"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘Palestine’

What If Kobe Bryant Were An Imprisoned Palestinian Football Player?

In Uncategorized on May 11, 2012 at 5:47 pm

Oldspeak:”The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.”-Jodi Rudoren

By Dave Zirin @ The Nation Magazine:

Imagine if a member of Team USA Basketball—let’s say Kobe Bryant—had been traveling to an international tournament only to be seized by a foreign government and held in prison for three years without trial or even hearing the charges for which he was imprisoned. Imagine if Kobe was allowed no visitation from family or friends. Imagine if he was left no recourse but to effectively end any future prospects as a player by terminating his own physical health by going on a hunger strike. Chances are we’d notice, yes? Chances are the story would lead SportsCenter and make newspaper covers across the world. Chances are all the powerful international sports organizations—the IOC, FIFA—would treat the jailing nation as a pariah until Kobe was free. And chances are that even Laker-haters would wear buttons that read, “Free Kobe.”

This is what has happened to Palestinian national soccer team member Mahmoud Sarsak. Sarsak, who hails from Rafah in the Gaza Strip, was seized at a checkpoint on his way to a national team contest in the West Bank. This was July 2009. Since that date, the 25-year-old has been held without trial and without charges. His family and friends haven’t been permitted to see him. In the eyes of the Israeli government, Sarsak can be imprisoned indefinitely because they deem him to be an “illegal combatant” although no one—neither family, nor friends, nor coaches—has the foggiest idea why. Now Sarsak is one of more than 1,500 Palestinian prisoners on a hunger strike to protest their conditions and lack of civil liberties. As the New York Times wrote last week, “The newest heroes of the Palestinian cause are not burly young men hurling stones or wielding automatic weapons. They are gaunt adults, wrists in chains, starving themselves inside Israeli prisons.”

But no organization has claimed Sarsak as a member or issued fiery calls for his freedom. All we have is a family and a team that are both bewildered and devastated by his indefinite detention. His brother Iman said, “My family never imagined that Mahmoud would have been imprisoned by Israel. Why, really why?”

His family doesn’t understand how someone, whose obsession was soccer, not politics, could be targeted and held in such a manner. But in today’s Israel/Palestine, soccer is politics. Sarsak is only the latest Palestinian player to be singled out for harassment or even death by the Israeli government. In 2009, three national team players, Ayman Alkurd, Shadi Sbakhe and Wajeh Moshtahe, were killed during the bombing of Gaza. The National Stadium as well as the offices of the Palestinian Football Association were also targeted and destroyed in the Gaza bombing. In addition, their goalie, Omar Abu Rwayyis, was arrested by Israeli police in 2012 on “terrorism charges.” If you degrade the national team, you degrade the idea that there could ever be a nation.

More than police violence is a part of this process of athletic degradation. Currently the Palestinian soccer team is ranked 164th in the world and they’ve have never been higher than 115th. As one sports writer put it delicately, “Given the passion for football that burns among Palestinians, such lowly status hints at problems on the ground.”

These problems on the ground include curfews and checkpoints in the West Bank and Gaza that often mean the forfeiting of matches. If Palestinians living in Israel’s borders want to play for the team, they have to give up any benefits of Israeli citizenship. The end result is that the Palestinian national team becomes dependent on the Diaspora, relying heavily on Palestinians who have lived for two and three generations in South America and Europe. This is why many of the key players on Palestine’s national team are named Roberto or Pablo.

In 2010, Michel Platini, president of European football’s ruling body—Israel plays in the European qualifiers—threatened Israel with expulsion from FIFA if it continues to undermine football in Palestine. Platini said, “Israel must choose between allowing Palestinian sport to continue and prosper or be forced to face the consequences for their behaviour.” Yet Platini never followed through on threats and quite the opposite, awarded Israel the 2013 Under-21 European Championships.

On Wednesday, the British organization Soccer Without Borders, said that they would be calling for a boycott of the tournament, writing:

Football Beyond Borders, a student-led organisation which uses the universal power of football to tackle political, social and cultural issues, stands in solidarity with Mahmoud Sarsak and all of the Palestinian political prisoners currently being detained by Israel on hunger strike, as together we protest the injustices being inflicted upon Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and draw attention to their plight. [We] take this opportunity to announce our official boycott of the UEFA 2013 Under-21 European Championships, which Israel has been awarded the honour of hosting.

Soccer Without Borders joined forty-two football clubs and dozens of team captains, managers and sports commentators in Gaza who submitted a letter to Platini in 2011 demanding that European football’s governing body reverse its decision to allow Israel to host the under-21 tournament.

Amidst all this tumult is Mahmoud Sarsak, a threat for reasons no one can comprehend and Israel will not reveal. As long as Sarsak remains indefinitely detained and as long as Israel targets sport and athletes as legitimate targets of war, they have no business being rewarded by FIFA or the UEFA, let alone even being a part of the community of international sports. If Sarsak is to see the inside of a courtroom and if Israel is to, as Platini said, “face the consequences for their behaviour,” silence is not an option. After all, even a Celtic fan would surely agree, we’d do it for Kobe.


State Department Travel Warning: If You Try To Sail To Gaza, Israel May Kill You

In Uncategorized on June 27, 2011 at 7:34 pm

Oldspeak:”What a sad irony it is that an Administration that WOULD NOT HAVE EVEN BEEN POSSIBLE without citizen protest, sacrifice, struggle, and eventual elimination of state-sanctioned discrimination and apartheid right here in the USA is discouraging Americans’ practice of  citizen protest, sacrifice, struggle, with the goal eventual elimination of state-sanctioned discrimination and apartheid in Israel? Where would African-Americans be in this country today if our elders accepted their governments centuries old refusals to recognize their human and civil rights? 3/4ths human? Second class citizens? Freedom and dignity are birthrights, not conditions to be negotiated in some “peace treaty”. Those brave souls should have named their ship “The Audacity of Nope.” Free Gaza.

By Ali Gharib @ Think Progress:

The State Department today released an updated travel warning for Israel and the Occupied Territories. The update signified that it was issued “to warn against participation in any attempt to reach Gaza by sea.” The warning is likely in light of the so-called “Freedom Flotilla” of humanitarian activists setting out any day now to break the blockade of Gaza enforced by the Israeli military.

Last year, a similar attempt to break the blockade ended in the deaths of nine people, including an American.

The State Department warning said:

The security environment within Gaza, including its border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel. […] On May 31, 2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S. citizen, in such an attempt.

The U.S. citizen killed was Furkan Doğan, a 19 year old permanent resident of Turkey who witnesses said was shot five times by Israeli commandos that made an early morning raid against the ship he was aboard. (Eight others, all Turkish nationals, were also killed.) The U.S. did not undertake or ask for any special investigations and seemed to accept the validity of Israel’s own investigations, which cleared the Jewish State’s armed forces of any wrong doing.

Both the blockade of Gaza and the raid on ships in international waters have had their legality questioned. Yesterday, the Israeli military attacked two Palestinian fishing boats off the Gaza coast, but within the limits Israel set for them.

State Department spokesperson Mark Toner recently said U.S. citizens who partook in the flotilla to break the Gaza blockade were putting themselves at risk:

We have made clear through the past year that groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that entail a risk to their safety.

During his recent visit to Washington, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked that “America has no better friend than Israel.” As Matthew Yglesias pointed out, the statement is “absurd.” This seems borne out by a travel warning that tells citizens not to try to get to Gaza by sea so that they don’t risk getting shot by their country’s “best friend.”

Are Palestinians The Last Zionists?

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2010 at 5:08 pm

Oldspeak: “Interesting perspective.”

From Daniel Gavron @ Newsweek:

Are the Palestinians the last Zionists? It would seem so. The situation of Israel has become surreal. Just as we Israelis are making a stupendous effort to ensure the dissolution of the Jewish state, envisioned by Theodor Herzl in 1896, by hanging onto the occupied territories, the Palestinians, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, are working to ensure the survival of the Zionist enterprise by striving to establish a Palestinian ministate in the West Bank and Gaza.

Let us be very clear on just what is happening here: the Palestinians are doing their best to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza on a mere 22 percent of British Mandate for Palestine, which would afford us Zionist Jews a predominantly Jewish state on the remaining 78 percent. This is surely more than we could ever have envisaged when we set out to create a Jewish state and guarantees the survival of the state of Israel. Against this, we Israelis are fighting to keep the West Bank, which will soon result in an Arab majority and the end of a Jewish majority state.

Moreover, the Palestinians are supported by the Arab and Muslim nations, who are offering, via the Arab initiative, normal relations with the Jewish state. They are even prepared to accept our settlement folly by means of land swaps, which will leave a majority of the Israeli Jews who settled illegally in the West Bank during the past four decades inside the state of Israel.

The Muslims, Arabs, and Palestinians are, of course, backed by virtually the entire population of the planet, led by the United States. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is devoting a significant portion of her time to finding a formula for peace, including an agreement with Syria in return for our withdrawal from the Golan Heights. This will result not only in our dreamed-for Jewish state, but also will go a long way toward neutralizing the threats to Israel posed by Iran, Hizbullah, and Hamas.

And how are we Israelis responding? We are mobilizing every possible means of obstruction and delay. We are continuing to build in locations in the West Bank that will preclude the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state and in East Jerusalem, which is scheduled to be the Palestinian capital—as opposed to West Jerusalem, Israel’s capital. Furthermore, the so-called Israeli majority for peace—the 60-plus percent who support a two-state solution—is so apathetic that we must be regarded as accomplices in the anti-peace path that our right-wing government is currently taking.

We are demanding that the Palestinians declare their support for Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people,” which is totally unnecessary, as Israel’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, already defines the state as “Jewish and democratic.” Thus it is adequate for the Palestinians to recognize the state of Israel, which they already do.

We are insisting that the Palestinians and other Arabs agree in advance to give up the “right of return” of the Palestinian refugees to their former homes in Israel. This also is superfluous, as the Arab initiative makes it clear that the solution to the refugee problem must be just, fair, and (most significantly) “mutually agreed.” It is generally accepted that if there is a significant return of refugees, it will be to Palestine, not to Israel.

And now our latest demand: that the Americans put in writing their promises of aid and support. After decades of firm American support, this last demand is the very personification of chutzpah, and the U.S. administration is calling our bluff by giving us this document.

Following the Holocaust and the wars to establish Israel, it is understandable that we Jews deal cautiously with our Arab neighbors. But we have moved into the realm of paranoia. It is time to seize the remarkable opportunity before us. Peace with Egypt, the strongest Arab state, laid the foundations; peace with Palestine and Syria, backed by the Arab and Muslim nations, will finally place the roof on the Jewish house. The Obama administration’s effort to establish a small Palestinian state, accompanied by withdrawal from the Golan Heights and peace with Syria, will finally ensure survival of the state of Israel. Why are we Israeli Jews trying so hard to prevent it?

Gavron is the author of nine books on Jewish history, Israel, and the Palestinians. His latest is Holy Land Mosaic.

After Obama’s Praise For Netanyahu’s “Restraint”, Israeli Journalist Amira Hass Asks Obama to Imagine Life As A Palestinian Under Occupation

In Uncategorized on July 8, 2010 at 11:19 am

Oldspeak: “Gaza is a huge prison where people are dependent on charity, with no means to earn a living, no freedom of movement. Where women and children are shot dead waving white flags, where people are herded into a house, and bombed by American made jets…The apartheid has to stop.”

From Amy Goodman @ Democracy Now:

Meeting at the White House, President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized the “unbreakable” bond between Israel and the United States. Despite ongoing Israeli settlement expansion, roadblocks, closures and the attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, Obama said he thinks Israel “has shown restraint.” The meeting came on the heels of a decision by the Israeli military prosecutor to take disciplinary and legal action in four separate cases from Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza last year. We speak to veteran Israeli journalist Amira Hass.

Amira Hass, Ha’aretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories and the only Israeli journalist to have spent several years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank.

AMY GOODMAN: President Obama hosted talks of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the White House Tuesday in a push to restart direct negotiations between Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials. Obama urged the two sides to resume talks before the partial freeze on building illegal Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank expires in September. At a joint news conference after their meeting Tuesday morning, both Obama and Netanyahu emphasized the unbreakable bond between Israel and the United States and downplayed recent U.S. Israeli tensions over the settlements. In his remarks to the press, President Obama made no mention of settlement expansion or the Israeli commando attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla that killed nine people including a U.S. citizen. He noted that Netanyahu is “Willing to take risks for peace” and praised Israel’s moves to begin easing the blockade of Gaza.

BARACK OBAMA: Let me first of all say that I think the Israeli government working through layers of various governmental entities and jurisdictions have shown restraint over the last seven months that I think has been conducive to the prospects of us getting into direct talks. I think it is very important that the Palestinians not look for excuses for incitement, that they’re not engaging in provocative language, that at the international level they are maintaining a constructive talk as opposed to looking for opportunities to embarrass Israel.

AMY GOODMAN: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu echoed President of in his optimism about moving forward with direct negotiations but warned that Israel wants a secure peace.

BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: We don’t want a repeat of the situation where we vacate territories and those are overtaken by Iran’s proxies and used as launching grounds for terrorist attacks, rocket attacks. I think there are solutions that we can adopt—but in order to proceed to the solution, we need to begin negotiations in order to end them. Without proximity talks, I think it’s high time to begin direct talks.

AMY GOODMAN: Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama came on the heels of a decision by the Israeli military prosecutor to take disciplinary and legal action and four separate cases from Israel’s 22-day assault on Gaza last year. One soldier was charged with manslaughter in connection with the deaths of a Palestinian mother and daughter who were shot while waving white flags. The prosecutor also called for criminal investigation into air-strikes on a building into which Israeli troops had ordered 100 members of a single-family. Over two dozen members of the family were killed in the shelling. For more on the U.S. Israeli relations and prospects for peace and accountability, I’m joined on the telephone from Tel Aviv by veteran Israeli journalist Amira Hass, she’s the Ha’aretz correspondent for the occupied Palestinian territories and the only Israeli journalist to have spent several years living in and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank. Amira, welcome to Democracy Now!, your comments on the meeting between Netanyahu and Obama yesterday and what came of it.

AMIRA HASS: Oh, I have no comment, I thought we were talking about something else, I did not even watch it. By the time we know really what happened there—it will take some time before we know really what happened there. I only hope that or I suspect Obama allowed himself to be misled by the sweet talk of Netanyahu. That is my impression, or that is my guess. I am sorry because I—

AMY GOODMAN: Well Amira, let me ask you, President Obama praised Netanyahu for the easing of the blockade. Can you talk about what that means?

AMIRA HASS: Perhaps Obama should ask himself if he would set aside in life of just getting chips and ketchup and Coca-Cola and not being allowed to produce, to create, to export, to send his daughters to university, to have visitors from outside—if this is the life that he thinks are suitable for human beings, then maybe all the Americans who voted for him made a mistake.

AMY GOODMAN: Well explain—

AMIRA HASS: Because the blockade here. Look, everybody talks about food when we come to this blockade. So now Israel is giving some more items of food, allowing the Palestinian merchants to buy some more items of food to get into Gaza and maybe some other stuff, I don’t know. But everything which is connected to raw materials for industry, for producing, anything connected to construction material is very limited. Nothing has changed. So adding ketchup, as somebody told me, does not make people feel that the blockade is over. Maybe now there are more types of shampoo that Israel will allow to enter. But anyway, in the past years, Palestinians have managed to bring in shampoo and some other hygiene products from Egypt through the tunnels. This is not the blockade.

The blockade is about being imprisoned in Gaza. This is the real closure. This is the real siege. And this is not going to change. Only today there was a court hearing of the petition of a Palestinian lawyer, woman lawyer, female lawyer, from Gaza who wants to complete her M.A. Studies at the University and the state does not allow her because they say when it comes to the passage, the movement of human beings, nothing has changed. They still do not allow or they haven’t been allowed anywhere for the past ten or fifteen years but evermore severely, they don’t allow the passage, the movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank except in some rare, very exceptional humanitarian cases. So this remains the same. This remains the same. also, Palestinians cannot export. Israel is talking only about bringing in products, not exporting. So even if Palestinians got raw materials, for example for textiles for furniture, the traditional industry that Gazans excel at, they are not allowed to export them. So they won’t earn a living. So Gaza is a huge prison where people are dependent on charity, some sort of charity. This situation is not going to change now, with Israel’s new measures.

AMY GOODMAN: Amira Hass, the meeting yesterday between Netanyahu and Obama came on the heels of the decision by the Israeli military prosecutor to take disciplinary and legal action in four separate cases in the Israeli assault on Gaza last year. Among them, a soldier charged with manslaughter in connection with the deaths of a Palestinian mother and daughter. Can you explain that story?

AMIRA HASS: There’s several—I have spoken to the family, I think it was the—second day or the first morning, the first day of the ground invasion where people understood that they should leave their homes and go from the east of Gaza more to the west, towards the city itself. There was a group of people, 30, 40 people, with children, with women. The whole area is an agricultural area, with scattered house, it is not heavily populated. They left with waving white flags and from a distance, I do not remember how many meters, 60, 70, 100, a tank stopped them then shot the mother and the daughter. The family couldn’t even bury them, they had to flee. They had to flee, they came back a week or 15 days later to recover the corpses. These are the mother and the daughter.

The same unit was in charge of the whole area and I have like many others and human rights field workers, we have researched all the measures of this unit over the area, the destruction of houses, the bombings, shellings, not allowing people to reach—to get rescued by medical teams. This has been the case all over this area and other places, but very strongly in this area, where the Samouni’s, a bit further to the west, the Samouni family, which you also mentioned, are a typical one—one of the most difficult cases of this onslaught. As you said, 29 people were killed. 21 or 22 of whom in the house to which the soldiers themselves ordered them to be in. So the soldiers knew very well there were civilians gathered in the house feeling secure because there were asked to be there. And what is very surprising is it took the army so long, a year and a half, to admit that something-–went wrong there-–even to according to their criteria. Because all the information was valid, was available from the start. From the start the information to at least suspect about what the soldiers were saying. Why wait so long? It seems not by surprise-–not by coincidence the announcement came yesterday just on the eve of Mr. Netanyahu’s meeting with Obama.

AMY GOODMAN: So the Samouni family, 29 killed in that family, the Israeli military told them to go into that house and then they struck the House?


AMY GOODMAN: The story of the Samouni family, the 29 members—

AMIRA HASS: This is just—it is in the same area where the other family, the mother and the daughter were killed. It’s the same unit. We see overall the practices of shooting at civilians from very short range, close range, shooting at people carrying white flags, not allowing rescue teams to arrive to the wounded, not allowing people to rescue their own relatives. Here in the Samouni family, the unique case, the soldiers were talking to the people. They were even talking in Hebrew because all of these people knew the man in the family spoke Hebrew because they were working in Israel for many years. This was-–in that particular case, it was an extreme in the standards of the onslaught on Gaza.

AMY GOODMAN: Could you also comment on the committee tasked by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate the nine deaths aboard the aid flotilla that was headed to Gaza? The head is going to be Philippe Kirsch, the former president of international criminal court.

AMIRA HASS: When was it published? When was it known? I did not follow it.

AMY GOODMAN: It just recently came out. But this meeting that is happening between Netanyahu and Obama its the first since then. In fact, Netanyahu was supposed to meet with Obama, but Netanyahu left in the midst of—right after the strike to return to Israel when the attack on the flotilla happened.

AMIRA HASS: He left?

AMY GOODMAN: This is the first meeting they’ve had since then. The fallout from that, Amira Hass?

AMIRA HASS: I am sorry, the line—

AMY GOODMAN: The fallout from the attack on the Gaza flotilla. It wasn’t mentioned yesterday, but what you think the fallout has been?

AMIRA HASS: I don’t know.

AMY GOODMAN: In the territories—

AMIRA HASS: Why it has not been mentioned?

AMY GOODMAN: No, what has been the fallout in Israel and Gaza?

AMIRA HASS: Look, right now people think it has calmed down. People are looking for, and politicians are looking for, ways to sort things out with Turkey, especially the military. I think the military cherishes, the relations—old relations with Turkey. I think they want to amend. They came yesterday with a story, some of the corpse posthumous analysis showed that some of the people-–there were some other bullets other than the military bullets. So they still keep to the version that it’s the Israeli soldiers who were attacked. So right now in Israel, the flotilla, people know it was a big political flop and military flop, too. But now you know events are tracing one after the other here. So right now there is not so much talk about the flotilla as there was two weeks ago or three weeks ago.

AMY GOODMAN: Well Amira Hass, I want to thank you for being with us, Ha’aretz correspondent for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, only Israeli journalist to have spent more than a decade living and reporting from Gaza and the West Bank. Thanks for being with us, she talked with us from Tel Aviv. This is Democracy Now!, we’ll be back in a moment.

Palestinian President Abbas Swings Behind Boycott Campaign

In Uncategorized on May 24, 2010 at 10:07 am

Oldspeak: Gandi boycotted British goods, King boycotted segregated buses, it’ll be interesting to see if this Palestinian boycott brings about positive change in their damnable conditions in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

(Reuters) – President Mahmoud Abbas Saturday swung behind a campaign to stop Palestinians buying goods produced by Israeli settlements in the West Bank, urging all Palestinians to shun the products.

Abbas dismissed Israeli accusations that the campaign amounted to incitement of hatred against the Jewish state — something the United States has urged him to prevent as it mediates indirect peace talks between the sides.

The 75-year old Palestinian leader opened his door to volunteers distributing leaflets detailing products from furniture to wine and soft drinks which the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority has banned from Palestinian markets.

“I call on all Palestinian citizens to do the same and to boycott these goods,” said Abbas, speaking in public for the first time about a campaign spearheaded by his prime minister, Salam Fayyad.

He put a sticker on his door declaring his house “free of settlement goods.”

“We are not inciting against Israel. We do not want to boycott goods coming from Israel,” he said, distinguishing between products produced by Israel and those made in settlements built on occupied land.

Palestinian consumers, their economy tied to Israel’s, depend on goods from Israel.

Israeli Finance Minister Yuval Steinitz said Friday the boycott was undermining the latest U.S. effort to advance the peace process.

“It’s not the right way to approach negotiations,” he told Israel’s Channel 1 TV channel, adding that settlement goods were often produced together with factories in Israel.

By banning settlement goods, the Palestinians hope to undermine the economic viability of the enclaves which pepper the West Bank. They also hope to encourage European Union member states to ban trade with enterprises in the settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.

Settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are home to some 500,000 Jews living among 3 million Palestinians. World powers view them as an obstacle to a peace deal that would create a Palestinian state next to Israel.

Abbas signed a presidential decree in April stipulating punishments ranging from fines to imprisonment for Palestinians dealing in settlement goods. The Palestinian Authority also aims to stop Palestinians from working in the Israeli enclaves.

Palestinian officials estimate the value of settlement goods sold in the Palestinian market at up to $500 million. The settlements employ around 25,000 Palestinians.

The United States this month started mediating indirect peace talks aimed at ending the decades-old conflict through the creation of a Palestinian state. President Barack Obama has warned both sides that they will be held accountable if either does anything that undermines the effort. The Palestinians take that to mean that Israel will refrain from declaring new building plans in East Jerusalem.