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 Bilín'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".

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Abu Dia

Abu Dia, 50 years old , his weatherbeaten face a testament to a life spent working under the hot sun, lies on a farrsha in the living room of his house in the village of Tammun. For the past three weeks he has been able to move about only with difficulty, and in pain.

Before dawn on March 14 he waited, as usual, at the Hamra checkpoint, together with a number of other agricultural labourers, to be picked up and driven to his work at the Jewish colony/settlement of Miswa, further south in the Jordan Valley of Occupied Palestine. He and his fellow workers earn 90 Israeli sheckels (around $30) for a day's work, for most of them their sole means of income. Of this, 30 sheckels goes on transport.

Suddenly, seeing an approaching army jeep and knowing what lay in store, the workers began to run. Abu Dia, being older, could not make his escape and was seized by the soldiers, seven or eight of whom formed a circle while one of them knocked him to the ground and commenced to kick him senseless. They left him there and drove off. He was taken to a medical clinic in the town of Tubas, where he was diagnosed with a broken ankle and extensive bruising. The medical staff recommended that he be hospitalised but he chose to return home where, unable to afford medication or further treatment, he has remained until now, unable to walk and unable to work.

Abu Dias, his wife and four children, face a bleak future. Poor villagers such as them depend on whatever employment they can pick up, especially now that much of their lands have been confiscated for the ever-expanding colonial settlements.   Abu Dias has worked for many years at Miswa, where he is regarded as a capable and willing worker, but now he fears for his safety while waiting for his employer to pick him up at the infamous checkpoint, which has been the scene of other brutal attacks by sadists wearing the uniform of the Israeli Defence (sic) Forces.

Reporting live from Occupied Palestine.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Just Another Day

Sunday, 4 April
Reporting from Occupied Palestine

It is Sunday but, like every other day of the week, Nasser Ghawe sits with his wife and three small children on the street verge opposite his house in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem. From the outside the house appears rundown but it is in a select area of the city, just around the corner from the American Colony Hotel, the USA consulate and the British Council.

Since 1956 the building has been home to the Ghawe family, refugees from the village of Sarafud, near Ramle. It was built by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) on vacant Palestinian land to house victims of the 1948 Nakba – the first ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

In 1967 the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza came under Israeli military occupation. Five years later settler organisations commenced claims to gain title to the property and, in 2009, the Ghawe family received their first eviction order. Despite being able to produce documents dating back 110 years to Ottoman times, proving Palestinian ownership of the land, successive Israeli courts have found against the Ghawes.

In August 2009 a gang of settlers broke into the house and commenced smashing the furniture. The Israeli police supported their action. Indeed, the head of the police squad took the house key, kissed it and presented it to the settlers. The extended Ghawe family of 37, including 20 children, were arrested and detained for 6 hours before being evicted into the street.  The settlers then moved in.

The family has maintained its vigil outside their home, summer and winter, since then. The tents they have put up have been pulled down sixteen times by the police, who have told the Ghawes that they are not welcome in Jerusalem and should move “To Jordan or some other Arab country”. Despite these vicissitudes the Ghawes, together with supporters from Israel and around the world maintain their vigil, knowing that the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem cannot continue unopposed.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Qaramat Bani Hassan

Friday 2 April
Reporting from Occupied Palestine

A group of internationals , including two ISM activists, joined sympathisers and supporters from Jerusalem and other parts of the West Bank in assisting the villagers of Qarawat Bani Hassan repair and rehabilitate the historic natural springs which lie in the nearby Wadi Qana. The springs which issue at the base of the wadi feed into a series of reservoirs cut into the stone, said to date from Roman times.

From time immemorial they have been the source of water for those villagers without their own wells. Today the springs and their surroundings, a location of outstanding natural beauty, are the most important cultural heritage for the village. They also provide water for agriculture and shepherding.

Situated between Ramallah and Nablus, Qarawat Bani Hassan has the misfortune to be surrounded by a number of settler colonies, including Nofim, Yaqir, Revava, Kiryat Netafim and the most recent and closest, Havat Yaáir. (This last one "appeared overnight"). Settlers routinely trespass onto village lands and two weeks previously, in an act of deplorable vandalism, emptied sacks of cement and steel mesh into one of the Roman-era tanks. This followed upon the previous dynamiting of a nearby cave which, too, contained a natural spring and pool.

On this Friday the villagers and their supporters laboured under a hot sun to clean out the reservoirs, build dry stone walls nearby and bring the site back to its original condition. They were interrupted twice by groups of settlers from Havat Yaáir attempting to access the area. A confrontation was avoided only when the villagers returned to their work and ignored the presence of the intruders who, after a short time, returned to their colony on the overlooking hilltop. The presence of international and other observers armed with cameras undoubtedly deterred the settlers, on this occasion, from any further acts of vandalism.

Sunday, March 14, 2010


Palestinian child with photo of Sheikh Yassin

Australians still wait to hear Kevin Rudd or his Foreign Minister Stephen Smith condemn the murder of Hamas official Mahmoud al-Mahboub. Their focus continues to be on the use of three (oops, now four) forged Australian passports by the suspected killers linked to the Israeli spy agency, Mossad. As Patrick O'Connor pointed out on the World Socialist Web Site ( "As far as the US and its allies are concerned, extra-judicial executions and so-called targetted killings now constitute a legitimate state activity and do not warrant comment, let alone condemnation".

And it seems like it's not only our right wing politicians who have no problems with state-sanctioned murder. Paul Howes, national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, shares the blood lust  and voiced his opinion: "That's why I'm proud that our nation has played a small, and accidental role, in the removal of the terrorist al-Mabhouh from our planet". Proud indeed!

The assassination of al-Mabhouh was the most recent in a string of political murders linked to Mossad hit squads and other Israeli agencies. The killing of Hamas's spiritual leader, the elderly, nearly blind, wheelchair-bound quadriplegic Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, in 2004, was a particularly bestial act. The helicopter gunship pilot who blew him into fragments also managed to take the lives of nine bystanders. Meanwhile, the killing of community leaders and activists in villages across the West Bank during late night incursions by the IDF (sic) continues with hardly a mention in the western press.

Just as human rights are not something which can be applied selectively (for instance, to Israelis and not to Palestinians) so too assassination is an unlawful, cowardly act, whoever commits it.

See Barbara Heard, "The Complex Business of Assassination" in the Palestinian Think Tank (link at right).

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, oy, oy,vay!

What is the world coming to? Three clean-cut young Aussies are named as persons of interest in the assassination of a "Hamas operative", Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, smothered to death in his hotel room in Dubai. Israel's Mossad is widely considered to have organised and carried out the murder. That great master of the spy genre, John Le Carre, couldn't have thought up a more twisted and sinister plot.

Three of the suspected assassins carried Australian passports, in the names of Nicole McCabe, Adam Korman and Joshua Bruce. All are citizens of Australia and all have dual citizenship with Israel. None of them live in Australia, all live in Israel. All deny any knowledge of the illicit use of their (Australian) passports.

Meanwhile, back in Oz, our erstwhile Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd (who famously declared that support for Israel is "in my DNA"), has complained about the use of fake Australian passports in this affair. To the best of my knowledge, however, he has failed to condemn the assassination for what it was - the state sanctioned murder of a political opponent. Seems like you can go around killing off your enemies, just don't use an Australian passport while doing it.

Meanwhile, back in Israel, the war criminal Tzivi Lipni, she who presided over the Gaza Massacre, has voiced her opinion that the murder of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh was justified. Most Israelis seemed to agree; when polled, 87% of them went along with Mossad's actions.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Human Rights Workers

Bridgette Chappell Photo AP

Just as Israel attempted to hide its actions during the Gaza Massacre, it now moves to screen from the outside world its continuing human rights abuses in the Occupied West Bank. The arrest last week of the young Australian activist Bridget Chappell was just one of a number of arrests and deportations of international human rights workers, activists and observers in recent weeks. Israelis and Palestinians who have been active in their opposition to the ongoing theft of Palestinian land and property have also been subject to arrest and detention in increasing numbers.

Israel has stepped up its efforts to deny entry to Palestine by anyone sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. It controls all entry points to the West Bank and Gaza (just as it controls every aspect of Palestinian life). While its blockade of Gaza is designed to starve the population into submission, the tightened controls on entry into the West Bank are an effort to hide its actions and the effects of its 42 years of military occupation from the eyes of the world.

In a move worthy of the Burmese junta, Israel has now decided to cancel the work permits of foreign nationals working in East Jerusalem and the West Bank for such aid organisations as Oxfam, Save the Children, Doctors Without Borders and Handicap International. While it is still possible for individuals from these organisations to apply for tourist visas the Interior Ministry ruling now makes it virtually impossible for them to carry on their humanitarian work.

Go to the Electronic Intifada (link at right) for Bridgette's article on the fate of Wael al Faqeeh, a human rights campaigner from Nablus.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Australia's national broadcaster, SBS, recently screened "La Vis et Deviens" ("Live and "Become") a touching and sensitive movie about a young boy taken to Israel in 1984 during Operation Moses, the Mossad-inspired plan to relocate the Falasha, Ethiopia's Black Jews, to Israel. A Christian, the boy took the name Solomon, or Schlomo, as part of an assumed Jewish identity in order to flee the grinding poverty of life in Ethiopia. The movie tracks his life into young adulthood as he encounters love, kindness and also racist rejection in his country of adoption.

Operation Moses and the later Operation Solomon, in 1991, divided public opinion in Israel. Many Israelis would not accept the Falasha's claim that they were Jews, descended, according to legend, from the Queen of Sheba and King Solomon or that they were the tribe of Dan, one of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. (Indeed, DNA evidence finds no convincing links of the Falasha to Middle Eastern Jews, but confirms that they link to African Ethiopians.)

Most of the Falasha, estimated at around 120,000, are now in Israel. They live alongside the hundreds of thousands of Russians who migrated in recent times, many of whom have similarly tenuous claims to being Jews. They may be joined shortly by a sponsored wave of Indians, whose claim to being Jewish is currently being asserted.

Should this be a problem, the migration to Israel of such diverse and contentious minority groups, for compassionate reasons? Should they not be allowed to make
aliya, whereby any Jew, anywhere in the world, under the Law of Return (sic), may settle in Israel? All very noble stuff, one might think, until one reflects on the condition of the Palestinians, who currently comprise the largest refugee population in the world. Forced to flee from their homeland in the pogroms of 1948 and 1967, they are denied any right of return, let alone any compensation. Those who remain in the remnants of Palestine live under a brutal Israeli military occupation (and here I include Gaza).

What the film-makers failed to reveal is that Israel's "Law of Return", together with its ongoing program of ethnic cleansing of the native population, is designed to do one thing: to alter the demographic status of Palestine in favour of an overwhelming "Jewish" presence.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Australia Day

January 26 is Australia Day, our national day on which we commemorate the arrival of the First Fleet at Sydney Cove in 1788 and the proclamation of British sovereignty over the entire eastern seaboard of Australia. To some it is a controversial occasion - they see it as a celebration of the destruction of indigenous culture by British colonialism.

However, most Australians embrace the day as an opportunity to gather with friends and family, to go to the beach or out into nature, to share a barbecue, maybe to reflect on our good fortune in living in such a blessed, affluent country. If we have any pangs of guilt, they are assuaged by the thought that the colonial invasion took place over 200 years ago, when the strong oppressed the weak as a matter of course.

One phenomenon which has gained traction in recent years is the flying of the Australian flag from little flagsticks attached to the roof or windows of the family car. I can't help but feel a little uneasy at this trend, at this seeming need to proclaim one's patriotism. Such displays are rife - 365 days of the year - in Occupied Palestine: blue and white Israeli flags fly from settlers' cars, from settlers' homes and from street-posts on settler-only roads throughout the colonised areas of the West Bank and East Jerusalem in a never-ending, arrogant display of possessiveness.

This overt, in-your-face Australinity (see masculinity) coincides with an upswing in intolerance towards Australians of Middle Eastern origin, particularly Muslims. The fires were fueled during John Howard's years at the helm, but they show no signs of going away - it serves the interests of too many politicians, journalists and radio shock-jocks to emphasise our differences rather than what we have in common.

Am I being too sensitive? Does this proliferation of flag-flying and flag-waving matter? I'm not sure, but it's up to all Australians to be on our guard against jingoism and ultra nationalism. After all, each and every one of us comes from migrant stock. (Of course, the indigenous Australians were here a lot longer.) This is still a lucky country. Don't let the haters take that away.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Natural disaster in Haiti

Man-made disaster in Gaza

Watching the news on our national broadcaster, the ABC, Australians learned that Israeli rescue teams were at the forefront of efforts to save Haitians trapped under the wreckage of their homes. Indeed, courtesy of the ever-efficient Israeli spin machine, the entire international community has been made aware of these wonderful humanitarian efforts.

Did the supreme irony strike no-one else? Israel bombs the defenceless people of Gaza into near-oblivion and then prevents outside help from reaching them, continues its policy of starving the survivors into submission, and then rushes doctors and aid workers halfway around the globe to assist Haitians? Forgive me for thinking that it was nothing more than a public relations stunt: compassion isn't something the Zionists are renowned for.

Actually, the same thought occurred to Akiva Eldar, whose article,
"Israel's compassion in Haiti can't hide our ugly face in Gaza" in the 18 January issue of Haaretz. Follow the link on the right.

Spot on, Akiva.