Archive for March, 2009

Palestinian Academic Freedom, Israeli Style

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Palestinian Education on March 31, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Fri, 27 March 2009

This week on Crossing The Line: on December 28th, 2008 the second day of the three-week Israeli offensive, the science building at the Islamic University of Gaza was bombed. Israel claims the building was where Palestinians were manufacturing weapons, but no evidence has been put forth to prove this. We’ll speak to Dr. Akram Habeeb, a professor of English at the university about the bombing and what lies ahead for the students and faculty.

Also this week, the university’s science department is now nothing more than ruble. How will it be rebuilt and why is there not more outrage at this suppression of academic freedom? Dr. Marcy Newman an associate professor of English at Najah University in Nablus will join us to talk about it.

Direct download: CTL_Podcast_march_27th.mp3

Palestinian students allege abuse, beatings at Abu Dis checkpoint

Posted in Palestinian Education, Zionism on March 31, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Tuesday March 31, 2009 22:25 by Saed Bannoura – IMEMC News Report

Two Palestinian students from Ramallah have come forward with allegations that Israeli Border police took them to a room, stripped them naked and beat them with fists and sticks at a checkpoint on Saturday. The students were on their way to the University of Abu Dis, where they are students.

Allegations of beatings by Israeli soldiers and police at checkpoints are not infrequent, although many such incidents go unreported, as the Palestinians who are beaten are afraid of repercussions. In one such incident, late last year, award-winning Palestinian journalist Mohammed Omer was beaten unconscious and suffered from several broken ribs and other wounds when he was crossing back into Palestine from a trip to Europe. Omer’s case gained international publicity, but many similar cases do not make it into the news.

In this case, the students reported that they were detained while crossing a checkpoint between the city of Ramallah, where they live, and Abu Dis, where they attend university. A number of Palestinian were detained, but these two were taken to a room and told to strip naked. They say they were then beaten for several hours.

The two young students, Alla and Iad Mazlum, went with their parents to the Beit El military headquarters to file a complaint. Alla’s father told reporters from the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahranoth, “Why should two students on their way to the university encounter such unwarranted brutality?”

Israeli officers denied the allegations.

Stop Rio de Janeiro from promoting Israel’s war industry

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Profiting from Zionism on March 31, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Posted by StopTheWall on Tue, 03/31/2009 – 09:01

BNC – This year the Latin America Aero & Defense trade show will be held in Rio de Janeiro from April 14 – 17. The show will host and promote the world’s most renowned merchants and producers of war, repression, torture and mass murder. Israeli war criminals feature prominently among them. Nearly every major state and private Israeli military firm will be represented, in addition to the Israeli Ministry of Defense.

Among those listed as attending are Elbit Systems Group, Rafael, Israel Military Industries Ltd. (IMI), and Israel Weapon Industries (IWI) Ltd. The firms are key enablers of the decades long war against the Palestinians, benefiting not only from the consumption of weapons and ammunition by the Israeli military, but also from the use of West Bank and Gaza Strip as testing grounds for new military equipment and technology.

IMI is a government owned firm that manufactures the armored plating for the Caterpillar D-9 Bulldozer, used almost exclusively for the demolition of Palestinian homes, while IWI is the primary developer and supplier of light arms to the Occupation infantry forces. Rafael, another government firm, is a key supplier of missiles, targeting systems, and technology for Occupation tanks. Elbit Systems, is one of one of Israel’s largest private military technology firms, is responsible for the segments of the Apartheid Wall around Jerusalem and the Ariel settlement as well as for supplying the Occupation military, navy and air force with a variety of equipment, including drones (UAVs).

Hosting these firms and the Israeli war ministry is especially outrageous after the massacres in Gaza, where they directed and supplied the war effort. Drones provided by the above companies, for example, were directly responsible for the killing of nearly 100 people during the most recent attacks. To cite only one of scores of atrocities committed in Gaza, on January 3 a drone fired a missile at Palestinians praying at Martyr Ibrahim al-Maqadma Mosque in Jabaliya, northern Gaza, killing 15 and injuring 30. More than 1,450 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed, and it is intolerable that these war criminals be allowed to profit in Brazil.

The trade show as a whole, attracting industry stalwarts Blackwater USA in addition to dozens of other l firms who thrive on ongoing war, conflict and occupation, should have no place in Brazil. However, as Palestinian National Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Committee (BNC), we ask the Brazilian people and its governmental representatives to stop at least the participation of the Israeli Ministry of Defense and arms industry.

A full-scale arms embargo on Israel is overdue. It can stop the world’s most long standing occupation and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

Not an Analogy: Israel and the Crime of Apartheid

Posted in Apartheid, Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Zionism on March 31, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Published on Tuesday, March 31, 2009 by CommonDreams.org

by Hazem Jamjoum

In recent years, increasing numbers of people around the world have begun adopting and developing an analysis of Israel as an apartheid regime. (1) This can be seen in the ways that the global movement in support of the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle is taking on a pointedly anti-apartheid character, as evidenced by the growth of Israeli Apartheid Week.(2) Further, much of the recent international diplomatic support for Israel has increasingly taken on the form of denying that racial discrimination is a root cause of the oppression of Palestinians, something that has taken on new levels of absurdity in Western responses to the April 2009 Durban Review Conference.(3)

Many of the writings stemming from this analysis work to detail levels of similarity and difference with Apartheid South Africa, rather than looking at apartheid as a system that can be practiced by any state. To some extent, this strong emphasis on historical comparisons is understandable given that Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) is the central campaign called for by Palestinian civil society for solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, and is modeled on the one that helped end South African Apartheid. However, an over-emphasis on similarities and differences confines the use of the term to narrow limits. With the expanding agreement that the term ‘apartheid’ is useful in describing the level and layout of Israel’s crimes, it is important that our understanding of the ‘apartheid label’ be deepened, both as a means of informing activism in support of the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle, and in order to most effectively make use of comparisons with other struggles.

The Apartheid Analogy

It is perhaps understandable that some advocates of Palestinian rights look at the ‘Apartheid label’, in its comparative sense, as a politically useful tool. The struggle of the South African people for justice and equality reached a certain sacred status in the 1980s and 1990s when the anti-Apartheid struggle reached its zenith. The reverence with which activists and non-activists alike look to the righteousness of the South African struggle, and the ignominy of the colonial Apartheid regime are well placed; Black South Africans fought against both Dutch and British colonization for centuries, endured countless hardships including imprisonment and death, and were labeled terrorists as the powers of the world stood by the racist Apartheid regime. They remained steadfast in their struggle, raising the cost of maintaining the Apartheid system until South African capital found it no longer profitable and white political elites found it impossible to maintain. Comparison bonus points can also be scored by pointing to the deep historic PLO-ANC connection, as well as the unabashed alliance between Israel and the South African Apartheid regime, which remained strong even at the height of the international boycott against South Africa.

A further impetus for confining the ‘apartheid label’ to a comparison with South Africa is that the commonalities and similarities between the liberation struggles of South Africa and Palestine are quite stark. Both cases involved a process of settler-colonialism involving the forced displacement of the indigenous population from most of their ancestral lands and concentrating them in townships and reservations; dividing up the Black population into different groups with differing rights; strict mobility restrictions that suffocated the colonized; and the use of brutal military force to repress any actual or potential resistance against the racist colonial regime. Both regimes enjoyed the impunity that results from full US and European support. Accompanying these and countless other similarities are a host of uncanny details common to both cases: both regimes were formally established in the same year – 1948 – following decades of British rule; control of approximately 87% of the land was off limits to most of the colonized population without special permission, and so on. While we speak here in the past tense, all of this still applies to present-day Palestine.

As the Israeli apartheid label has gained ground, some have adopted the approach of describing the differences between the two regimes, albeit for various purposes. In general, Israel has not legislated petty apartheid – the segregation of spaces such as bathrooms and beaches – as was the case in South Africa, although Israeli laws form the basis of systematic racial discrimination against Palestinians. The 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel (approximately 20% of Israel’s citizens) do indeed have the right to vote and run in Israeli elections while the Black community in South Africa, for the most part, did not. The South African version of apartheid’s central tenet was to facilitate the exploitation of as many Black laborers as possible, whereas the Israeli version, although exploiting Palestinian workers, prioritizes the forced displacement of as many Palestinians as possible beyond the borders of the state with the aim of eradicating Palestinian presence within historic Palestine. South African visitors to Palestine have often commented on the fact that Israeli use of force is more brutal than that witnessed in the heyday of Apartheid, and several commentators have thus taken the position that Israel’s practices are worse than Apartheid; that the apartheid label does not go far enough.

Israel and the Crime of Apartheid

In terms of law, describing Israel as an apartheid state does not revolve around levels of difference and similarity with the policies and practices of the South African Apartheid regime, and where Israel is an apartheid state only insofar as similarities outweigh differences. In 1973, the UN General Assembly adopted the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid (General Assembly resolution 3068 [XXVIII](4) – entered into force 18 July 1976 – the year of the Soweto uprising in South Africa and the Land Day uprising in Palestine) with a universal definition of the crime of apartheid not limited to the borders of South Africa. The fact that apartheid is defined as a crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court(5), which entered into force in 2002 – long after the Apartheid regime was defeated in South Africa – attests to the universality of the crime.

While the wording of the definition of the crime of apartheid varies between legal instruments, the substance is the same: a regime commits apartheid when it institutionalizes discrimination to create and maintain the domination of one ‘racial’ group over another. Karine Mac Allister, among others, has provided a cogent legal analysis of the applicability of the crime of apartheid to the Israeli regime.(6) The main point is that like genocide and slavery, apartheid is a crime that any state can commit, and institutions, organizations and/or individuals acting on behalf of the state that commit it or support its commission are to face trial in any state that is a signatory to the Convention, or in the International Criminal Court. It is therefore a fallacy to ground the Israeli apartheid label on comparisons of the policies of the South African Apartheid regime, with the resulting descriptions of Israel as being ‘Apartheid-like’ and characterizations of an apartheid analysis of Israel as an ‘Apartheid analogy.’

Recognition by the international community of such universal crimes is often the result of a particular case, so heinous that it forces the rusty wheels of international decision-making into motion. The Transatlantic Slave Trade is an example where the mass enslavement of people from the African continent to work as the privately owned property of European settlers formed an important part of the framework in which the drafters of the 1956 UN Supplementary Convention on the Abolition of Slavery thought and acted. An even clearer example is the Genocide Convention (adopted 1948, entered into force 1951) in the wake of the Nazi Holocaust in which millions of Jews, communists, Roma and disabled were systematically murdered with the intention to end their existence. We do not describe modern day enslavement as ‘slavery-like,’ nor do we examine the mass killing of hundreds of thousands of mainly Tutsi Rwandans through a Rwandan ‘Genocide analogy.’

Two points made by Mac Allister in her legal analysis of Israeli apartheid deserve to be reiterated because they are often confused or misconstrued even by advocates of Palestinian human rights. First, Israel’s crimes and violations are not limited to the crime of apartheid. Rather, Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people combines apartheid, military occupation and colonization in a unique manner. It deserves notice that the relationship between these three components requires further research and investigation. Also noteworthy is the Palestinian BDS Campaign National Committee (BNC)’s “United Against Apartheid, Colonialism and Occupation: Dignity & Justice for the Palestinian People” (7) position paper, which outlines and, to some extent, details the various aspects of Israel’s commission of the crime of apartheid, and begins to trace the interaction between Israeli apartheid, colonialism and occupation from the perspective of Palestinian civil society.

The second point worth reiterating is that Israel’s regime of apartheid is not limited to the West Bank and Gaza Strip. In fact, the core of Israel’s apartheid regime is guided by discriminatory legislation in the fields of nationality, citizenship and land ownership, and that was primarily employed to oppress and dispossess those Palestinians who were forcibly displaced in the 1948 Nakba (refugees and internally displaced), as well as the minority who managed to remain within the ‘green line’ and later became Israeli citizens.(8) Israel’s apartheid regime was extended into West Bank and Gaza Strip following the 1967 occupation for the purpose of colonization, and military control over the Palestinians who came under occupation. Using again the example of South Africa, the crime of apartheid was not limited to the Bantustans; the whole regime was implicated and not one or another of its racist manifestations.

The analysis of Israel as an apartheid state has proven to be very important in several respects. First, it correctly highlights racial discrimination as a root cause of Israel’s oppression of Palestinians. Second, one of the main effects of Israeli apartheid is that it has separated Palestinians – conceptually, legally and physically – into different groupings (refugees, West Bank, Gaza, within the ‘green line’ and a host of other divisions within each), resulting in the fragmentation of the Palestinian liberation movement, including the solidarity movement. The apartheid analysis enables us to provide a legal and conceptual framework under which we can understand, convey, and take action in support of the Palestinian people and their struggle as a unified whole. Third, and of particular significance to the solidarity movement, this legal and conceptual framework takes on the prescriptive role underpinning the growing global movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law.

Colonialism and the Role of Comparison

I have argued that the question of whether apartheid applies cannot be determined by means of comparison with South Africa, but rather by legal analysis. This, however, does not mean that comparative study is not useful. Comparison is in fact essential to the process of learning historical lessons for those involved in struggle. A central importance of comparison with South Africa stems from the fact that the South African struggle against apartheid was, as it continues to be for the indigenous people of Palestine and the Americas, a struggle against colonialism.

Focusing on the colonial dimension of Israeli apartheid and the Zionist project enables us to maintain our focus on the issues that really matter, such as land acquisition, demographic engineering, and methods of political and economic control exercised by one racial group over another. Comparison with other anti-colonial struggles provides the main resource for understanding this colonial dimension of Israeli oppression, and for deriving some of the lessons needed to fight it.

One of the many lessons from the struggle against Apartheid in South Africa stems from the fact that the ANC leadership was pressured to compromise on its economic demands such as land restitution. Only a tiny proportion of white controlled land in South Africa was redistributed to Blacks after 1994. As such, while the struggle of the South African people defeated the system of political apartheid, the struggle against economic apartheid continues in various forms including anti-poverty and landless peoples’ movements today. As Palestinians and those struggling with them work to reconstruct a political strategy and consensus on how to overcome the challenges of the post-Oslo period, the centrality of the demand for land restitution should be highlighted as part of the demand for refugee return.

A second lesson of major importance comes in response to the paradigm currently guiding most mainstream accounts of how to achieve the elusive ‘peace in the Middle East’, which is the idea of partition often referred to as the two state ‘solution’. In the 1970s, South Africa tried to deal with its “demographic problem” – the fact that the vast majority of its population was Black but did not have the right to vote. The Apartheid regime reconstructed South Africa as a formal democracy by reinventing the British-established reservations (the Bantustans) as independent states.(9) These ten ‘homelands’ were each assigned to an ethnicity decided by Pretoria, and indigenous South Africans who did not fit into one of the ethnicities were forced to make themselves fit in order to become nationals of one of the homelands. Through this measure, members of the indigenous population were reclassified as nationals of one or another homeland, and between 1976 and 1981 the regime tried to pass the homelands off as independent states: Transkei in 1976, Bophuthatswana in 1977, Venda in 1979, and Ciskei in 1981.

Each of these Bantustans was given a flag and a government made up of indigenous intermediaries on the Pretoria payroll, and all the trappings of a sovereign government including responsibility over municipal services and a police force to protect the Apartheid regime, but without actual sovereignty. The idea was that by getting international recognition for each of these homelands as states, the Apartheid regime would transform South Africa from a country with a 10% white minority, to one with a 100% white majority. Since it was a democratic regime within the confines of the dominant community, the state’s democratic nature would be beyond reproach. No one was fooled. The ANC launched a powerful campaign to counter any international recognition of the Bantustans as independent states, and the plot failed miserably at the international level – with the notable, but perhaps unsurprising, exception that a lone “embassy” for Bophuthatswana was opened in Tel Aviv.

Israel has employed similar strategies in Palestine. For example, Israel recognized 18 Palestinian Bedouin tribes and appointed a loyal Sheikh for each in the Naqab during the 1950s as a means of controlling these southern Palestinians, forcing those who did not belong to one of the tribes to affiliate to one in order to get Israeli citizenship.(10) In the late 1970s, the Israeli regime tried to invent Palestinian governing bodies for the 1967 occupied territory in the form of ‘village leagues’ intended to evolve into similar non-sovereign governments; glorified municipalities of a sort. As with Apartheid’s Homelands, the scheme failed miserably, both because the PLO had established itself as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, and because Palestinians largely understood the plot and opposed it with all means at their disposal. The main lesson for Israel was that the PLO would have to either be completely destroyed or would have to be transformed into Israeli apartheid’s indigenous intermediary. Israel launched a massive campaign to destroy the PLO throughout the 1980s and early 1990s. In the early 1990s, and with the demise of the PLO’s main backers such as the Soviet bloc and Iraq, Israel capitalized on the opportunity, and worked to transform the PLO from a liberation movement to a ‘state-building’ project that was launched by the signing of the Oslo accords, seven months before South Africa’s first free election.

The push for the establishment and international recognition of an independent Palestinian state within the Palestinian Bantustan is no different from the South African Apartheid regime’s campaign to gain international recognition of Transkei or Ciskei. This is the core of the “two-state solution” idea. The major and crucial difference is that in the current Palestinian case, it is the world’s superpower and its adjutants in Europe and the Arab world pushing as well, and armed with the active acceptance of Palestine’s indigenous intermediaries.

Notes:

1 I use capital ‘A’ in Apartheid to denote the regime of institutionalized racial superiority implemented in South Africa 1948-1994, and lower-case ‘a’ to indicate the generally applicable crime of apartheid.

2 See www.apartheidweek.org

3 See Amira Howeidi, “Israel’s right not to be criticised”, Al-Ahram Weekly, 19-25 March 2009: http://weekly.ahram.org.eg/2009/939/re2.htm. Also see the Palestinian civil society response at http://israelreview.bdsmovement.net

4 For the full text of the Convention see: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu3/b/11.htm

5 For the full text of the Statute see: http://untreaty.un.org/cod/icc/statute/99_corr/cstatute.htm

6 See Karine Mac Allister, “Applicability of the Crime of Apartheid to Israel”, al-Majdal #38, (Summer 2008): http://www.badil.org/al-majdal/2008/summer/articles02.htm

7 This is the Palestinian civil society position paper for the April 2009 Durban Review Conference in Geneva, and can be downloaded at: http://bdsmovement.net/files/English-BNC_Position_Paper-Durban_Review.pdf

8 For a discussion of how Israel’s apartheid legislation continues to affect refugees and Palestinian citizens of Israel with regards to control over land see Uri Davis, Apartheid Israel: Possibilities for the Struggle Within, London: Zed Books, 2003.

9 British rule in South Africa established reserves in 1913 and 1936 on approximately 87% of the land of South Africa for the purpose of segregating the Black population from the settlers.

10 For more on this see: Hazem Jamjoum, “al-Naqab: The Ongoing Displacement of Palestine’s Southern Bedouin”, al-Majdal #39-40, (Autumn 2008 / Winter 2009): http://www.badil.org/al-majdal/2008/autumn-winter/articles03.htm

Hazem Jamjoum is the editor of al-Majdal, the English language quarterly magazine of the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (http://www.badil.org/al-majdal/al-majdal.htm) in Bethlehem, Palestine.

Boycott, Surrender or War

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Zionism on March 31, 2009 by Marcy Newman

The ‘Dahiye strategy’ has just been applied in Gaza.

By Jeremy Salt – Ankara

The spate of reports coming out of the Middle East in the past two weeks are signs of a coming danger greater than the region has known in its modern history. The Israeli onslaught on Gaza; the massacre of civilians; the strafing of hospitals, ambulances and medical staff; the vandalisation of Palestinian homes; the violent, racist graffiti scrawled on walls; the soldiers’ t-shirts patterned with graphics showing a pregnant Palestinian woman in the cross hairs of a rifle; the support by 85 per cent of the Israeli population for an attack on civilians which killed hundreds of children; the evidence of Israeli soldiers themselves of how civilians were murdered in cold blood; the march on Umm al Fahm by the followers of Meir Kahane, at the same time as Palestinian cultural festivals in Jerusalem were being prohibited; the choice of a settler racist as Israel’s Foreign Minister; the two-tier colonial society established on the West Bank, reminiscent of Algeria in the 19th century; the wall, the checkpoints, the closures, the daily humiliation, the seizure of land and demolition of homes; the continuing demographic war against the Palestinians in Jerusalem; the recent attack on Sudan by unknown planes said to have been Israeli; the wars of the past and now the preparations for an attack on Iran – what more evidence could anyone need of how utterly dangerous the state of Israel is to regional and global stability?

The misdeeds of soldiers are not an aberration. All of these actions are part of the same deeply disturbing mosaic. One part cannot be separated from the other. Senior political and military figures keep repeating the same old mantras. This is the most moral army in the world. Against the proven evidence of the same crimes committed over the past 60 years, who on earth could believe it? But apparently the Israelis do. Every criticism of Israel is converted into the refuges of anti-Semitism, Israel-bashing and unfair treatment. Anti-Semitism is said to be on the rise around the world, but it was not the anti-Semites who appropriated the symbol of a religion and put it on the pennants of tanks shelling market and apartment blocks in Gaza, the West Bank and Lebanon, and on the sides of planes and helicopters strafing and assassinating Palestinians in their cities, towns and refugee camps. It was not anti-Semites but the state of Israel which nurtured the arrogant and fanatical Jewish settlers who run wild on the West Bank, beating, killing, vandalizing and intimidating, with kippas on their head, sidelocks flying and guns on their shoulders, in the name of the inalienable rights of the Jewish people. What kind of ammunition has Israel itself, and Jews who do not speak out against the violence committed in their name by ‘the state of the Jewish people’, handed to anti-Semites?

There is no peace process. There never was. There is only a war process. The fictions of the Oslo process, Madrid, the Declaration of Principles, Wye River, the Hebron protocol, have all been exposed. The Palestinians are infinitely worse off than before. Israel has been given numerous opportunities to make peace with the Arab world at the cost of retreating from the territories taken in 1967 and dealing seriously with the refugee issue. It has ignored them all. It now has a government that has no intention of withdrawing from the West Bank, from East Jerusalem or from the Golan Heights, a government that is speeding ahead with the expansion of settlements and the destruction of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem. Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, says that this is ‘unhelpful’ to the peace, a clear signal in its weakness that the Obama administration will do no more to restrain Israel than the Bush administration or all US administrations stretching back to Dwight Eisenhower’s time. Unfortunately it is not just a matter of failing or refusing to restrain Israel. John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt have been criticized for putting too much emphasis on the capacity of the Israeli lobby to shape US policy. In fact they have got it right, but it is also true that a ‘strong Israel’ remains a key US strategic interest. Is it going to take a devastating war, one sucking the US directly into a conflict on Israel’s behalf, for mainstream Americans to realize the folly of giving open-ended support to a client state which the US cannot control?

Outside the US, around the world, Israel has few friends now. The Israelis blame anyone and anything for a predicament entirely of their own making. Israel is Israel’s own worse enemy, with the US acting out the role of an indulgent parent who has totally ruined the child. Some Israelis see this but most don’t and in fact are either indifferent or have switched off to the violations of human rights being committed by their state on a daily basis. Gaza hardly produced a collective twitch. There was no shock, no outrage, except on the dissenting margins, only justification. Mainstream Israelis just don’t seem to care, or they rationalize by shifting the blame to someone else, but either way it is not them or their state who is responsible for the consequences of the actions taken by their government.

Now the same Israeli mainstream has voted in possibly the most extreme government in the state’s existence. Only ‘possibly’ because it would be hard to surpass the dark achievements of Menachim Begin or Ariel Sharon but there is no reason to think that Benyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman will not be up to the challenge. As soon as it became clear that he had won the right to form a government, Netanyahu put Iran on the agenda as his immediate concern. He will dissemble but the two-state solution is not on his agenda at all. His election victory was followed by the announcement that Israel plans to build 73,000 housing units on the West Bank, which will double the number of settlers when completed. Visiting Israel, the new US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, spoke of the threat from Iran but did not once mention the occupation, settlements and Israel’s refusal even to contemplate the right of return of the Palestinians as the primary obstacles to peace in the Middle East.

Lying ahead of the Palestinians and Lebanon is more of the same treatment Israel has dished out for decades. If anything the future looks more threatening. The ‘Dahiye strategy’ has just been applied in Gaza and may be directed against Lebanon on an even more massive scale in a future war. Dahiye was the predominantly Shi’a suburb of Beirut pulverized in the attack of 2006. The ‘enemy as a system’ doctrine is the current paradigm for wars in the Middle East. It is based on the destruction of the concentric infrastructural rings that are the core of any society. Destroy the rings one by one and society will soon be dislocated and dismembered, incapable of supporting an army even if there is one. The greater the force applied the sooner this point is reached. The doctrine was used against Iraq in 1991, against Iraq again in 2003, against Lebanon in 2006, against Gaza in 2009 and has been used on a smaller scale during Israel’s numerous attacks on the West Bank and Gaza in the past ten years. It may well be used against because an attempt to destroy its nuclear sites could not stop there. To prevent Iran striking back immediately its air (missiles and aircraft) and naval defence systems would have to be destroyed. To prevent an Iranian riposte in the foreseeable future such an attack would have to be extended to civilian infrastructures – roads, bridges, power plants, airports, fuel depots, water treatment and sewage plants and the country’s manufacturing base. If Israel does reach the point of taking such a drastic step – with or without official US involvement – it would not want Iran to be able to lift its head up for many years.

The options for dealing with Israel are now extremely narrow. George Mitchell has been sent back to the Middle East, and Barack Obama says he is determined to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a two-state solution but without an equal commitment to lay down red lines and punish Israel if it crosses them these initiatives are likely to disintegrate in the face of Israeli obstruction at every level. The formation of a Middle East team that includes Dennis Ross, Rahm Emmanuel and a Secretary of State who has threatened Iran with ‘total obliteration’ if it dares to attack Israel (including an Iranian response to an attack by Israel?) indicates that Obama is not contemplating any real break with the past. And that is what has to be done if that elusive chimera – a Middle East peace – is ever to be pinned down.

Israel has made it plain for six decades that it will not voluntarily comply with international law as it relates to the rights of the Palestinians. It took part in the Camp David charade only because these rights were specifically excluded as a basis for discussion at the outset. When they did finally come up for discussion they were dismissed. Dialogue does not work because Israel knows from long experience that no government, bloc of governments or international organization is prepared to move from request to demand to sanctions if it refuses to do what it doesn’t want to do. That is the plain evidence of the past going back to 1948. Negotiations between Israel and/or Arab or Palestinian leaders has invariably worked to the detriment of the latter. The ‘concession’ of Sinai in the 1970s took Egypt out of the Arab camp and freed Israel’s hands for the attacks on Lebanon in 1978 and 1982. In fact there was no concession by Israel because Sinai was not Israel’s to give away in the first place but was grabbed along with other territories in 1967 partly so it could be used as a bargaining chip in any future negotiations. Israel ‘gave away’ nothing to which it had any right. The ‘price’ paid was small compared to the return – the removal of the most populous Arab state from frontline states. The Oslo ‘peace process’ was utilized to strengthen Israel’s hold on the territories occupied in 1967. The language of peace – dialogue, negotiations, withdrawal, a viable Palestinian state – turned out to be sleight of hand, a walnut shell concealing the real intention.

Insofar as Israel is concerned the ‘international community’ might be likened to a club with a fractious member whom it refuses to suspend let alone throw out no matter what rule it breaks or for how long it breaks it. One has to ask why any state which bombs schools and universities, when not subjecting them to long periods of closure, should be allowed to remain a member of international educational organizations; why a state which bombs hospitals, strafes ambulances and kills medical personnel, as Israel has done over a long period of time, should be given the benefits of affiliation with international medical organizations; why a state which subjects a captive population to every human indignity should be allowed to remain the member of any international organization concerned with human rights. The ‘window of opportunity’ for a Middle East settlement is now no larger than the eye of a needle, through which a camel could pass more easily than peace.

The Palestinians are not going to surrender or disappear. Israel is preparing for new wars and no one is issuing warnings that it will be punished if it dares go ahead. Against the refusal of governments to act, the international campaign for boycott, isolation and disinvestment is the only hope left that Israel can be made to see reason. The groundswell against Israel is gathering force following the onslaught on Gaza. For the first time since 1948 war crimes charges against Israeli politicians and generals, and maybe the ordinary soldiers who fired the tanks shells and missiles and sent instructions to armed drones to bomb civilians in their homes, are a real possibility. They may open the door to other charges being laid over crimes committed elsewhere and they embolden some politicians to speak out and some newspapers in the ‘western’ cultural mainstream to be more critical. But if there is to be peace in the Middle East the point has to be reached where Israel is compelled to pay a price for the devastating consequences of its action. Sixty years is long enough to reach the conclusion that without pressure Israel will not move and will continue to do exactly what it wants to do irrespective of law or the opinion of anyone else. Some Israelis – dissenting soldiers, B’Tselem, Women in Black and other organizations – are actively standing by the Palestinians in their struggle against discrimination and occupation but the state grinds on remorselessly as if it does not notice or does not care. If governments will not apply pressure against Israel it must come from people, which is why, between surrender and war, disinvestment and an economic and cultural boycott of Israel and its institutions, is the only choice that can be made for peace.

– Jeremy Salt is associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Previously, he taught at Bosporus University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne in the Departments of Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. Professor Salt has written many articles on Middle East issues, particularly Palestine, and was a journalist for The Age newspaper when he lived in Melbourne. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

Anti-Zionist Campaign to Boycott Motorola Launched in New York

Posted in International BDS Actions on March 31, 2009 by Marcy Newman

OPT: Tough times for university students in Gaza

Posted in Palestinian Education on March 31, 2009 by Marcy Newman

GAZA CITY, 26 March 2009 (IRIN) – Many university students who lost relatives or whose homes were destroyed during the recent 23-day Israeli offensive are finding it difficult to cope, according to university officials and students.

Some have been unable to register for the new semester due to lack of funds; others are still traumatised.

Al-Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza said 14 of the 15 higher education institutions in the Strip (most are in and around Gaza City) were damaged by Israeli forces. Six came under direct attack.

Three colleges – Al-Da’wa College for Humanities in Rafah, Gaza College for Security Sciences in Gaza City, and the Agricultural College in Beit Hanoun (part of Al-Azhar University) – were destroyed, according to Al-Mezan communications officer Mahmoud AbuRahma.

Six university buildings in Gaza were razed to the ground and 16 damaged. The total damage is estimated at US$21.1 million, according to the Palestinian National Early Recovery and Reconstruction Plan for Gaza.

The Israeli offensive – in retaliation for continued Hamas rocket-fire from Gaza into Israel – began on 27 December 2008 and ended on 18 January.

Just after midnight on 28 December the Islamic University was targeted in six separate air strikes, according to eyewitnesses.

The two main buildings on campus were completely destroyed, while nine others were damaged; water, electrical and internet systems were affected, according to the university’s president, Kamalain Sha’ath.

“The two [main] buildings contained 74 science and engineering laboratories equipped with thousands of pieces of apparatus,” said Islamic University public relations officer Hussam Ayesh.

The university, which has 22,000 students enrolled, wants to rebuild and renovate but lacks building materials due to the Israeli blockade; Israel is very unlikely to allow in replacement laboratory equipment, without which it will be difficult for classes to resume.

“Only basic food commodities and essential humanitarian items are permitted to enter Gaza,” said spokesperson for the Israeli Civil Liaison Administration Maj Peter Lerner.

The Israeli military said the Islamic University was being used by Hamas to develop and store weapons, including Qassam rockets used to target Israeli civilians. The university and Hamas deny the allegations.

The Islamic University has estimated the damage at US$15 million. By contrast, tuition fees for the 2009 semester only amount to $10 million. The university has appealed for help and halved the minimum initial payment required by students.

“Tuition fees are now a problem for more than 70 percent of the students and many have missed the semester,” said Abdel Rahman Migdad, 20, a third year business studies student. “Books are unavailable due to the siege and most students can’t even afford photocopies – and now we even lack ink for the photocopiers.”

Al-Azhar University

Al-Azhar, Gaza’s second largest university, generally seen as pro-Fatah (the political faction associated with Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank) was hit on the same day.

“Three thousand of the 20,000 registered students could not return this semester due to issues related to the war,” said public relations officer at Al-Azhar University Sameh Hassanin, who also said there had been a 20 percent increase in the number of students unable to afford fees since the offensive ended.

“Students lack funds for transport and books, and are struggling,” said Hassanin. The university also lacks paper, spare parts and ink for copiers.

The Agricultural College in Beit Hanoun was completely destroyed, with the damage estimated at US$4.3 million, according to university officials.

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