Posts Tagged ‘Palestine’

Dignity, justice: direct democracy

Zodwa Nsibande, from a post on South Africa’s Abahlali baseMjondolo, a shack dwellers movement:

In our days being involved in the struggle for change is no longer as popular as it was before simply because many people believe that because we had got rid of the oppressive government everything is now ok. But freedom was never just a case of replacing a white government with a black government. It was a case of building a different kind of society – a society that put human beings at the centre, a society in which there would be decent homes, decent work, decent schools and decent health care for everyone. It was a case of building a participatory democracy in which everyone’s voice and life would count the same irregardless of whether they were a woman or a man, black or white, gay or straight or poor or rich. In fact it was a case of building a society where poverty would be ended.

Those who think that the time of struggle is over are forgetting that we are still living under a kind of apartheid but that in this apartheid the difference is the people are divided by class. The gap between those who have and those who don’t have is huge and it is getting worse. Those who say that we must be patient are forgetting that things are getting worse for the poor and not better.

And here is a look at Spain’s days of protests in May of 2011.

By Siân Ruddick:

Mass demonstrations and protest camps have mushroomed across Spain as the young and the unemployed say “enough”. As many as 40 percent of Spain’s 4.5 million unemployed are under 25.

The economic crisis has brought further austerity and attacks on workers and the poor. But now the people are fighting back.

Unemployment runs at 21% in the country, 45% for those who are 18 to 25 years old.

Sokari Ekine writes about Uganda and Africa:

Uprisings continue across the continent, with Uganda being the latest country where citizens have taken to the streets in protest against rising food and energy prices.

[…]The protests have met with a violent response from the government of Yoweri Museveni, with police firing live bullets at crowds, beatings and mass arrests.

[…]Ndumba Jonnah Kamwanyah in the Southern Africa FBP likens Museveni to Egypt’s Mubarak with the same mindset and the same relationship with the West:

‘Typical of a mindset of a dictator, President Yoweri Museveni, who has been in power for 25 years, does not see the connection between the uprisings and his governing style. Instead his delusional mentality makes him see how indispensable he is to Uganda. Narcissistic is what he is, just like all dictators and autocratic leaders, and he does not care about what the Ugandan citizens think or want.’

Protest in Uganda

In Egypt, here’s a peek at May 20, Tahrir Square:

Hossam el-Hamalway in an interview:

The revolution was against the Mubarak regime but all we’ve managed to do so far is remove Mubarak himself. The ones running the country right now are Mubarak’s generals, who were the backbone of his dictatorship from day one.

[…]Attempts are already under way by middle-class activists to place limits on this revolution and ensure it remains only within the realm of formal political institutions.

[…]But the main part of any revolution has to be socio-economic emancipation for the citizens of a country; if you want to eliminate corruption or stop vote-buying then you have to give people decent salaries, make them aware of their rights and not leave them in dire economic need. A middle-class activist can return to his executive job after they think the revolution is over, but a public transport worker who has spent 20 years in service and is getting paid only 189 Egyptian pounds a month – you can’t ask this guy to go back to work and tell his starving kids at home that everything will be sorted out once we have a civilian government in the future.So this is phase two of the revolution, the phase of socio-economic change. What we need to do now is take Tahrir to the factories, the universities, the workplaces. In every single institution in this country there is a mini-Mubarak who needs to be overthrown. In every institution there are figures from the old state security regime who need to be overthrown. These guys are the counter-revolution.

And in Greece, according to Matthaois Tsimitakis:

The village of Keratea is a conservative and peaceful place, about an hour’s drive from Athens. When, a few months ago, the central government decided without consultation to create a garbage landfill destroying antiquities, polluting the environment and defying the European Commission’s rejection of the plan as unsustainable, Keratea erupted into violent confrontation with the police.

[…]The Keratea resistance is part of a series of low or higher intensity confrontations with the government, its preferred contractors and the repressive apparatus of state brought in to protect the corporations. Such local movements have spread all over the country for some time, defending public spaces against privatization (this has happened repeatedly in Athens where the last remaining green spots are consistently given over to construction companies), natural resources (the Canadian gold mining corporation TVX is facing a strong resistance movement in the North of the country), or protesting against the repeated corruption scandals.

Palestinian refugees marched to commemorate Nakba on May 15, the expulsion of hundreds of thousands from their homes in today’s occupied Palestine and Israel.

Karma Nabulsi has this to say:

It was the moment for which we had all been holding our breath for decades – for 63 years to be precise. Palestinians everywhere watched the unfolding scene transfixed and awed. The camera followed the movements of a small group of people advancing from the mass of protesters. They were carefully making their way down a hill towards the high fence that closed off the mined field separating Syria from its own occupied territory of the Golan that borders historic Palestine, now Israel.

They were mostly young Palestinians, drawn from the 470,000-plus refugee community in Syria: from Yarmouk refugee camp inside Damascus, from Khan el-Sheikh camp outside it, from Deraa and Homs refugee camps in the south, from Palestinian gatherings all over the country.

Slowly, and in spite of the shouted warnings from the villagers from Majdal Shams about the lethal landmines installed by the Israeli military right up to the fence, these remarkable ordinary young people – Palestinian refugees – began to both climb and push at the fence. We were going home.

It was a profoundly revolutionary moment, for these hundreds of young people entering Majdal Shams last Sunday made public the private heart of every Palestinian citizen, who has lived each day since 1948 in the emergency crisis of a catastrophe. Waiting, and struggling, and organising for only two things: liberation and return.

[…]On Sunday, this moment of return was enacted simultaneously in Haifa and among Palestinians displaced inside Israel, on the borders of Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, and Gaza, in the West Bank near the Qalandia refugee camp – wherever the more than 7 million stateless Palestinian refugees now live, very near their original villages and towns. Just out of sight, over the hill, across the border.

Moe Ali Nayel writes:

things will not be the same as before 15 May. Just like after Muhammad Bouazizi, things are not the same as before he shook the Arab world. The Arab people, us, the Arab youth, we are not going to let the status quocontinue, we are not going to be humiliated by our own people anymore. We are not going to let Palestine and the Palestinian people be humiliated and tortured every time they breathe.

We are freedom-loving people and we won’t live anymore on empty promises from our corrupt governments who use Palestine as a pretext to repress us while they enjoy stealing from our pockets. We won’t let them continue to make sure Israel is safe and sound, enjoying the beautiful land of Palestine, while hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees live in inhumane conditions in the camps.

In Portugal, on March 12 ” Upwards of 300,000 people took to the streets in Lisbon and other Portuguese cities on Saturday to protest job insecurity…”

In the UK, there have been cuts to education, health care and social spending after providing massive ‘bailouts’ to financial institutions that continue to pull in enormous profits. This has resulted in direct action, protests, and occupations of universities.

From We are the Third Force by S’bu Zikode of Abahlali baseMjondolo:

The community has realised that voting for parties has not brought any change to us.

[…]For us time has been a very good teacher. People have realised so many things. We have learnt from the past – we have suffered alone. That pain and suffering has taught us a lot. We have begun to realise that we are not supposed to be living under these conditions.

And here’s a little song courtesy of Nina Simone:


Odd assortment of barred goods to Gaza

“Newspapers, tea, A4 paper and chocolate are among the items that have at one point been barred,” from entry into the Gaza strip, writes the Economist. Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization has a recent partial list of barred and permitted goods into Gaza.

Gisha’s site provides helpful answers to frequently questions regarding the blockade.

The long siege of Gaza

The Gaza Strip has been under siege for a long time. As a result, people are out of jobs, have trouble finding adequate housing, healthcare has suffered, unemployment risen, and the economy taken a lethal beating.

Gaza is densely packed with some 1.5 million people. The Majority of Gazans are refugees who fled or were expelled from the land that is today Israel following the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Over 3/4 of residents are registered refugees. Most Gazans live in refugee camps.

Over half of these refugees live in eight large camps. These camps depend on UN deliveries of aid for food, health, and education.

The UN states that:

The refugee camps in the Gaza Strip have among the highest population densities in the world. For example, over 80,688 refugees live in Beach camp whose area is less than one square kilometer. This high population density is reflected in the overcrowded UNRWA schools and classrooms.

In February 2009 The Word Health Organization assessed the damage following the 2008-2009 Israeli invasion of Gaza, and found that nearly half of health facilities assessed were damaged or destroyed during the attack. The same report indicated that during the war, over 430 children and 112 women were killed, while nearly 1900 children and about 800 women were injured.

The siege and suffering of the people of Gaza has been long lasting.

The BMJ medical journal published a survey in 2002 indicating that, in the Gaza Strip, “13% of children under 5 years old were suffering from short term malnutrition and almost 18% had long term malnutrition—compared with a level of about 2% in countries that the World Health Organization defines as having moderate malnutrition.” Things are bad when almost a third of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition.

Since the 2007 Hamas takeover of Gaza, Israel has greatly intensified the blockade of the Gaza Strip, cutting off the region from the outside world, and reducing to a trickle access to essential supplies.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released a report in May 2010 that found “46% of agricultural lands were assessed to be inaccessible or out of production in Gaza.

The FAO report further states that:

The  Agriculture  Sector  in  the Gaza  Strip  has  the  potential  to  export  2300  tons  of strawberries,  55  million  carnation  flowers,  and  714  tons  of  cherry  tomatoes  per annum  in addition  to  locally consumed products. There has been close  to zero export  activity  due  to  restrictions  since  the  blockade.  Exceptions  to  these  export restrictions  during  the  last  winter  season  presented  little  change  with  only  2%  of strawberries and 25% of  cut  flowers of  the  total pre‐blockade potential  for export.

[…]Since January 2009, fishers’ access to fishing grounds has been further restricted to 3 nautical miles (nm) from the shore. This has resulted in a depletion of catches and revenues.

In Gaza, the majority of profits from fishing come from sardines, however, schools of sardine pass beyond the 3 nm mark and sardine catches are down 72%.

Adult  fish are mostly  found beyond  the 3 nm  limit and  therefore  fishing within  the current  zone  rapidly  depletes new  generations of  fish, with  severe  implications  for fish life‐cycles and therefore long‐term fishing livelihoods. (The previous fishing zone was 6‐9 nm before  ‘Cast Lead’, 12 nm from Bertini Commitments, and 20 nm under the Oslo Accords.

A World Bank report from 2008 indicates that “according to business associations in Gaza, the current restrictions have led to the suspension of 96% of Gaza’s industrial operations.”

Most Gazan industries are export-oriented and have purchase and supply contracts with Israeli and other firms. Gazan manufacturers rely almost entirely on imports for their inputs and until recently, about 76% of their furniture products, 90% of their garments and 20% of their food products were exported to Israel, and some to the West Bank.

Israeli forces kill civilians carrying aid shipments to Gaza

At least 10 civilians were killed, and many more injured, by Israeli commandos boarding a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza on Monday, May 31.

The Gaza Strip is under an Israeli blockade, with all its points of entry monitored and controlled by Israeli officials. The siege has stiffened following the 2007 takeover of Gaza by Hamas and the Israeli war on the Strip that killed some 1,500 people in 2008-2009.

The aid ships carried over 600 activists and 10,000 tonnes of supplies. Among the activists were some members of parliament (MPs). After leaving Turkey, the flotilla was to pick up more passengers in Cyprus, including 30 MPs from nine European countries, but traffic to and from the flotilla was denied by authorities in Cyprus.

Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Israel and has called for a session of the UN Security Council. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on a state visit to Canada at the time and was scheduled to visit the US next. He has canceled his foreign trip and returned to Israel to face the political crisis that has resulted from the deaths of so many international civilians under the Israeli Defense Force.

Greece has ended its joint war games with Israel, while ambassadors are being recalled or questioned in multiple countries, such as Sweden recalling its ambassador to Israel as protest.

Prime minister Erdogan of Turkey has responded to today’s attack, saying that “This attack made by Israel is a state terror. Actual Israeli government demonstrated that it does not want peace in the region. It should be known that we will not keep silent and unreactive facing this state terror.”

Turkey has been one of Israel’s few regional allies, though relations have become increasingly strained following the 2008-2009 war against Gaza.

Israel claims that upon boarding the ships they were attacked by activists wielding clubs and knives and fired live rounds in response, as a form of self-defence. Eight members of the military are said to be wounded.

Juan Cole writes that:

It is being alleged by members of Free Gaza that the aid ships were boarded in international waters and that Israel contravened the UN international convention on freedom of navigation on the high seas. Although the Israeli press refers to the waters off Gaza as “Israeli territorial waters,” in fact Israel has no legal claim to the Gaza coast. It is the Occupying power in Gaza since 1967, but is in severe contravention of the 1949 Geneva Convention on the treatment of occupied populations.

Thousands of people are protesting the incident around the world, outside Israeli and sometimes US consulates. On Monday, some 300 protesters in Turkey tried to storm the Israeli consulate but were repelled by security forces. The number of protesters has since grown.

Amnesty International’s response:

For nearly three years, Israel, which is the occupying power in the Gaza Strip, has implemented a policy of banning all movement of goods and people, except for the most basic humanitarian necessities, which are imported by international aid agencies. Only a fraction of patients in need of treatment outside Gaza are allowed out, and dozens have died waiting for Israeli permission to travel.

“The blockade does not target armed groups but rather punishes Gaza’s entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials,” said Malcolm Smart.

“Unsurprisingly, its impact falls most heavily on those most vulnerable among Gaza ’s 1.5 million people: children, the elderly and the sick. The blockade constitutes collective punishment under international law and must be lifted immediately.”

Interview with Amira Hass

Below is a video of an interview with Amira Hass, an excellent Israeli journalist who writes for Ha’aretz.

The video covers a detailed bio, including the experience of her family during the Holocaust, moves to her inspiration for writing, then to her work in Palestine and in Israel.

Economy and territory in the West Bank

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Last week I received a link to a video outlining infrastructure development in the West Bank as the backbone of a plan for economic development. The video is a component of a report by RAND Corporation, a think tank established by the US armed forces.

The plan, called The Arc, suggests it can help both as an instrument to peace between Palestine and Israel but also as a means of maintaining or encouraging peaceful coexistence. Watch the video at RAND and have a look at The Arc’s page.

In RAND’s words: “Presenting key aspects of the Arc, this video explores options for strengthening the physical infrastructure for a new Palestinian state.”

I feel that this plan assumes too much; one of the glaring problems is that the West Bank is in great part under the authority of Israel, and the Palestinians are enclosed in small, discontinuous islands. See the map below:


Compare this to this other representation that more clearly shows the outer border:


Below is a quote of what I received as an anonymous comment in an email discussion regarding the RAND video, and I would like to share it here:

i think the rand proposal is poor – and not just because it doesnt even nod toward the present reality so very different from that outlined…
– foremost the model is overly-enamoured with itself and would eventually direct too much growth and development along the new trunk (for example, it proposes the seat of local government be placed beside the new rail hub), at the expense of the historic cities, which the plan assumes offhand will be ‘revitalised’ without explaining how…
– it ignores what will be a natural impulse of the people to tend toward jerusalem and greater jerusalem (ramallah and bethlehem) as the centre of growth (as well as nablus as a secondary centre)… and also ignores that this natural impulse toward a strong centre(s) has immense power as a growth driver, as creative/professional/academic/industry/social clusters are more able to reach critical mass when aggregated together…
– it assumes [that] gaza’s airport should be revived, when there is a strong case for also reviving the airport southwest of ramallah
– it completely fails to address how it will be implemented in gaza, where the challenge of managing post-colonial development is much more fraught…
– but i like the idea of an infrastructure corridor, and i like the idea of a rail connection, including to gaza…

Letter from Gaza: John Berger reads Ghassan Khanafani’s letter

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John Berger’s reading of Ghassan Khanafani’s “Letter from Gaza.” From an address to the Palestine Festival of Literature in 2008.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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