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Israeli Government Begins Legal Attacks on American Organizations

September 20, 2011

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minster Danny Ayalon has just confirmed during an interview with Israel’s Channel 10 that the Israeli government is officially sponsoring a lawsuit against the Olympia Food Coop in Olympia, Washington. Olympia Foods has been boycotting Israeli products in protest of the Occupation since their board of directors decided to do so in July 2010.

Electronic Intifada and Richard Silverstein had previously reported that pro-Israel organization StandWithUs and the Israeli Consul General in the US had some part in initiating the suit, pointing out that both had be present at the initial hearings.

Richard Silverstein’s latest post offers up the details.


Angling For Crisis – The Real Value of Going to the UN

September 18, 2011

Update: I recommend reading the comments that follow this post. They offer complimentary and alternative perspectives that should be considered.

As the meeting of the UN General Assembly and Palestine’s bid for UN recognition approaches, the governments of Israel, Europe, the United States, and the Arab world, and their respective journalists, pundits, and commentators have offered widely varied analysis. Four basic theses emerge: 1. That the US and Europe should do everything they can to get the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) off this track, perhaps by demanding that Israel become more flexible; 2. That the US is strategically and morally obligated to support the Palestinians; 3. That the Palestinian Authority’s scheme is a fools errand that will accomplish nothing for the Palestinians. And 4. That the reckless and impatient Palestinians are trying to find a way to avoid dealing directly with Israel.

Every one of these positions fails to illustrate the true value of the Palestinian strategy: the creation of a much-need diplomatic crisis.

In his thorough and authoritative text on the diplomatic history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, William Qaundt of the Brookings Institute demonstrates that American policy direction is largely fixed, and often passive, until a crisis erupts and forces policy makers to change tack. In the event of a crisis:

Previous policies may well be exposed as flawed or bankrupt. Reality no longer accords with previous expectations. In such a situation a new structure of perceptions is likely to emerge…Between crisis, as is noted, it is difficult to bring about changes in policies that were forged in crisis and have the stamp of presidential approval. (pages 19-20)

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Social Justice in Al-Walaja

August 15, 2011

Israeli journalist Amira Hass has recently published an excellent piece on the last weekly demonstration in the Palestinian village of Al-Walaja.  It recounts how IDF soldiers established a “closed military zone” in an area that included part of Jerusalem, and arrested Israeli protestors on sovereign Israeli territory, both of which are against Israeli law. She also points out that the Army Spokesperson’s account diverges from the events that actually took place.

According to the spokesperson:

“The rioters threw stones at IDF forces and refused to obey the security forces’ directives. Some 11 protesters leading the rioting were arrested and charged with throwing stones, and they were taken away to be dealt with by the Israel Police and the Border Police.”

Hass, then explains that no rocks were thrown in the village until after the protestors were arrested. She points out that the actual charges filed against the protestors did not include stone throwing”

“Arrest notices were shown to them (which they refused to sign ): The 11 Israelis were arrested for ‘rioting and violating a closed military zone order’ (and without stone-throwing being attributed to them, contrary to the IDF spokesman’s response ).”

This is account is particularly relevant given the frequency with which the Israeli Government uses stone throwing as a basis for using riot control methods against Palestinian demonstrators. The leaders of both the Nabi Saleh, and Bil’in movements, for example, have been given long prison sentences for inciting youth to throw stones. Israeli Lawyers for the accused have challenged the military courts, saying that the rulings are based on false testimonies extracted from Palestinian youths who have been forced to confess through inhumane treatment.

For those unfamiliar with the town of Al-Walaja, I recommend reading this brief history before reading Hass’s piece:

The majority of the Al-Walaja’s residents are refugees who fled from their homes during the 1948 war and were not permitted to return. The affected families lived in temporary housing, usually tents, for over a decade before building more permanent structures. After Israel took control of the West Bank in the 1967 war, the state annexed 72 sq. km. to Jerusalem, 64 sq. km. of which had not previously been considered part of that city. Part of Al-Walaja falls within those expanded municipal borders.

Israel considers the refugee’s homes to be illegal built because the owners never secured a building permit, even though much of the construction took place before Israel expanded its sovereignty to the area. The Israeli courts, therefore, have permitted Israeli developers to demolish the housing in order to build a new settlement called Har Gilo, effectively threatening the residents of the town with the prospect becoming refugees a second time.

Parts of the towns population, recently with support from internationals and a few sympathetic Israelis, have been protesting the demolition of their homes, the construction of the Separation Wall through the village, and the acquisition of their lands by developers.

Abbas Calls for Expansion of Palestinian Popular Struggle

August 3, 2011

The relationship between the Palestinian popular resistance movements and the Palestinian Authority (PA) has so far been a difficult one. Demonstrations that start within Area A (Palestinian jurisdiction) and approach Israeli installations have put the PA security forces in the awkward position of having to stop its own people from non-violently resisting occupation, and the leadership that could emerge from popular movements potentially threaten established political elites. The PA has therefore supported movements with resources and attention on the one hand, but has handicapped them by dramatically limiting their forms of expression on the other.

The PA leadership must be aware, however, that it cannot indefinitely pursue a diplomatic track with the Israelis that has failed to yield any gains the Palestinian people find significant in the twenty years since it began. Statements from PA officials over the last few months, and from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas most recently, suggest that the political leadership is preparing to switch from a negotiation-based paradigm to one focused primarily on popular resistance.

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Popular Resistance Part II – What’s cooking in Palestine

July 31, 2011

Protester Stands up to the Skunk

Protester in Bil'in stands up to "the skunk" - Anne Paq/

Despite the tardy realizations of the American and European media, Palestinian popular resistance has been occurring in the West Bank almost every week for more than six years, the vast majority of it non-violent. Villages like  Budrus, Bil’in, and more recently Nabi Saleh, have received some international attention for their activities. Yet at least five other towns have engaged in their own, independent struggles against whatever the most pressing manifestation of the occupation that happens to be in their area. These local struggles, while occasionally successful, have so far failed to coalesce into a national movement with the potential to pose a serious challenge to the occupation. They have, however, created a body of organizing and problem-solving experience that may soon become a resource for something bigger.

At the same time, international movements, most prominently the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and the two Gaza Flotilla operations conducted by activists this year and last, have also begun to grow and refine themselves.  The BDS movement has grown impressively over the past number of years, and while it may have not had a significant impact on Israel’s economy, it has certainly helped to establish a global network of committed activists. A range of smaller international solidarity initiatives like the annual olive tree planning and olive picking programs, have had a similar albeit limited effect.

The first and second flotillas are early examples of the kind of action such a global network can facilitate. Activists were able to channel what must have been millions of dollars into a complex and tightly organized challenge to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. And then they did it again, resisting considerably more intense Israeli pressure up until the last moment. This type of massive, global, collaborative action is new to the Palestinian struggle, and it will undoubtedly continued to grow.

What we are beginning to see now is the integration of these phenomena, however slow and troubled. The network created by the BDS, Flotilla, and other international solidarity projects is beginning to collaborate with Palestinians engaged in direct action on the ground.  On July 8th, almost 700 Pro-Palestinian activists descended on Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport and announced their intention to visit Palestine, provoking what many consider to be an over-reaction from Israel (though probably more in terms of rhetoric than action; Netanyahu found a way to suggest that a rather small event was an challenge to Israeli’s existence). Many of the international coordinators were veterans of previous pro-Palestine movements like BDS. Israel was able to blunt the action by stopping most of the activists from boarding their planes in their home countries, but a number were able to get through and participate in a week of non-violent demonstrations against the occupation.

The action’s tactical successes may have been limited, but its organizational implications should not be underestimated. Over the course of about seven months, fifteen Palestinian, West Bank-based, civil society organizations (which eventually grew to forty) coordinated with teams in twenty-two Western countries, including the United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany, to orchestrate the mass arrival of activists. The core organizational team, which included both Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line and one or two Israelis, helped to assemble an organizational machine involving support from the business community, including hotels and bus companies. This has spawned a living infrastructure that, like all successful movements, will learn from its mistakes and be more prepared the next time.

This, according to one of the organizers, was largely the point. Palestinians and their supporters have spent considerable time discussing possible movements and there was little left that could have been discovered without actually organizing and executing actions. Experience, institutional knowledge, and opportunities for refinement are what were needed, and the next set of actions will benefit. All movements struggle with disagreements between often highly opinionated participants, and Palestinian movements are no different. Stronger leadership and more effective organizational structures evolve through practice. Organizers will learn how keep their plans tightly coordinated while also maximizing investment by participants, the media that accompanies actions will be more effectively controlled, and relationships that media representatives have begun to cultivate with the press will become stronger and more fruitful.

Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon Video is a Rejection of Peace

July 29, 2011

In this recent video released by the Israel Government, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, argues that the West Bank is not occupied, but that it is disputed.

The story Ayalon tells is as much of a half-truth as anyone would expect from a propaganda video. Anyone interested to read a few examples of Ayalon’s twisted facts can find them at the bottom of this post.

More significant than Ayalon’s manipulation of history, however, is his implication that Israel simply does not have to find a solution for its conflict with the Palestinians. The Deputy Foreign Minister can argue all he wants that Israel has a legitimate claim to the West Bank, but that will never address the far more fundamental question of what is to be done with the 2.5 million Palestinians that live there. The most elemental demand of Palestinians is that they are granted full civil and human rights either in their own state or in Israel. If Israel isn’t planning to allow for the creation of a viable, sovereign Palestinian state, and it isn’t planning to absorb millions of Palestinians into its citizenry, they how can it possibly hope to achieve peace?

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Christian Leader Sets the Record Straight about Muslims and Non-Violence

July 28, 2011

Sami Awad, the Executive Director of the Holy Land Trust in Bethlehem, has just penned an inspiring Op-Ed in the Huffington Post titled, Palestinian Nonviolence: Muslims, not Christians, are the Leaders.

One of the first and immediate questions I get from foreign visitors to my office in Bethlehem is, “What you said is good, but what about the Muslims? Do they also believe in nonviolence? Do they understand it?” Even if I don’t mention religion in my presentation — and I rarely do — this question always seems to make its way in our discussions.

Awad, a Palestinian Christian, responds by explaining that Palestinian Muslims don’t just understand non-violent resistance, they are also primary leaders of it:

The men and women organizing the protests each week in villages where land is being confiscated and the separation wall is being built, chaining themselves to olive trees so they don’t get uprooted and laying in front of bulldozers are Muslims. When we organize protests that fall on Christian holidays, like an Easter protest or the Palm Sunday march to Jerusalem, 90 percent of the protestors were Muslims, standing in solidarity with the rights of the Christian brothers and sisters to pray in Jerusalem. Many Muslims, some of whom are my closest friends, like Basim and Naji Tamimi from a small village called Nabi Saleh whom I have worked with and trained with for years, are now locked up in Israeli prisons because of their nonviolent actions.

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