to a jail, where the police planned to keep them overnight. After midnight, following a request for an urgent hearing their case was brought to court and they were released. Again, the settlers had won the day and managed to prevent the harvest, only this time the event was covered by the press, and the true face of the settlers, police, and military was exposed. Usually, the world is left ignorant of the violence.

Help Ta’ayush (Arab-Jewish Partnership) continue its activities

Ta’ayush Jerusalem has been active since 2001. Over the years we worked together with Palestinian communities in the southern part of the West Bank, including the Palestinians cave-dwellers in the south Hebron hills, with Palestinians living in the city of Hebron, with groups of Palestinians in the Bethlehem area and in East Jerusalem. All these Palestinians are subjected to ongoing violence, including house demolitions, the threat of expulsion, and the confiscation of land. They are living in extreme poverty due to the military siege and Israel’s draconic restriction of their movement.

In order to maintain their weekly activities with the Palestinians, Ta’ayush needs your help.

1. The cost of weekly activities to south Hebron is approximately 1000 Israeli shekels (about $250) for a group of 20 volunteers.

2. The cost for larger-scale activities, which requires renting buses, is 5000 shekels ($1250).

3. Monthly costs for petrol and telephones for Israeli and Palestinian activists – roughly 3000 shekels ($750).

Click here to help.

Ta'ayush – Arab-Jewish Partnership

To read about Neve Gordon’s book (Israel’s Occupation) and more click here.

Monday, 27 October 2008

Video: A day in the life of a Gazan fisherman

Seaborne Israeli terrorists fire on and try to sink a Palestinian fishing boat well inside Palestinian territorial waters.

This footage was taken from one Gazan fishing boat on 5 October 2008 as it fished in Gazan waters. The furthest it ventured from shore was approximately 4 miles.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Israel’s Occupation

Chris Spannos interviews Neve Gordon about his new book

(1) Where did your book Israel's Occupation come from?

The book has two distinct sources. First and foremost, it is a product of many years of activism in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. My understanding of the forms of control deployed in the Gaza Strip and West Bank began during the first Intifada, initially as a member of the Gaza Team for Human Rights and later as the director of Physicians for Human Rights, Israel. During the second Intifada, I became an active member of Ta'ayush (Arab-Jewish Partnership) and spent much time in the Occupied Territories resisting, together with Palestinians, Israel's abusive policies. This kind of first-hand experience is invaluable and cannot be replaced by books and reports. The book is also the outcome of discussions and research carried out by a group of Israeli and Palestinian students and scholars that I was fortunate to join a few years ago. The aim of this group was to try and theorize Israel's particular form of colonization.

(2) What would you say makes your book different than other books on the occupation?

There is, to be sure, a whole slew of books about Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories, (one might even call it an industry) but surprisingly there is not a single book that provides an overview of four decades of Israeli military rule.

One can find excellent books about the history of Israel's settlement project, Palestinian resistance, primarily during the first and second Intifada, the history of the military courts, the Palestinian women's movement, the labor movements, the diplomatic initiatives, and human rights abuses. I am familiar with five different books that deal with the separation barrier, also known as the wall. While these studies are crucial for understanding certain features of the occupation, Geoffrey Aronson's 1987 Facts on the Ground was the last book that attempted to provide an overview of the occupation, but his superb book appeared before the eruption of the first intifada. On the one hand, then, this is the only book that offers an extensive history of the occupation.

On the other hand, most of the books that exist are descriptive. My book, by contrast, aims to theorize the occupation and Israel's control of the Palestinian population. It aims to offer an explanation for the changes that have taken place in the Occupied Territories over the years. If in 1968 Israel helped Palestinians in the Gaza Strip plant some 618,000 trees and provided farmers with improved varieties of seeds for vegetables and field crops, during the first three years of the second Intifada Israel destroyed more than ten percent of Gaza's agricultural land and uprooted over 226,000 trees. How can one explain this shift?

(3) The book focuses on the four decades since 1967. What about the decades before, and particularly the war of 1948?

The objective of my book is to show and analyze how Israel has controlled the population it occupied in 1967. I am not writing the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or the history of the mechanisms of control employed to control the Palestinian people in the most general sense. I think, for instance, that the modes of control deployed to control Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip have diverged from the ones deployed inside Israel after the 1948 war in large part because Israel never wanted to integrate the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories into its citizenry. Israel, as I point out, wanted the "dowry" (the land it occupied in 1967) without the "bride" (the Palestinian inhabitants of this land) and therefore it had to introduce different forms of control.

This is not to say, however, that one can understand the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without looking back at 1948. 1948 is crucial both for understanding the conflict and for any just peace agreement. Indeed, I do not think there will be peace without first addressing the ethnic cleansing carried out during that war. However, discussing these issues is not the objective of my book; moreover, many excellent books have already been written on 1948.

(4) Your book provides a "Genealogy of Control." What is this and why is it important?

By genealogy of control I mean a history that describes the forms of control used to manage the population through the regulation of their daily practices. It refers to a certain kind of history from below. In the Occupied Territories the controlling apparatuses have manifested themselves in legal regulations and permits, military procedures and practices, spatial divisions and architectural edifices, as well as bureaucratic edicts and normative fiats dictating forms of correct conduct in homes, schools, medical centers, workshops, agricultural fields, and so forth. A single book does not suffice to create an inventory of these apparatuses, considering that the military orders issued over the years in the West Bank and Gaza Strip alone fill thousands of pages and deal with anything and everything, from business transactions involving land or property and the installation of water pumps to the planting of citrus trees and the structure of the governing body. Each one of these orders can be analyzed in depth so as to uncover both the processes that led to its creation as well as the effects that it generated. Why, for example, did Israel prevent Palestinians from installing water pumps? Which practices did the military introduce to enforce this regulation, and how did the lack of water pumps affect the inhabitants' daily lives? Instead of offering a meticulous interrogation of a single controlling apparatus, as some commentators have done, my book provides a bird's-eye view of the means of control so as to explain the changes that have taken place over the past four decades in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

(5) Your preface mentions changes you experienced growing up. What were some of these changes and what do you attribute them to?

When I was a teenager my friends in high school took driving lessons in the middle of Rafah, a city located at the southern tip of the Strip which today is considered by almost all Israeli Jews to be a terrorist nest riddled with tunnels used to smuggle weapons from Egypt -- weapons that are subsequently used against Israeli targets. I mention that until the early 1990s Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza were part of the Israeli landscape, primarily as cheap laborers who built houses, cleaned streets, and worked in agriculture, but that today they have literately disappeared.

Israel's inability to quell the Palestinian emancipatory drive has led it to transform the Occupied Territories into a kind of open air prison. In the early years of the occupation Israel spent a lot of energy trying to manage the occupied population and to normalize the occupation. It monitored every aspect of Palestinian life. The number of televisions, refrigerators, and gas stoves were counted, as were the livestock, orchards and tractors. Letters sent to and from the different regions were checked, registered and examined. School textbooks, novels, movies, newspapers and political leaflets were inspected and frequently censored. There were detailed inventories of Palestinian workshops for furniture, soap, textiles, olive products and sweets. Even eating habits were scrutinized as was the nutritional value of the Palestinian food basket. Today, Israel is no longer interested in the Palestinian inhabitants as subjects that need to be managed (except perhaps in the seam zones near the borders and at the checkpoints) and this, as I show, has led to a very precarious situation, one which is much more violent.

(6) How has violence and death among Palestinians and Israelis changed over the years of occupation and how does this inform our analysis or vice versa?

While the changes in the OT have manifested themselves in all areas of life, they are particularly conspicuous when counting bodies. Between the six-year period of 2001- 2007, Israel, on average, killed 674 Palestinians per year, which is more than it killed throughout the first 20 years of occupation. Moreover, since the eruption of the second Intifada, Israel has killed almost twice as many Palestinians as in the preceding 34 years. The number of Israelis killed has also dramatically increased over the years. During the thirteen-year period between December 1987 and September 2000, 422 Israeli were killed by Palestinians, but during the six-year period from the eruption of the second intifada until the end of 2006, 1,019 Israelis were killed. One of the questions I address in the book is how to make sense of the increasing violence. I want to look beyond the straightforward, and, in my mind, simplistic answer that assumes each side has altered its methods of violence, deploying, as it were, much more lethal force. This, no doubt, is true, but the question still stands: why are more lethal repertoires of violence deployed?

(7) You write that the Occupation operated according to the "colonization principle" but over time gave way to the "separation principle." What do you mean?

By the colonization principle I mean a form of government whereby the colonizer attempts to manage the lives of the colonized inhabitants while exploiting the captured territory's resources (in our case, this would mean land, water, and cheap labor). Colonial powers do not conquer for the sake of imposing administrative rule on the indigenous population, but they end up managing the conquered inhabitants in order to facilitate the extraction of resources. The military perceived its role very differently when the colonization principle was dominant than it does today. For instance, for several years, the Israeli Military Government published annual reports entitled "Accountability," suggesting that Israel felt a need to provide an account of the social and economic developments taking place in the regions that it had captured. The thrust of the claims made in the reports can be summed up in the following way: Due to our interventions, the Palestinian economy, industry, education, health-care and civilian infrastructure have significantly developed. The point I would like to stress here is not that the development of these sectors was frequently actually obstructed, but rather that Israel considered itself responsible for these sectors, for the administration of the population. The Israeli objective was to normalize the occupation.

At a certain point during the first Intifada, Israel realized that the colonization principle wasn't working, and began looking for a new principle that would allow it to uphold the occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The desire to normalize the occupation and successfully annihilate Palestinian nationalism proved to be unrealistic. It took a few years before a clear policy was shaped, but eventually the separation principle was adopted. As opposed to the colonization principle which was rarely discussed, the separation principle has been talked about incessantly. The paradigmatic sentence describing this principle is "We are here, they are there." The "we" refers to Israelis, and the "they" to Palestinians.

The second principle does not, however, aim to end the occupation, but rather to alter its logic. In other words, "We are here, they are there," does not signify a withdrawal of Israeli power from the Occupied Territories (even though that is how it is understood among the Israeli public), but is used to blur the fact that Israel has been reorganizing its power in the territories in order to continue its control over their resources. Thus, the Oslo Accords, which were the direct result of the first Intifada as well as the changing political and economic circumstances in the international realm, signified the reorganization of power rather than its withdrawal, and should be understood as the continuation of the occupation by other means. As Meron Benvenisti observed early on, Oslo was a form of "occupation by remote control."

The major difference then between the colonization and the separation principles is that under the first principle there is an effort to manage the population and its resources, even though the two are separated. With the adoption of the separation principle Israel looses all interest in the lives of the Palestinian inhabitants and focuses solely on the occupied resources. Highlighting this reorganization of power helps explain the change in the repertoires of violence and the dramatic increase in the number of Palestinian deaths.

(8) How much have the forms of Israel's control over Gaza and the West Bank changed over the years and what does it tell us about Israel's control over the region?

The separation principle produces a totally different controlling logic from the logic produced by the colonial principle. If during the first decade of the occupation Israel tried to decrease Palestinian unemployment in order to manage the population, following the new millennium Israel intentionally produced unemployment in the Occupied Territories. Whereas in 1992 some 30 percent of the Palestinian workforce was employed in Israel, in 1996 that figure had fallen to seven percent and the average rate of unemployment in the territories reached 32.6 percent, rising twelve fold from the 3 percent unemployment in 1992. Thus, during one period employment is used to manage the population, while in a later period unemployment is used as a form of control.

Along similar lines, if during the first years of the occupation Israel provided immunization for cattle and poultry, in 2006 it created conditions that prevented people from receiving immunization. The World Bank reports that acute malnutrition currently affects more than 9 percent of Palestinian children in the territories, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that in 2003 almost 40 percent of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories suffer from food insecurity. Almost half of the children between 6 and 9 months and women of child-bearing age are anemic. There has been a 58 percent increase in the number of stillbirths due to poor prenatal care and child mortality increased substantially in 2002 to become the leading cause of death for children under 5, and the second leading cause of death overall. It is not only that the Palestinian inhabitants are no longer considered to be important objects of management and that Israel has abandoned its objective of exploiting the population for economic purposes, but that it has adopted a series of policies which in effect weaken and destroy the Palestinian residents.

Indeed, under the separation principle the Palestinian is no longer conceived to be an object that needs to be meddled with and shaped. The military's policy during the second Intifada, whereby soldiers shot more than one million bullets within the first month, is poles apart from the policies of the first years of the occupation and even from Defense Minister Yitzchak Rabin's directive "to break their bones," given to soldiers during the first Intifada. The difference between beating the body and killing the body reflects the difference between the colonial principle and the separation principle, between shaping the body and crushing it.

(9) What is the difference between understanding the Occupation through the lens of policy vs. the lens of structure? Where might each lead the person who holds that perspective? And how is one better than another?

The question we need to always ask ourselves is where policy originates from. We tend to think of policy as the creation of a person or a small group of people. People commonly talk about the Eisenhower doctrine, the Bush doctrine, Ariel Sharon's doctrine, etc. as if certain doctrines originated from political leaders. I, by contrast, think that politics work differently. I think, for example, that politicians, military commanders, judges, and the like are constrained and in many respects shaped by the existing social, economic and political structures.

Let me give an example that is closer to home. The US is now undergoing an economic crisis and, as a result, Bush just passed a 700 billion dollar bailout bill. Michael Moore characterized the bill as the biggest robbery in the history of the United States. I tend to agree with this characterization, but the question I ask myself is whether this bill simply originated from President Bush and his advisors or whether it is a product of the crisis and certain political, economic and social structures in the US. I do not think one can fully make sense of the bill without taking into account certain credit structures in the US, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the intricate relationship between big business and the US electoral system, to name a few of the political processes and structures that helped shape the policies that aim to address the crisis. Moreover, it is the excesses and contradictions that are, in fact, integral to the credit structures, the wars and the influence of business on the electoral systems that led to the crisis to begin with, which then led to the policy change.

The same is true about Israel's occupation. The mechanisms of control produced their own contradictions and excesses, which led, in turn, to policy changes.

(10) You write that the changes taking place in the Occupied Territories are not the effects of policy decisions or Palestinian Resistance. What guides your thinking here?

This is not precise. The changes are, no doubt, the effect of Israel's policy choices and Palestinian resistance, but what, I ask, are the underlying causes leading to the shifts in Israel's policy choices and to the augmentation or changes in Palestinian resistance. My claim is that the policy choices and indeed the resistance were shaped by the contradictions and excesses of the mechanisms of control that Israel deployed. A curfew restricts and confines the population, but also produces antagonism; the establishment of a Jewish settlement on a hilltop is used to confiscate land, partition space, and monitor the Palestinian villages below but also underscores that the occupation is not temporary. There are scores of examples like these in the book. The crux of the matter is that the contradictions facilitated the awakening of a Palestinian national consciousness, altered the population's social stratification and played a crucial role in weakening the influence of the traditional elites, undermined the claim that the occupation was temporary and would end in the near future, revealed the logic behind Israel's so-called arbitrary processes and decrees, and helped bind together an otherwise fragmented society. Palestinian resistance, in turn, led Israel to alter its policies.

(11) The book pays particular focus to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Why are these areas important to Israel?

This book concentrates on the West Bank and Gaza Strip, the areas where most of the Palestinians who were occupied in 1967 reside. Israel was, from the beginning, unwilling to withdraw from these two regions and hoped to integrate the land or at least parts of it into its own territory at some future date. My objective was to try and understand how a particular kind of colonialism works and how and why it changes over time. Israel's colonial enterprise in East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights works slightly differently and since I could not address all the differences in one book I decided to concentrate on the West Bank and Gaza Strip. This does not mean that they are more important to Israel; indeed I think that Gaza Strip is less important and considered by many Israeli policy makers more of a liability than an asset. The West Bank is considered, on the one hand, a military asset. It is perceived as necessary for defending Israel's borders against external attacks, while the water reservoirs in the West Bank are considered a vital security resource due to Israel's scant water supplies. On the other hand, the West Bank fulfills a messianic aspiration. From a messianic perspective, this region is seen as part of the biblical land of Israel and therefore it belongs to the Jews and should never be returned to the Palestinians. These strains of thought often converge to create a united front.

(12) How do Palestinians and Israelis as conscious agents of change fit into your analysis?

They don't. It is, however, important to emphasize that even though my focus is on the different structures and mechanisms of control, I do not want to suggest that one should ignore or dismiss the agency of political actors. Indeed, any attempt to portray both Israelis and Palestinians as objects rather than subjects of history would be misleading. Israelis are responsible for creating and maintaining the occupation as well as its consequences, while Palestinians are responsible for their resistance and its effects. And yet the decisions of Israelis and Palestinians, as well as their comportment, are produced, at least in part, by a multiplicity of forms of control.

Since almost all the books that I am familiar with emphasize the human agency of Israelis and Palestinians, I decided to focus on the structures and forms of control. I think the two genres complement each other; indeed one cannot understand the occupation without taking into account both the agency and the structure - since most authors until now focused on the agency I decided to tell another story.

(13) What are your hopes for the book?

Like every person who writes a book I hope that it will be widely read, that at the end of the day the people who read it feel that they have learnt something, that it is taught in classes, and that it will help activists make better sense of Israel's occupation.

While the book, and particularly the introduction, employs theory in order to make sense of the occupation, I think that non-academic readers will find the book accessible and benefit from such a theorization, since it will not only improve their ability to detect the lies and transcend the political smokescreen that characterize most discussions about Israel's occupation, but also provide some tools for understanding how power ticks. I hope that people from all political stripes read it, and not only those on the left or those interested in Israel/Palestine, but also people who want to improve their understanding of how modern forms of colonization operate and how our lives are managed.


Neve Gordon teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University and is the author of Israel's Occupation. Visit his website at

Chris Spannos works for Z.

Title: Israel's Occupation
Author: Neve Gordon
Year: 2008
ISBN: 978-0-520-25531-9

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Israeli settlers threaten to kill British film crew, curse Jesus

Video of an Israeli settler threatening a British film crew. The video shows the settler cursing Jesus ("You and you're fucking Jesus can kiss my ass... We killed Jesus and we're proud of it"), threatening to kill the film crew and the Palestinians on whose land the settlers are trespassing.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Don't buy or stock Israeli products

New call to shoppers to stop buying Israeli goods, especially from illegal Israeli settlements, and to supermarkets to stop stocking such goods

In July this year TV channel More4 and several national newspapers featured graphic reports about British supermarkets selling goods exported from illegal Israeli settlements in the Palestinian West Bank. This was a stark reminder of the continued apartheid policies of the Israeli state.

At the same time genuine Palestinian producers are deliberately prevented from producing and exporting goods by the drastic conditions of Israeli occupation, and insuperable clamp-downs on trade’. On August 23rd 44 peace activists sailed to Gaza to challenge the siege, and to show the world that the Palestinians are trapped.

Kim Howells the Minister responsible for relations with Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office has stated that it “is essential to [ensure] that customers can make an informed choice between Palestinian produce and produce from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law”.

After 60 years of oppression, dispossession and occupation for the Palestinian people, and no justice from the international community, the BOYCOTT ISRAELI GOODS CAMPAIGN (BIG) is now launching a new campaign:
  • To call on shoppers not to buy Israeli goods, and especially goods from the settlements – often misleadingly labelled ‘West Bank.’
  • To call on the supermarkets to stop selling Israeli goods, and to stop colluding with Israel’s export of goods from the illegal settlements.
A call for boycott has been issued by more than 180 civil society organisations and unions in the West Bank, until Israel abides by international law and respects Palestinian rights.

The emphasis on settlement exports spearheads the general case for the boycott of Israeli goods.
  • Israel militarily controls every aspect of Palestinian life in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
  • Israel’s racist housing policy has resulted in the demolition of 18,000 Palestinian homes since 1967.
  • Israel restricts the movement of Palestinians with more than 600 roadblocks.
  • Israel continues to expropriate Palestinian land to build its apartheid wall, declared illegal by the International court of justice in 2004.
This new campaign, led by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and Jews for Boycotting of Israeli Goods (JBIG) is part of a wider international campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Apartheid Israel. The campaign will feature a sustained programme of direct action by local branches across the country, with support from trade union members and faith groups. There will be initial Week of Action from September 20th – 27th with letters to supermarket HQ and branches and demonstrations.

A campaign spokesperson said, 'We are calling for a boycott of all Israeli goods, but also especially drawing attention to settlement goods. At present Israel exports fruit and vegetables grown in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank and Britain is one of the largest importers. These settlements are illegal under international law. To be complicit in this crime is also a crime in English law. These goods are often inaccurately labelled 'Produce of Israel', or misleadingly as ‘West Bank’, causing customers to believe they are Palestinian goods. These goods also benefit, illicitly, from the preferential rates of customs duty under the EC-Israeli Preferential Trade Agreement, thereby costing the British taxpayer millions of pounds in unpaid customs duty.’

There are plentiful alternative sources of supply for all Israeli goods stocked by supermarkets – such as fresh herbs and medjoul dates and other fruit and vegetables. Many supermarkets claim to have ethical trading policies. They should now prove it.

Notes to Editors
1. Israel militarily controls every aspect of Palestinian life in Gaza , the West Bank and East Jerusalem , occupied since 1967

2. “The establishment of settlements in the West Bank violates international humanitarian law which establishes principles that apply during war and occupation. Moreover, the settlements lead to the infringement of international human rights law.

The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring citizens from its own territory to the occupied territory (Article 49). The Hague Regulations prohibit an occupying power from undertaking permanent changes in the occupied area unless these are due to military needs in the narrow sense of the term, or unless they are undertaken for the benefit of the local population.

The establishment of settlements results in the violation of the rights of Palestinians as enshrined in international human rights law. Among other violations, the settlements infringe the right to self-determination, equality, property, an adequate standard of living, and freedom of movement.” (

3. Aid agencies report a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza because of the Israeli imposed siege ("The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion", Oxfam, Amnesty International, CAFOD, Trocaire, Save the Children, Care International, March 2008)

4. Israel 's racist housing policy has resulted in the demolition of 18,000 Palestinian homes since 1967. (The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD)

5. Israel restricts the movement of Palestinians with more than 609 obstacles to movement including checkpoints and roadblocks all over the West Bank, including East Jerusalem , and operates a segregated road system. ("Report No.65 Implementation of the Agreement on Movement and Access and Update on Gaza Crossing (30 April – 13 May 2008)", United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, August 2008)

6. According to the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem, Israel has killed 4,815 Palestinians, 951 of them minors in the last eight years alone.

7. Israel profits from exporting to the UK fruit and vegetables grown on illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and misleadingly labeled 'West Bank' ("'Illicit' settler food sold in UK stores", Observer, July 2008).

8. Israel continues to expropriate Palestinian land to build its apartheid wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. ("Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory ", International Court of Justice, July 2004).

9. A call for boycott has been issued by Palestinians in the Occupied Territories . (Palestine BDS Campaign).

10. Israeli farms and companies prosper by exploiting stolen land and water, while impoverished Palestinian farmers are denied access to their own fields, orchards and wells and cannot market the few goods they manage to produce.

11. By stocking their shelves with Israeli goods, such as Carmel , Coral and Jaffa brands, supermarkets are supporting companies which benefit from the dispossession of Palestinian families.

12. For information about the Free Gaza Movement boat trip mentioned above please see

Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Tel: 020 7700 6192
Fax: 020 7609 7779

Monday, 1 September 2008

Israeli navy fires on unarmed fishing boats and human rights workers

(OFF THE COAST OF GAZA) 1 September 2008: Israeli Naval vessels are currently firing on unamrmed Palestinian fishing boats and international human rights workers off the coast of the Gaza Strip. The fishing boats are several miles off the coast of Gaza City, in Palestinian territorial waters. As of 11am (4am EST) no one had been injured, but live ammunition is still being fired in the direction of the civilian boats.

The unarmed boats went to sea at dawn this morning, in an attempt to fish in their own water. Six international human rights workers from five different countries accompanied the fishermen in the hopes that their presence would deter the Israeli military from firing on the fishermen. In the past the Israeli military has shot and killed unarmed Palestinian fishermen for trying to fish in their own waters.
  • Accompanying the fishermen are:
  • Vittorio Arrigoni, Italy
  • Georgios Karatzas, Greece
  • Adam Qvist, Denmark
  • Andrew Muncie, Scotland
  • Donna Wallach, USA
  • Darlene Wallach, USA
  • The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Tel. +972 2 530 3111
  • The British Embassy in Tel Aviv
  • +972 3 725 1222
  • The US Embassy in Tel Aviv
  • +972 2 625 5755

For more information, please contact:
  • (at sea, off Gaza coast) Vittorio Arrigoni, +972 598 826 516
  • (at sea, off Gaza coast) Donna Wallach, +972598 836 420
  • (Cyprus) Greta Berlin, +357 99 081 767 /
  • (Cyprus) Osama Qashoo, +357 97 793 595
Human rights worker's account of the Israeli shooting

"When at a distance, estimated by our fishing boat’s captain, of 7 nautical miles from the coast, we dropped our fishing nets and started fishing the Israeli warships rushed to reach our position.

"One of the warships positioned at a distance less than 200 metres alongside of our fishing boat, opened fire in our direction at least 4 times during the day. It was intimidating fire directed into the water, but some bursts almost touched the hull of our boat. A cannon shot almost reached us. Making attempt of obtaining a radio contact was useless. Soldiers on the Israeli warship ordered, with the use of megaphones, the area evacuation. And after that they were shooting. Sometimes they were shooting before having ordered. Once they shooted to our fishing nets and tried to damaged it sailing directly on them.

"Unfortunetely our big mistake was not having with us neither cameras nor video cameras that, together with megaphones to be used exactly like they do, I consider essential for our next fishing missions.

"Despite these intimidations the fishing was rich and profitable, we brought ashore quantity of fish ten times bigger than the usual Palestinians fishers standard."


Vittorio Arrigoni

Friday, 29 August 2008

Israeli conscientious objectors

From Neve Gordon*:

Eighteen-year-old Sahar Vardi is currently in an Israeli military prison. She is being punished for the crime of refusing to be conscripted into the Israeli military.

A few weeks before her imprisonment she wrote Israel’s Minister of Defense, Ehud Barak, explaining her decision to become a conscientious objector. “I have been to the occupied Palestinian territories many times, and even though I realize that the soldier at the checkpoint is not responsible for Israel’s oppressive policies, that soldier is still responsible for his conduct…” She summed up her letter to Barak with the following words: “The bloody cycle in which I live--made up of assassinations, terrorist attacks, bombings, and shootings--has resulted in an increasing number of victims on both sides. It is a vicious circle that is sustained by the choice of both sides to engage in violence. I refuse to take part in this choice.”

While Vardi is the first woman to be imprisoned this year, she is part of a broader movement of Shministim, high-school seniors who refuse to be conscripted due to the military’s oppression of the Palestinians. Two other conscientious objectors, Udi Nir and Avichai Vaknin, were imprisoned earlier this month and a few others are likely to follow suit.

Like many other Shministim, Vardi’s conscientious objection is also rooted in a wider pacifist position, which explains why she refused to wear a military uniform once imprisoned. The prison authorities are not sympathetic to such acts of defiance and immediately placed her in the isolation ward, which, according to existing reports, is a site of abuse.

Vardi is in prison because the military conscientious committee did not accept her appeal. In early March 2008, Vardi testified in front of the committee, recounting her years of activism against the West Bank separation barrier and the dispossession of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the South Hebron hills. She explained to the committee members -- made up of officers as well as civilians -- that as a pacifist her conscience prevented her from being part of an occupying power. She added that instead of serving in the military she was willing to carry out two years of civil service in Israel and had already secured a position with the Tel-Aviv based rights group Physicians for Human Rights.

Converting military service into civil service is common practice among Israeli women; in fact, it has become routine among religious women. Vardi’s appeal was, accordingly, not exceptional or strange.

The appeal, however, was rejected, because, in the military committee’s opinion, it was based on political convictions rather than a sincere conscientious belief. This spurious separation between politics and conscientious principles was originally formulated by Israel’s two court philosophers, professor Asa Kasher from Tel-Aviv University and professor Avi Sagi from Bar Ilan University. These moral philosophers (Kasher is also one of the authors of the Israeli military Code of Conduct which among other things provides moral grounds for assassinations), have spent much of their time arguing that people who refuse to serve in the military due to its colonial and repressive actions and policies are doing so in order to advance a specific political agenda and not due to conscience. According to Kasher and Sagi, conscientious objection is, by definition, divorced from politics; therefore anyone who refuses to serve in the military because he or she wants to end Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories (a political position) simply cannot be a conscientious objector.

The military was, of course, delighted to adopt the philosophers’ distinction and has repeatedly used it to reject the appeals of conscientious objectors like Vardi and to put them behind bars. On the day of her imprisonment Vardi told her father that she would not bow down to the powers that be regardless of how the military presents her case. “The occupation is cruel,” she said, “and my conscience will simply not allow me take part in the oppression of another people.”

While she has yet to study moral philosophy, eighteen year-old Sahar Vardi understands something basic that Kasher, Sagi and their cronies are determined to elide: conscientious concern for one’s country and neighbors is intricately tied to action. As Joseph Raz from Balliol College, Oxford, points out, “there is no doubt that [conscientious objection] covers the case of military service, for calling on people to be ready to kill when ordered, or calling on them to engage in activities which perpetrate an occupation with the subjugation of people to the indignities and humiliation which occupations involve are clear cases where the right applies.” It is, after all, the duty of respect for human beings, perhaps the most fundamental of all moral duties, which serves the guiding principle for the Israeli refuseniks. It is also the foundation of the right to conscientious objection.


*Neve Gordon teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University, Israel. One can read about his book Israel’s Occupation and more at

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Monday, 11 August 2008

Urgent: “Free Gaza” expedition needs your help

Two years ago, about a dozen human rights activists devised a plan to sail a boat to Gaza in order to break the siege. We rejected a plan to rent a boat as impractical because a similar venture in 1988 failed when the Israelis disabled the boat before it sailed and the three organizers were killed. Thus no boat owner would willingly risk his craft. We ultimately decided to purchase two small boats that could carry 44 passengers,crew and media.

Each of us contributed what we could, and we also received thousands of dollars from individual supporters, most of whom used the Paypal link on our website. We also held fund-raising events, received a few thousand dollars from small grants, and several "angels" helped us along the way. Each passenger has paid his/her own way to get here, and many have raised additional money through their groups, worked extra jobs and asked family and friends to donate. The passengers also paid an additional 600 Euros each for lodging in Cyprus and to cover the cost of supplies and food on land and sea.

Through these efforts we have raised 300,000 US dollars, which we thought covered our costs. (Some of the photos of the boats are on the image gallery page on our website. More will come.)

But the eroding dollar/Euro exchange rate seriously drained our funds. All of our planning did not anticipate this contingency.

We are now in Cyprus awaiting our boats' arrival from Crete. When they come in, we will fuel up (with very high-cost diesel) and stock necessary food and supplies. We hope to cast off for Gaza this weekend. We are told that hundreds of thousands of Gazans will greet us on arrival.

Many people thought we'd never come this far. But here we are and we firmly intend to set sail regardless of some recent staggering debts. Frankly, we have spent much more than we raised; here are just a few of our recent expenses:

  • Two Sailor 250 FleetBroadband systems to allow us to stay in electronic contact and to send streaming video in real time, 16,000 dollars each, or 32,000 dollars;
  • Repairs required to make the boats seaworthy, 25,000-30,000 dollars;
  • Electronics, wiring, connections, satellite uplinks, SPOT Trackers to make the system work, 5000-8000 dollars. (Most of the labour on the electronics and boats has been donated by the Greek crew and technicians.)
  • Forty-four life jackets and two hand-held GPS units, 8000 dollars;
  • Paint and banners for the boats, and balloons and toys for Gaza children, 2,000 dollars. Diesel fuel for both boats, both ways, 15,000 to 25,000 dollars.

Except for part of the diesel fuel, we have already paid these costs by running our personal credit cards to the limit, borrowing money and asking some of the Greek crew to help. Frankly, we're tapped out.

We need your help so that we sail on the Mediterranean Sea but not on a sea of debt.

Please donate through the Paypal account on our website, send a tax-deductible cheque to the US address on the website and/or send a cheque to the address in the UAE. Every donation, large or small, will help keep us afloat.

And, finally, thanks for your interest, support, and prayers!

The Passengers and Crew on FREE GAZA and LIBERTY

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Palestinians capture violence of Israeli occupation on video

Palestinians capture violence of Israeli occupation on video

In a graphic and hard-hitting film Peter Beaumont speaks to Palestinians filming abuse from settlers and Israeli armed forces

Peter Beaumont in Ni'ilin

The Guardian, Wednesday 30 July 2008

An Israeli child from a far-right settler group in the West Bank city of Hebron hurls a stone up the stairs of a Palestinian family close to their settlement and shouts: "I will exterminate you." Another spits towards the same family.

Another settler woman pushes her face up to a window and snarls: "Whore!"

They are shocking images. There is footage of beatings, their aftermath, and the indifference of Israel's security forces to serious human rights abuses. There is footage too of those same security forces humiliating Palestinians – and most seriously – committing abuses themselves.

They are contained in a growing archive of material assembled by the Israeli human rights organisation B'Tselem in a remarkable project called Shooting Back.

The group has supplied almost 100 video cameras to vulnerable Palestinian communities in Hebron, the northern West Bank and elsewhere, to document and gather evidence of assaults and abusive behaviour – largely by settlers.

"We gave the first video camera out in Hebron [in January 2007]," says Diala Shamas a Jerusalem-based researcher with B'Tselem. But the project took off in earnest, however, in January this year.

The video is sometimes chaotic, jumpy. Sometimes only the audio is captured and a pair of soldiers' boots.

But what it documents in all its rough reality is the experience of occupation on a daily basis for the most vulnerable families and communities – giving a voice to those who have been voiceless for so long.

"Right now we have about 100 video cameras," adds Shamas. "The largest number are in the Hebron region where the most frequent complaints of settler attacks are. And recently in the northern area and the region next to the [building] of the [separation] wall where there are demonstrations."

She explains the reason for introducing the Shooting Back project.

"The project started as response to the need to gather evidence. We were constantly filing complaints to no avail on the basis of lack of evidence, or … we don't know the name of the settler.

"Now we are going back and forth with our video-cassettes to [Israeli] police station begging them to press rewind, freeze… it is the bulk of our work. The value of the footage is not only evidential. It also has had a remarkable value in terms of advocacy and campaigning.

'We quickly realised the media value of this footage. It is maybe an overstatement but we started bridging this gap between what was happening in the occupied Palestinian territories and what the Israeli public can see.

"There was a conspiracy of silence surrounding settler violence in particular. This footage is shocking to Israelis.'

And in particular it has been two pieces of video, shot by Palestinians this year and released by B'Tselem, that have gained massive international attention by throwing the issue of human rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories back into the spotlight.

The first was footage of a group of four hooded settlers from the settlement of Susya armed with what look like pickaxe handles brutally beating a group of Palestinian farmers.

The second – not taken as part of Shooting Back programme – but supplied to B'Tselem by a 17-year-old schoolgirl from the village of Ni'ilin earlier this month showed a protester against the building of the West Bank barrier on his village's land being shot in the foot by an Israeli soldier with a plastic bullet as he was held blindfold and bound.

The protester was Ashraf Abu Rahma, aged 27. The video was shot by Salam Kanaan aged 17. A constant presence at the demonstrations in the Palestinian villages in the rocky hills of the West Bank, Ashraf is employed by the villages as a watchman on land that is threatened with being taken from the Palestinian villages for the building of the West Bank barrier.

He says he was unaware of what was happening to him until almost the moment before he was shot and wounded in the foot.

It is only when he saw the video too that he was able to understand what happened to him.

Arrested during a demonstration against the West Bank barrier in Ni'ilin on July 7 he recalled last week being almost immediately blindfolded.

"They had rounded up the foreigners [from the International Solidarity Movement] and arrested me and another guy separately.

"They put me in a jeep and started cursing me, hitting me and using bad language in Hebrew and Arabic. It had never occurred to me that they would shoot.

"They held me in the sun for a long time. Later I heard them discussing what they were going to do with me.

"I recall hearing a conversation about how to shoot me. What I recall is the words rubber bullet, rubber bullet... I was blindfolded so I was only aware of their aggression.

"It was only when I saw Salam's video that I understood what happened to me. The guy touching me on my right shoulder before I was shot.

"Just before it happened they said they're going to beat me. They said they were going to send me to hell. They know me because I've been to every protest."

Ashraf claims the abuse continued even when he was on the ground after the shot was fired. "When I asked for medical attention they said: this is nothing, we are going to beat you more."

Although the Israeli military's version is that the shooting was a misunderstanding of the orders given by the lieutenant colonel on the scene — and that the aim was only to "frighten" Ashraf examination of the footage makes it hard to credit that version.

Eyad Haddad, B'Tselem's Ramallah-based field researcher who tracked down the footage of Ashraf's punishment shooting, believes that the project has helped supply crucial evidence in documenting abuses.

"These events that happen are often so distant, or happen in the middle of the night, where there is no media.

"Where we've seen there is a lot of violation from the settlers and especially where there are demonstrations happening and we want to monitor the Israeli soldier's behaviour we are distributing video cameras.

"It is having a good effect and it will stop the violations."

Haddad says the organisation is now trying to encourage people living in areas of confrontation to use their own cameras — if they have them – or mobile phones to film potential abuses that they encounter.

"We want to encourage a mentality to use the cameras. It is the only weapon that the civilians have."

According to Diala Shamas the recent high international profile of the footage shot of the settler beating in Susya and the shooting of Ashraf Abu Rahma has meant that the group has not only been inundated with requests for cameras from Palestinian communities, but those who already have cameras supplied by B'Tselem are shooting more footage of their day to day experiences.

"In the beginning we were almost begging people to take the cameras with them when they went out. They didn't see the use of it. But after the media coverage over the Susya incident… we've gotten a flood of requests for our video cameras. And those who have got the cameras are using them much more frequently."

Commenting on the Ni'ilin footage she said: "It is one of the biggest victories because it is the troops not the settlers. It is not just a 'rotten apple' which is usually the response that we get from the government spokespeople. We didn't give out 100 video cameras to document rotten apples. It was to show there was something systematic happening and it was structural to the occupation.

"In this case it was remarkable that it was actually the soldiers themselves. They did in fact open an investigation.

"They couldn't ignore it."

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Humanity stranded at Gaza's gate – thanks to Israel’s Egyptian collaborators

Will humanity vanquish gross and unlawful oppression?

Khalil and Linda left Edinburgh 18 days ago with their precious cargo of medical supplies for Gaza. The 1.5 tons had been gathered together by them. The idea of this journey for humanity and reason was conceived by them. It has been pursued with courage and tenacity. This shows it.

They were turned away at the borders of Croatia but why? That meant retracing their steps. Thirteen hours at the Turkish border was the next hoop. Khalil phoned me to say that a valuation of the cargo from the D&D was needed. Soon after I sent the fax they were on their way. The Syrians were very friendly and an escort was provided by them up to the Jordan border. After they crossed by ferry from Aqaba to the Egyptian shore they had 25 hours to wait. This would have tried the patience of Job (perhaps he lived in those parts and liked a swim). Then on to Rafah about 8 days ago where the barrier was a mile high. Some helpful guards offered to look after the van at Rafah and they retired to El Arish for some food, water and rest.

Each day this valiant couple present themselves at the Rafah gate. One minute they are told that it is likely they will be let through and in the next breath that it will never be allowed. There are no EU observers, those having been removed over 2 years ago. It is known that the Egyptian border guards liaise with an Israeli office about who is to leave or to enter.

Linda has to return to her nursing post in 3 days so is flying home tomorrow from Sharm El Sheikh with the holiday makers. The money has run away with phone calls especially and with a trip which is twice as long as they had planned.

The essence is this. Humanity is made to matter little. The supplies are needed in Gaza such as tracheostomy tubes for sick children and adults. But maintaining the draconian siege is more important to Israel, Egypt and about 40 other nations including the 27 nations of the EU. How does the barring of these supplies and their good guardians square with the European Charter on Human Rights? Why the collective punishment of 1.5 million people.

The press officer at the British Embassy was asked today 'What international law is being used to bar the entry of these humanitarian supplies and the couple who convey them at Rafah gate?'

“This is legal matter between Egypt and Israel.” She did intimate that Israel has the whip hand in this inhumanity.

The fact is that the most sophisticated weapons glide so easily across borders.


This article first appeared on the Dove and Dolphin website.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Ask Gordon Brown why he fails to condemn the Israeli occupation and ignores the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) on its 60th anniversary

British Prime Minister Brown’s speech to the Knesset today was a declaration of support for the Zionist project of dispossession and subjugation and a betrayal of the Palestinian people’s legitimate hopes for recognition of their human and national rights. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is dismayed that he failed to mention the ethnic cleansing wreaked on the Palestinians, when 13,000 Palestinians were killed and 750,000 Palestinians forced from their homes, it what is known as the Palestinian Nakba (catastrophe) to create the state of Israel.

Mr Brown spent two thirds of his address to the Knesset laying out his emotional, historical and political commitment to Israel, referring to two-thousand-year old-alleged rights while ignoring the ongoing crimes of the state of Israel; the illegal Wall; the land grabs; the killing and injuring; the 11 thousand political prisoners. While mentioning terrorist attacks against Israelis, he failed to mention the daily terror inflicted on Palestinians by the military and settlers – in recent weeks three incidents of brutality against Palestinian civilians would have been ignored by Israel, if they have not been captured on video and broadcast round the world. While praising the Israeli state for its commitment to the education of its citizens, he failed to condemn it for suppressing the Palestinian right to education.

Betty Hunter, PSC General Secretary, said:
Mr Brown, in his eulogising that: "nothing - no prison cell, no forced migration, no violence, no massacres ... could ever break the spirit of a people yearning to be free", should understand that this equally applies to the Palestinian people. He conveniently forgot that his description of the suffering of the Jewish people echoes the current oppression by Israel of the Palestinian people. Mr Brown is out of step with the majority of the British people, who while having a proud tradition of fighting anti-semitism, are no longer prepared to allow the Israeli government to commit its acts of subjugation and oppression with impunity.
If the prime minister believes that a brief urging for Israel to agree to international law, freeze settlements, recognise a two-state solution based on 1967 borders with Jerusalem the capital for both, and a just and agreed settlement for refugees will have any effect on Israel then he is simply continuing to abrogate Britain’s responsibility. During more than 40 years of military occupation Israel has repeatedly reneged on these same points while the world has done nothing.

The Palestinian people deserve more than a cursory visit to the Church of the Nativity and the promise of £30 million. Without political support for a just solution, the Palestinians will be dependent on such international aid for decades to come.

To view the full speech, click here.

Please write to Gordon Brown with the following points, and also write to your local media:

1. How long did he spend in the West Bank?

2. Why does he fail to mention the Palestinian Nakba?

3. Why does he ignore all aspects of occupation in the speech, including the continued building of the wall and illegal settlements?

4. Why does he fail to mention Israeli nuclear weapons?

5. Money is not enough, a political solution needed.

6. The prime minister’s website has only a passing reference to the £30 million deal and visit to Church of the Nativity – does this reflect the partisan way in which he is engaged in the issue of Palestine/Israel?


The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) aims to raise public awareness about the occupation of Palestine and the struggle of the Palestinian people. PSC seek to bring pressure on both the British and Israeli government to bring their policies in line with international law. PSC is an independent, non-governmental and non-party political organisation with members from communities across the UK. Join PSC today!

Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Tel: 020 7700 6192
Fax: 020 7609 7779