Archives: September 2005

Thu Sep 29, 2005

British Medical Journal Debate on Palestine continues

Palestine: the assault on health and other war crimes. Israeli soldiers confirm the shoot-to-kill policy I documented.

Last October I published a review in the BMJ on the appalling human rights situation in the Israeli- occupied Palestinian Territories, providing detailed figures on civilian deaths (over 3000, including over 600 children, in only 4 years) which pointed unambiguously to a culture of impunity for Israeli Defence Force (IDF) soldiers. I also pointed to the rapid rise in poverty and destitution as a direct and foreseen consequence of Israeli policies, with documented rises in child malnutrition, the blocking of food aid distribution, denial of access to medical facilities (including for those critically ill), the killing, wounding and harrassment of Palestinian health professionals on duty, and the destruction to the coherence of the Palestinian health system as a result of the apartheid Wall- all violations of the Fourth Geneva Convention. I was not recording a personal view: I was quoting documentation from the United Nations; Amnesty International; international aid agencies like Medecins Sans Frontieres; Johns Hopkins (USA) and Al Quds (Jerusalem) Universities; the Israeli human rights organisations B’Tselem and Physicians for Human Rights; Health, Development, Information and Policy Institute (Ramallah), and the Palestinian Environmental NGOs Network (though these were not listed after the paper because the BMJ does not include references in this section of the journal). (1) More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 29, 05 | 11:18 am

Wed Sep 28, 2005

The Hebron confessions

As ex-soldiers speak out about seeing Palestinian civilians being killed, Donald Macintyre talks to the victims' families

Still dressed in the loose sharwal trousers that he wears for his work as a gardener, the 22-year-old ex-soldier sits across the café table in a central Tel Aviv shopping mall, and says that when he joined the Israeli army he just "wanted to kill Arabs".

Like most of the other 300 ex-soldiers who have so far testified about their experiences to Breaking the Silence, an organisation formed a year ago by a group of young men who had done their military service in Hebron, the soldier doesn't want to give his real name. But he tells how his attitude gradually changed when he came into contact with Palestinians and Bedouin for the first time and saw the long delays, and sometimes harassment, faced by them at the checkpoints he manned in the Jordan valley. More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 28, 05 | 11:26 am

The morality of a cultural boycott of Israel

Israel’s breaches of human rights and international law give moral force to the argument for an international boycott, says Palestinian writer Omar Barghouti.

Linda Grant’s rebuttal of Jacqueline Rose’s courageous support for boycotting Israel reduces boycott to little more than censorship. Shifting the debate from issues of accountability, moral responsibility and legality into clichéd personal stories – in a manner as whitewashing as her Guardian series about life in Israel – Grant avoids the fundamental issue evoked in the most recent calls for boycotting Israel: that Israel’s systematic violation of international law, its denial of Palestinian refugee rights, its continued occupation and colonisation of Palestinian land and its entrenched racist system against its own Palestinian citizens demand an effective response from concerned citizens of the world. Institutional boycotts similar to those applied to South Africa are what are called for, not censorship of this or that progressive Israeli writer or academic!

The latest Palestinian Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) – supported by a large majority of Palestinian civil society – does not target Jews or Israelis qua Jews; on the contrary, it actually addresses conscientious Israeli Jews, urging them to support efforts to bring about Israel’s compliance with international law and fundamental human rights, both necessary elements in reaching true peace based on justice. (The full text of the BDS call and the list of signatories to July 2005 is here- http://www.pacbi.org/) . More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 28, 05 | 10:51 am

Fri Sep 23, 2005

A talent for destruction

Last update - 09:50 22/09/2005

A talent for destruction

By Amira Hass

"When you see something that looks like Rafah, you'll know that was a settlement." That's how people in Gaza are giving instructions to their friends who for the first time in their lives, or the first time in many years, entered the areas of the settlements. It's an exaggeration, of course, because there's no comparing the wildcat crushing of a house on 10 minutes' notice and sometimes without any notice at all, to the demolition padded with compensation and attention for a house that was a crime to build there in the first place. More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 23, 05 | 4:17 am

Fri Sep 16, 2005

The divestment snowball

Reverend William Somplatsky-Jarman combines a career as a senior clergyman with the management of an investment portfolio that comprises more than $7 billion. The portfolio belongs to the Presbyterian Church, one of the major Protestant churches in the United States, with a membership of 2.5 million Americans.

Last August, Somplatsky-Jarman became the adversary of most major Jewish organizations in the U.S. when the U.S. Presbyterian Church's Committee on Social Responsibility Through Investment, which he leads, published a list of four international corporations that, according to the committee, aid the Israeli occupation, and a fifth corporation that facilitates terror directed at Israel.

The committee is demanding the first four corporations withdraw their aid to the Israeli occupation, and is threatening to sell stock valued at $60 million if those companies do not comply. More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 16, 05 | 10:45 am

Sat Sep 10, 2005

The prince's accomplice

n the halls of infamy, Machiavelli and Sharon walk hand in hand, writes Ramzy Baroud*

Many lessons can be extracted from observing Israeli dominion over the Palestinians in the past 55 years, most notably the audacious mandate of institutionalised violence. Even more alarming than the crimes themselves, legislation passed through the Knesset, and particularly during the past five years, to willfully and blatantly violate international law, while Israel remains safe in the fold of the international community, seems one of the most outrageous lessons of all. Perhaps the Sharon government gleaned its wisdom from The Prince rather than the Geneva Conventions. Consider the following scenario as a paradigm of Machiavellian philosophy applied to the "Palestinian problem".

The fall of the classic theory and practice of imperialism compels us modern imperialists, who are keenly interested in maintaining control of our remaining settlements, to develop an advanced strategy that will protect our interests. Consolidating our power over indigenous populations may be difficult, but if done the right way -- the Israeli way, that is -- our settlements can be successfully sustained while our subjects are effectively subdued. More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 10, 05 | 9:47 pm

Thu Sep 08, 2005

Disengagement and the Politics of Post-National Realism

I The Meaning of Disengagement

Maintaining or intensifying oppressive policies requires the manufacture of a diversion, a 'smokescreen' that buys time and accumulates political capital. One reliable way of accumulating political capital is to make changes that incur minimal political and human costs while creating an illusion of reasonableness, compromise, and goodwill towards one's enemies.

Israel's plan to disengage from the Gaza Strip later this summer is a clear example of this well-worn political strategy. Several factors combined to make the colonization project in Gaza untenable. The Strip is territorially insignificant, and in contrast to the West Bank, it has little religious, cultural, or economic value for Israel. Since it has a very high demographic concentration of Palestinians, the creation of a Jewish ethnic majority in the strip faced virtually insurmountable obstacles. To protect the few Israeli-Jews who settled in the area, Israel had to expend enormous human and material resources. More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 08, 05 | 7:20 pm

Israeli plan actually hurts Palestinians

The territory of historical Palestine is home to two ethnic groups, Israelis and Palestinians. Today, this entire territory is under the full political and military control of Israel, a state that defines itself as serving the interests of only one of the ethnic groups residing within its territory rather than every person that falls under its political control, irrespective of their ethnic origin. Historically, Israel has attempted to use military force to expel persons of non-Jewish origin from historic Palestine. In fact, the establishment of Israel in 1948 was made possible by a coordinated campaign of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinian people. As well as being the indigenous inhabitants, the Palestinians were a two-thirds majority in Palestine when the state of Israel was founded. Although most were exiled, some remained. Today, for the first time since they were expelled en masse from their homeland, the Palestinians are once again a majority in the territory that falls under Israel’s control. More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 08, 05 | 6:21 pm

Invested in Justice: Presbyterians attend committee meeting to support GA’s Israel-Palestine action

SEATTLE, WA — About 20 members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) came here this week to express support for the General Assembly’s decision to start a process of “phased selective divestment” from multinational corporations whose business practices contribute to violence in Israel and Palestine

“I support the actions of the 216th General Assembly,” said Marilyn Gamblin, an elder at Marine View Presbyterian Church in Tacoma, WA. “It is time to move beyond talking and take action.”

Gamblin said she realizes that some people think the action is anti-Semitic, but added: “I respectfully disagree. It is about our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is about hurting people in the land that we call holy.” More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 08, 05 | 3:20 pm

Tue Sep 06, 2005

Israeli soldiers tell of indiscriminate killings by army and a culture of impunity

Whistleblowers' testimony shows desire for revenge on Palestinians

rom a distance of 70 metres and through the sight of his machine gun, Assaf could tell that the Palestinian man was aged between 20 and 30, unarmed and trying to get away from an Israeli tank. But the details didn't matter much, because Assaf's orders were to "fire at anything that moved".

Assaf, a soldier in the Israeli army, pressed the trigger, firing scores of bullets as the body fell to the ground. "He ran and I started shooting for a few seconds. He fell. I was a machine. I fire. I leave and that's that. We never spoke about it afterwards." More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 06, 05 | 4:53 pm

Sun Sep 04, 2005

The Gaza Disengagement and the Prospect of Further Human Rights Violations

There is an amazing gap between the global discourse on the Gaza Disengagement Plan of the Sharon government and the local realities on the ground. Whereas the Israeli pullout is being portrayed in international public fora as an historic decision, which offers a rare opportunity for peace in the area, local observers – especially in Palestine – warn that the plan is not likely to advance the peace process; in fact, it is seen as a deliberate attempt by the Israelis to obstruct any future progress towards an acceptable solution.

This imbalance between representation and reality makes it difficult to assess and discuss the significance of the Gaza withdrawal from a human-rights perspective. The attempt here will be to weigh the potential positive outcomes of the Israeli withdrawal against the potential negative repercussions for human rights in Israel and Palestine. More...

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 04, 05 | 10:07 am

Fri Sep 02, 2005

On Being Good Victims

"Captain Gordon Pim stated in his speech that it was a philanthropic principle to kill natives; there was, he said, "mercy in a massacre."

Sven Lindqvist, Exterminate the Brutes (1996)

At last Mr. Elie Wiesel has spoken of the ‘dispossessed’ in Palestine. It is appropriate that he should do so; that is what the world has long come to expect of him. A holocaust survivor and Peace Laureate, Mr. Wiesel has dedicated his life to preventing another holocaust, acting on the conviction that "...to remain silent and indifferent is the greatest sin of all..."

And so Mr. Wiesel speaks of the grief of dispossession in words that convey his deep empathy for the victims. In a NYT column of August 21, 2005, he writes about the "heart-rending" images of dispossession. "Some of them are unbearable. Angry men, crying women. Children led away on foot …." The victims are "obliged to uproot themselves, to take their holy and precious belongings, their memories and their prayers, their dreams and their dead, to go off in search of a bed to sleep in, a table to eat on, a new home, a future among strangers."

Some of you may be surprised at Mr. Wiesel’s grief for the victims in Palestine. It appears uncharacteristic. Now, no one would accuse Mr. Wiesel of reserving his humanitarian work only for Jews. Indeed, according to his own testimony, he is not only a "devoted supporter of Israel," he has "also defended the cause of Soviet Jews, Nicaragua's Miskito Indians, Argentina's Desaparecidos, Cambodian refugees, the Kurds, victims of famine and genocide in Africa, of apartheid in South Africa, and victims of war in the former Yugoslavia." In Mr. Wiesel’s world, however, the Palestinians do not qualify as victims.

Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 02, 05 | 9:13 am

Praying with Their Eyes Closed: Reflections on the Disengagement from Gaza

Israel’s disengagement plan is widely hailed by the international community, led by the United States, as a first step toward the final resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the establishment of a viable Palestinian state. This essay is a refutation of that view. After presenting the current situation of Gaza as the result of deliberate Israeli policies of economic integration, deinstitutionalization, and closure, the author demonstrates how provisions of the plan itself preclude the establishment of a viable economy in the Strip. Examining the plan’s implications for the West Bank, the author argues that the occupation, far from ending, will actually be consolidated. She concludes with a look at the disengagement within the context of previous agreements, particularly Oslo - all shaped by Israel’s overwhelming power - and the steadily shrinking possibilities offered to the Palestinians

‘When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They taught us to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, we had the Bible in our hand, and they had the land’
Jomo Kenyatta, first president of Kenya


Posted by: Mona Baker on Sep 02, 05 | 9:09 am