Sunday, June 12, 2011

Everybody Loves a Parade

Everyone, young or old, loves a parade. It's a great opportunity to declare pride in your country, your religion or some political ideal. If the route of your march takes you through enemy territory then so much the better - you can rub their noses in your strength and superiority.

Each year, on June 1st, Israelis commemorate the establishment of Israeli control over all of Jerusalem following their victory in the 1967 war. In what has been called "A state-supported display of racism and hatred" thousands of Zionists parade through the streets, singing and  dancing, celebrating their victory. This year the parade received official permission to deviate through the Palestinian neighbourhoods of East Jerusalem and the Old City in order, it must be assumed, to further taunt and humiliate the indigenous inhabitants. Mobs of Israel's finest youth didn't disappoint: they congregated outside the mosque in Sheikh Jarrah chanting "Muhammad is dead", "Slaughter the Arabs" and "May your village burn down".

The depressing footage can be seen on YouTube at:

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From Bil'in to Benghazi

Good mates: Burlesquoni and Gaddafi (with Amazonian Guard).

 Reports are coming out of Libya that the city of Benghazi is under the control of protesters seeking to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi, the vicious – some say deranged – ruler of that country.  Surrounded by his 40-strong Amazonian Guard of supposed virgins and attended by his voluptuous blonde Ukrainian personal nurse, outfitted like a mediaeval potentate, Gaddafi is a figure of fun to many in the West. Yet his risible posturings and pronouncements should not blind us to the fact that he has, for 42 years, crushed all dissent in Libya with utter brutality. The death toll in Libya grows daily; the dead join their fellow Egyptian and Tunisian martyrs for whom the incentives of freedom and justice were more powerful than fear for their lives.

Elsewhere in the Middle East and North Africa the seeds of revolution against oppression are stirring. During their years of servitude under whichever dictator, king or unelected president was in power the people had an example, an inspiration, to which they could turn. For 43 years the Palestinian people have resisted the military occupation of their land by a foreign invader. From armed resistance to peaceful protest – both crushed with ruthless and disproportionate force – the Palestinian people have been a beacon to their Arab neighbours, indeed, to freedom loving people worldwide.

Last Friday the villagers of Bil’in in the Occupied West Bank celebrated the sixth year of their struggle against the Apartheid Wall and Israeli Occupation. Every Friday for the past six years people from the village, together with Israeli and international supporters, have marched to the Wall, behind which lies half the village lands, confiscated for Israeli colony settlements. (So blatant is the land grab that three years ago even Israel’s High Court of Justice ruled that the path of the Wall is illegal and must be re-routed. To no avail – not one inch of land has been returned to its owners.) The marchers are met by brutal force – arrests, beatings, water cannon and teargas are the usual methods employed.

The village of Bil’in also has its martyrs. The most recent was 36 year old Jawaher Abu Rahma, who died of toxic teargas inhalation in January. She joined her brother Bassem, killed 18 months ago, shot at close range by an Israeli soldier while peacefully protesting. Across Occupied Palestine and in Gaza the killings go on but the thirst for freedom and justice is undiminished. The resistance continues, an example to the world.

* For Robert Fisk's report go to:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Egyptian Miracle

Two good old buddies holding hands in better times. One is history, the other feels the reins of power slipping, after 30 years of despotic rule, from between his clenched fingers.

Who could have predicted that the Egyptian people might depose this tyrant? Mubarak, the American puppet who has lived in luxury while his people have starved, propped up by a corrupt and vicious police apparatus, who sacrificed his country's honour for a shameful peace with Israel, feels the ground shifting beneath his feet. He is not yet gone, but his departure looks immanent.

When asked to predict the future of Palestine/Israel, Uri Avnery, founder of Gush Shalom (the Israeli Peace Bloc), remarked that unforseen and wholly unexpected events sometimes occur, changing the course of history. In modern times people power has swept the Shah of Persia from his perch and toppled the Berlin wall; in each case the dreaded Savak and the Stasi, powerful and repressive secret police forces, proved powerless to halt the will of the people.

Can something similar happen in Occupied Palestine? Sadly, no. In Tunisia, Egypt and in East Germany the armed forces were, finally, unwilling to fire upon their fellow countrymen. In the West Bank and Gaza the Israel Defence (sic) Force has shown itself more than willing to punish dissent and unarmed resistance with brutal, uncommensurate force. To IDF soldiers these are not their countrymen but a subject, lesser people, underlings not deserving of the same human rights as Israelis.

Still, don't despair. Who knows what lies around the corner? These are interesting times.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mabrouk Wadi Rahhal

Mabrouk Wadi Rahhal

Today, Friday 14th May, the small farming village of Wadi Rahhal, just south of Bethlehem, held its first demonstration against the theft of its lands by the massive Jewish colony/settlement of Efrat. In particular, the villagers were objecting to the planned encroachment of the apartheid wall to within 30 metres of the village school. Regular incursions by armed settlers and Israeli troops have not previously brought forth this kind of response from the village.

It is in this central region that the cancerous growth of settlements is most noticeable. Lands annexed to various settlements have come close to splitting the West Bank in two, making a future, contiguous Palestinian state an impossibility. The Wall, both built and planned, completely ignores the "Green Line", the previously accepted eastern border of the Israeli state.

Today's demonstration was organised by the National Committee of Wadi Rahhal and is intended to become a regular event. It was supported by villagers from nearby Beit Ummar, together with a small group of Israeli activists and Australian, Canadian and United States supporters from the International Solidarity Movement and the Palestine Solidarity project. A notable feature was the number of school children marching alongside their elders.

The well-organised group of 70 to 80 demonstrators marched to within metres of Efrat's present boundary, where they were met by a heavily-armed squad of Israeli Occupation Force soldiers. Leaders of the protest spoke in Arabic and Hebrew, announcing the peaceful and non-violent nature of the demonstration and appealing to the troops not to initiate a violent response. An international activist, speaking on behalf of the ISM, PSP and Israeli supporters present, affirmed their solidarity with the Palestinian people, who have endured 43 years of military occupation and called for three cheers for a Free Palestine. The demonstrators then dispersed, with no casualties suffered, ending a successful, peaceful and non-violent demonstration.
* Reporting live from Occupied Palestine

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mosque gutted by fire

Mosque gutted by fire.

The small village of Al Libban (Libban al Sharquia) sits in rolling hills planted with olive trees, approximately half way between Ramallah and Nablus. The villagers are simple fellahin - farmers - growing wheat and fruit in addition to their olive trees. The pride of the village is the central mosque, an impressive, large structure, built in 1977 and the only mosque currently in operation.

That was, until the night of Tuesday 4th May when fire gutted the mosque's interior, destroying carpets, furniture, numerous Korans and the building's fixtures and fittings. The visitor now witnesses a scene of total devastation. The blackened walls, floor and ceiling have a nighmarish quality and it is hard to imagine that this was once a beautiful, light-filled and serene place of worship. Local children have attempted to assert their defiance by scrawling such slogans as "Allah Akbar" onto the blackened tiles on the walls.

An Israeli Occupation spokesperson has suggested that the fire may have been caused by an electrical fault, a suggestion described as "a joke" by villagers.  Situated as it is, close by the Jewish colony/settlements of Shilo, Male Livona and Bet El, Al Libban has long been the target of settler aggression and violence. Anothe mosque, in nearby Huwwara, has been vandalised in recent weeks, suggesting an emerging pattern of targeting mosques for desecration.

The cost of repairing and renovating the gutted building has been put at 500,000 shekels (about AU$175,000) an enormous sum for such an impoverished community. Nevertheless, the villagers are determined to regain their mosque as a functioning place of worship, just as they are determined not to be driven from their homes and their lands by Israel's policy - and practice - of ethnic cleansing.

Reporting from Occupied Palestine

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Two little girls

The grave of Maasa and Janaa

 "Shaheed"(martyr) poster of the sisters

Reporting from Occupied Palestine
We stopped by the roadside at the spot where the two little girls had been killed. Their blood still stained the cushion on which they had been sitting, fragments of the military jeep which had rammed their father's tractor still littered the ground. Janaa Emad (8), her sister Maasa (5) and their brother Hussein (9) never saw what hit them as they waited for their father to take them from the family fields to their home in the small village of Al Ain al Baida in the northern Jordan Valley. Al Ain al Baida (the White Spring) is one of the few remaining Palestinian villages here. Its inhabitants scratch a living from what remains to them of their lands in this fertile and beautiful area.

That April day Emad Fakha had taken three of his four children to help in the fields after school, something they enjoyed, a treat. The children had climbed into the "basket" on the ground at the rear of the tractor, ready to be lifted up. Emad was preparing to start the motor when an Israeli military jeep swerved off the road, at speed, and rammed into the tractor from behind. While Hussein was thrown clear and suffered only a broken leg, the little girls didn't stand a chance. With the body of one sister draped obscenely over its front bumper, the jeep reversed for five or six metres and then rammed once again into the tractor. What might have been a tragic accident is thus revealed for what it was - a cold-blooded murder.

Their jeep undriveable and so unable to escape, the soldiers threatened Emad with their rifles. More soldiers arrived but it was 25 minutes before the Israeli police reached the scene. The soldiers claimed that it was "an accident", but Israeli citizen Eliazer Salam, from the settlement at Yama, who had witnessed the entire incident from his car, testified that the jeep driver had not applied his brakes at any stage and had, indeed, swerved off the road and accelerated into the tractor.

The jeep's driver was arrested but there has been no news that he is to face any charges in a court of law. When I asked the family whether there would be an inquest (explaining that this was the usual procedure in Western, democratic countries) they didn't understand the term.  They have no recourse to the protection of the law, as we know it. Far from protecting the civilian population of the territories which they occupy, as required under international law, the Israeli military brutalises and preys upon a helpless people.

Recent similar incidents in the Nablus region - at Awarta and in Jenin - where Israeli military vehicles have been used to run down pedestrians and ram a civilian car, with fatal consequences, seem to point to an emerging pattern. The psychopathic tendencies of certain members of the Israel Defence (sic) Force have found an outlet.

Meanwhile, a single, small grave has been dug in the graveyard at Al Ain al Baida.  It houses the remains of two small sisters, their severed limbs and bodies buried as one, together forever under the sun, clouds and rain of their beloved Palestine.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Bassem's Anniversary

Friday 16th April marked a special day in the history of BilĂ­n's popular resistance to the apartheid wall which encroaches onto village lands. A year ago one of the leaders of the struggle, the much-loved Bassem Abu Ramah, was killed by a teargas cannister fired at short range by an Israeli soldier.

The anniversary of his death was commemorated with marching bands and speeches remembering Bassem by local leaders and visiting dignitaries. When these eventually came to an end many villagers, accompanied by ISM and other international volunteers and a sizeable contingent of Israeli anarchists, and others, marched to the wall. They were met by a small squad of Israeli Occupation Force soldiers, who fired tear gas cannisters and rubber-coated steel bullets into the crowd. Being downwind, many of the marchers suffered from tear gas inhalation and the demonstrators soon dispersed.

The Friday demonstration has become such an established event that it now attracts a variety of people seeking to take advantage of the opportunity it offers: small boys sell embroidered purses and other handicrafts, an icecream seller plies his trade and Big Cheeses from the Palestine Authority sometimes make an appearance. This Friday one dignitary was chauffered towards the vicinity of the wall in a shiny silver four-wheel drive, and back again after having suffered a mild affliction of tear gas. The rest, including women, children and the elderly chose a more traditional form of locomotion - they walked.

While the villagers welcome any displays of interest or solidarity from representatives of their elected government (oops, hang on that's Hamas) there is a perception amongst some that the Palestinian Authority is merely a "second Occupation".