Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Israel's assassination policy

The Real News Network interviews relatives of recently assassinated men in Nablus, occupied Palestinian territories

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Joe Sacco's "Footnotes in Gaza"

A People's Cartoon History of Gaza

By Paul de Rooij




The launch of a new book by Joe Sacco is a major event, and with considerable expectation a crowd recently gathered in London to hear the great Maltese-American cartoonist and author discuss his latest book: Footnotes in Gaza. [1] Sacco spent seven years researching and drawing about two sordid events that took place in November 1956 when Israeli forces invaded Gaza as part of the joint British-French attack against Egypt. The Israeli army conducted two massacres where hundreds of Palestinians were murdered, and Sacco set out to collate the oral histories of the Palestinians who witnessed or were the victims of the events. Sacco engaged in a detailed investigative work finding the witnesses who could credibly recollect what happened, sifted through the accounts to eliminate the factual inconsistencies due to the deteriorated memories, and then spent four years bringing these histories to life in his inimitable style. The book doesn’t only focus on the past, but the present is also very much part of his account; in present day Gaza giant armoured bulldozers flatten houses in Rafah and where the ongoing siege affects everybody's lives. Sacco says: "… the past and the present cannot be so easily disentangled; they are part of a remorseless continuum…"

Contemporary history is usually written by academics with access to the main protagonists, usually politicians or military commanders, inert archives, and press accounts. This history is usually antiseptic – there are no piles of corpses to embarrass the generals. It is also imbued with certainty – historians usually don’t question the politician's say-so. It is rare for mainstream historians to listen to victims; their accounts are seldom incorporated into the victor's history. What sets Joe Sacco apart is that not only is he a great artist, but also a peoples' historian who is willing to listen to the victims; his historiography is imbued with sympathy and respect for the these victims; their history is worthwhile recording. Sacco also focused on a usually-ignored slice of history. In 2001, he travelled in Gaza with Chris Hedges, the American journalist, to research an article about the 1956 massacres for an article for Harper's magazine. When the article finally appeared, the history of the massacres had been editorially expunged; not all histories are treated equally. Perhaps it was this incident that piqued his interest to write about the neglected massacres.

Sacco quotes Abed El-Rantisi, the Hamas leader who was subsequently assassinated, saying about the 1956 massacres: "… this sort of action can never be forgotten… they planted hatred in our hearts." To understand the Palestinians it is important to take into account the history that moulded their politics and social currents; this history should also inform future discussions about possible solutions. It is cynically facile for the likes of Shimon Peres, the Israeli president, to urge Palestinians to "look forward" and ignore the past. However, negotiations and a future reconciliation will only be possible if the victims of the Israeli colonial project are accorded a modicum of justice and recognition for their suffering. The future reconciliation will require a South African-style Truth and Reconciliation Commission where the massacres at Deir Yassin, Safat, Jenin 2002, Gaza 2009, … and Khan Yunis and Rafah 1956 are acknowledged. 

The massacre

Sacco's images depicting the massacres are haunting. The men older than 15-years of age were herded along a road constantly beaten, pushed against walls, terrorized with over-the-head gunfire, and then forced to pass a gauntlet at a school entrance where soldiers with large wooden clubs beat the entrants; those who passed this deadly hurdle had to jump over rolls of barbed wire. Thereafter the Palestinians were either singled out if they were wearing uniforms, if they were betrayed by collaborators, or merely if they stood out because of their appearance. In Rafah, some of the "wanted" men were taken to a side road and shot or beaten to death; others were loaded onto buses and taken to prison in Israel. Sacco's images not only capture the horror of the events, but also the painful memories, or the conflicting reports. It is a slightly blurred rendition of history, very much like the nature of the witnesses' memories.

The tyranny of explanations


Contemporary reportage about Gaza or the Palestinian condition usually describes the latest barbarity dispensed by the Israelis, and then automatically adds an Israeli-justification helpfully provided by the smooth Israeli military public relations officers. These are some of the lame justifications: "the men were killed because they were 'wanted men'"; "the house was demolished because there were 'militants' there"; "the wall is being built for security"; "Gaza was attacked in 2009 to 'stop the rocket attacks'"; and so on. Much of the Israeli rationale provided for the latest outrage is self-serving and often simply suggests that there was a justification in a given action. If there was a rationale, then the killing of civilians is deemed "understandable" and, the spokesman will add in an undertone, that the so-called collateral damage – the civilians killed – is regrettable, and it was unintentional. Seldom are such banal justifications challenged.

Providing the Israeli rationale for the massacres without a wider context is possibly a questionable part of the book. Sacco inserts Moshe Dayan's rationale for the 1956 assault on Gaza and it looks absurd when juxtaposed to the victims' accounts. Israelis purportedly rounded up the Palestinians to root out the fedayeen who were conducting raids into what is considered Israel. Sacco also quotes Mordechai Bar-On, Moshe Dayan's right-hand-man, to provide this self-serving justification. However, one only has to remember what happened a few years earlier, in 1948, to find a more plausible rationale for the massacre. Yosef Nahmani, an Israeli witness to the massacre in Safat on 6 November 1948, described how that massacre was conducted, and it is eerily reminiscent of what happened in Rafah 1956 [2]. In both instances, the men were herded down the streets into a corridor where they were beaten with wooden clubs and gunned down. Unlike 1956, the 1948 massacre did not require a pretext. What unifies both sordid episodes is that they were part of the means to make the Israeli colonial project possible, i.e., driving the people off the land. Maybe some more context is needed to provide this more accurate understanding of the massacres.

It is all in a footnote…

What Sacco has done in this book is to rescue the 1956 massacres at Rafah and Khan Yunis from oblivion. The footnotes, the title of his book, really refer to the massacres in 1956. The importance of this history, even if they are only footnotes, is that it puts current events into perspective. The time frame explaining what is happening in Gaza doesn’t start with the rockets fired at Sderot in 2008; taking a broader context highlights the nature of the mass crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people during many decades. It also shows that for a people without a future, the past and the present are compressed; the massacres of the past resonate closely with the everyday violence perpetrated against the Palestinians enduring a siege and further dispossession today.

Sacco has produced much more than a beautifully crafted book. It deserves to be read and studied by historians who might seek to transform these footnotes into a bona fide chapter of history that deserves to be remembered. Sacco's book is also an act of solidarity; indicating that if someone's history is important enough to write about, it suggests that one is in solidarity with those people today. And that is something the Palestinians under siege in Gaza today are in dire need of; never before in history have the victims of colonial oppression been boycotted and ostracized by Europeans and Americans. Reading about their history also reminds us that they have been treated in this shoddy and barbaric manner for decades.
--

Notes

[1] Joe Sacco is perhaps best known for his Palestine (2001) and Safe Area GoraĹžde (2000). Footnotes in Gaza (2009) was published by Jonathan Cape, London. All these books are oral histories brought to life in Sacco's drawings.
 

[2] Yosef Nahmani was the director of the Jewish National Fund office in eastern Galilee during the Nakba and in his diaries he documents the massacres and ethnic cleansing he witnessed in 1948.
--
Paul de Rooij is a writer living in London. He can be reached at proox@hotmail.com (NB: all emails with attachments will be automatically deleted.)

Paul de Rooij © 2010

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Israeli TV: a glimpse into Jewish tolerance

By Gilad Atzmon

While watching the video below, bear in mind that this is Israeli national TV's prime-time 5 p.m. news.

The older Israeli presenter is Dan Margalit, a leading Israeli journalist and a devoted servant of every Israeli government and war criminal leader in the last four decades (Rabin, Peres, Sharon, Netanyahu, Olmert, Livni and Barak).

Israel is no doubt the ugliest collective around.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Viva Palestina convoy breaks Gaza siege

The Viva Palestina international aid convoy has reached the besieged Gaza Strip, despite the treachery of the senile Pharaoh, Husni Mubarak, the brutality of his treacherous police and the deafening silence of a listless and docile population.

We salute the brave internationalists whose determination, courage and steadfastness has shamed the senile Pharaoh Mubarak and his barbarous, treacherous goons in the army and the "security" apparatuses.

It has been a long, arduous and frustrating journey but one that will have a lasting imprint on the minds of everyone with a conscience.

Urgent action call: Egyptian police attack humanitarian Gaza aid convoy

Palestine Solidarity Campaign Press Release

Call for urgent action
  • Contact the Egyptian Embassy
  • Contact the British foreign secretary and the BBC
Last night [5 January] Egyptian police again delayed the Viva Palestina aid convoy carrying much needed aid from reaching the people of Gaza. Having agreed to Egyptian demands whilst being stranded in the port of Aqaba [in Jordan] some seven days ago, convoy leaders agreed to re-route their journey after receiving guarantees from the Egyptian authorities of a safe passage to Gaza.

Humanitarians from all over the world transporting the aid were attacked by riot police in the port of El-Arish last night. And it is now reported that some of the activists were hospitalized overnight for their injuries. They have since returned back to rejoin the convoy members in the port and thankfully have no life threatening issues.

British and national embassies are being kept informed of the situation.

Protests broke out when Egyptian authorities at El-Arish ordered some lorries to use an Israeli-controlled checkpoint. The activists preferred the goods to be transported via Egypt's Rafah crossing as agreed.

George Galloway, who is leading the convoy, said Israel is likely to prevent it entering Gaza. This morning he told Sky News: "It is completely unconscionable that 25 per cent of our convoy should go to Israel and never arrive in Gaza."

Following Israel’s horrific attack on Gaza, people all over Britain worked for months raising funds for aid and aid vehicles for the Palestinian people. Those taking the aid are humanitarians from all walks of life, who have given up a month to bring the much needed medical aid in a gesture of solidarity with their continuing oppression under Israel’s illegal siege.

Betty Hunter, General Secretary of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “It is shocking that the Egyptian government is behaving in this way. There can be no justification for preventing this aid and the people who have worked so hard to provide it from reaching Gaza. The Palestinians are waiting for this well-publicized international convoy to arrive and these actions of the Egyptian government, and the building of Egypt’s steel wall signal that Egypt is colluding with the Israeli government’s illegal siege of Gaza.”

Viva Palestina “The Return to Gaza” is partnered with the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and departed London on 6 December bound for Gaza.

Further information on the Viva Palestina convoy available here: www.vivapalestina.org

Press information: contact Alice Howard on telephone + 44 7944 512 469 or via email: alice@vivapalestina.org

See a sample letter here: http://www.vivapalestina.org/alerts/concern_050109.htm

Egyptian Embassy in Dublin
Tel: +353-1-6606718 / +353-1-6606566
Email: consular@embegyptireland.ie



Egyptian Embassy in London
Tel: + 44-20-7499-3304
Email: eg.emb_london@mfa.gov.eg or consulate.london@mfa.gov.eg

Find your local MP here: http://findyourmp.parliament.uk/ 
 


David Miliband (UK Foreign Secretary)
Tel: + 44 (0)20 7008 1500
Email: MSU.PublicIn@fco.x.gsi.gov.uk or
msu.correspondence@fco.gov.uk or
milibandd@parliament.uk

British Embassy in Egypt
Tel: +(20) (2)279 16000
Email: information.cairo@fco.gov.uk

More contacts available here: http://readingpsc.org.uk/convoy/media/

Please email/phone/fax the Egyptian Embassy (and copy this to your MP and Foreign Secretary David Miliband).

Contact the media
Please phone and email the BBC, and other media, to ask for coverage of the convoy’s progress to Gaza.

Please ask your MP to sign EDM 536 in the name of Richard Burden.

Please organize local meetings on Gaza. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Viva Palestina can provide speakers – contact the PSC office to arrange for a speaker.

Financial support
Support the financial appeal on the Viva Palestina website as the additional costs incurred because of the obstacles created by the Egyptian government are astronomical.

--
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
Address: Box BM PSA
London
WC1N 3XX
Tel: 020 7700 6192
Fax: 020 7609 7779
Email: info@palestinecampaign.org
Web: www.palestinecampaign.org

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Alert: Palestine activists beware of Tony Greenstein, Mark Elf and their cohorts

By Nureddin Sabir
Editor, Redress Information & Analysis

Brothers and sisters, comrades in the struggle for justice for the people of Palestine,

This is an urgent warning to beware of the activities of Mark Elf, who runs a blog called Jews sans frontieres, and Tony Greenstein, who describes himself as a “socialist, anti-Zionist, anti-racist”.

Both Greenstein and Elf are highly suspect individuals, pretending to be pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist activists but in reality devoting much of their time to distracting genuine fighters for justice for the Palestinian people with endless, tedious and time-wasting arguments that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Israeli occupation, land theft, colonization, the Gaza siege, Zionism or apartheid.


Greenstain and Elf had become incensed by an article written by me and published on Christmas Day (but given the following day’s date, as we do with all articles published after 1800 UK time) in which a number of whistleblowers from some of Britain’s top Zionist institutions spoke of an unprecedented crisis ripping through these institutions. In rantings posted on their respective blogs, Greenstein and Elf questioned the veracity of the article and, in a racist slur against Arabs, Greenstein doubted that an Arab – me – was capable of writing in fluent English.

Among their other scurrilous allegations, Greenstein and Elf claim that the article was written by one of our contributors, Gilad Atzmon, not by me.

Gilad Atzmon is one of a number of regular contributors to Redress Information & Analysis, but he is certainly not the author of the article, which was written by me. It is also me, not Gilad or anybody else, who interviewed the Jewish whistleblowers quoted in our article, Britain’s Jews in crisis over national loyalty, identity and Israel.

For the record, of the 664 articles published to date on Redress Information & Analysis, Gilad Atzmon’s share is 55, or eight per cent of all the articles.

For those who may not be aware, Greenstein, Elf and other like-minded judaeo-centric narcissistic misfits have been endlessly hounding Gilad Atzmon for a number of years because he had dared to question aspects of Jewish culture and identity.

If Greenstein and Elf were sincere in their support for the Palestinian cause, they would have welcomed the fact that whistleblowers from Britain’s top Zionist establishments had plucked up the courage and, at considerable risk to their jobs and personal relationships, chosen to speak to Redress Information & Analysis – an Arab-run website which they trusted would not leak their details back to their institutions. The fact that they did quite the opposite just about sums up the depravity of Greenstein and Elf.

Recently, Greenstein and Elf, acting through one Gerald Joseph Downing, who describes himself as “a Trotskyist bus driver with ambitions to assist in rebuilding the Fourth International and ending capitalism on the planet by socialist revolution”, have been frantically emailing all and sundry calling for a campaign, including one on Facebook, to defend Greenstein and company so that they can continue to protect Israel’s rear by distracting Palestine activists from the core issues related to fighting for justice for the Palestinian people – see our article Israel’s hidden friends ramp up campaign to distract Palestine activists from core issues.

We do not lightly accuse people of being agents of another state so, without hard evidence, we shall refrain from accusing Tony Greenstein and Mark Elf of knowingly acting on behalf of the State of Israel under cover of being anti-Zionists. But what we do know of them is this:
  1. They are childish characters who have failed to make the transition from the relatively burden-free world of student politics to the politics of the real world with its duties and responsibilities. To them, this is all an entertaining game.
  2. They believe that being Jewish and claiming to be anti-Zionist entitles them to hijack the Palestine solidarity movement and set its agenda.
  3. They seek to distract genuine supporters of the Palestinian cause with endless, tedious and time-wasting arguments that have nothing whatsoever to do with the Israeli occupation, land theft, colonization, the Gaza siege, Zionism or apartheid.
It is crucially important for everyone in the Palestine struggle to do what they can to neuter Tony Greenstein, Mark Elf and their cohorts politically. They must be politically isolated and ostracized by all who care for the struggle for justice for the Palestinian peope. To engage or cooperate with them in any any shape or form, now or at any time in future, could mean only one thing: they would drag you down to the subterranean hovel they inhabit.

Finally, I repeat what my colleague Salaheddin Ahmad said in the article Israel’s hidden friends ramp up campaign to distract Palestine activists from core issues:
We say this to Tony Greenstein, Mark Elf and anyone else who cares to stoop to their gutter: Palestine is and shall remain at the centre of the struggle for justice for the Palestinian people. We Palestinians and Arabs played no part in your Holocaust and we have nothing to do with anti-Semitism, past or present, real or imagined. It is us, not you, who are continuing to suffer from the legacy of the Nazis. Go forth and take your Jewish issues elsewhere. We shall have nothing to do with you.



And we repeat: if you and others in your camp wish to campaign against Zionism and racism, then we would welcome this and wish you good luck. But do your campaigning in parallel to us, not together with us. We do not and shall never trust you and we shall have nothing to do with you.