Monday, September 29, 2008


Young Israelis spend three years in the military forces and are sometimes posted to the Occupied West Bank.  Their duties may include manning checkpoints or patrolling near the many illegal Jewish settlements.

As one of several human rights workers with the International Solidarity Movement, based in the southern city of Hebron (Al Khalil), part of my daily routine was to monitor a checkpoint next to the infamous settlement of Tel Rumeida, scene of many vicious attacks against Palestinian residents. These residents were routinely searched and required to produce their identity cards before they were allowed to go on their way.  Whether these searches were security measures or part of the regime of routine harrasment and humiliation is open to dispute.

If they were approachable I would sometimes engage the heavily-armed soldiers in conversation. One of them, Dan, had two years' service under his belt and could hardly wait to get out.  He would sometimes joke and play with the local kids and he seemed quite a reasonable person. He told me that he wanted to study literature when he left the army. However, when I asked him what he thought about the situation in Hebron, he replied, "It's their fault, the Palestinians."

Such certainty!  It allowed him to justify the presence of the Hebron settlers in properties and on land stolen from the Palestinian owners.  It allowed him to condone the attacks these settlers make on Palestinian children on their way to and from school. But then, if he was to admit to himself that Palestinians are human beings like himself, and are entitled to the same human rights as Israeli Jews, how could he do the job he was doing?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Flipping Out

Pity about the late-night slot on SBS last night for the documentary "Flipping Out - Israel's drug generation". The Canadian film-makers went to North India and Goa to record the drugged antics of young Israelis "flipping out" after their compulsory three year stint in the Israeli Defence (sic) Forces.

With their 15,000 shekel severance pay from the army, thousands of young Israelis head for favoured destinations in India where they spend months, sometimes years, partying in a drug-induced haze. For some, the party ends only when they succumb to psychosis and, in some cases, repatriation back to Israel. Feeling (with some justification) that the world despises them they group together in tight communities, wrapping themselves in a sheltering, Israelis-only coccoon.

During their three years service some had served in the Occupied West Bank and Gaza. When interviewed, a few felt remorse, others were indifferent to the suffering and humiliation they had inflicted upon their Palestinian victims. In a sense they, too, were victims of Israel's political culture which sees war and conflict as the preferred option.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pogrom in Assira

The village of Assira al Qibliya, before Saturday's rampage.

Ehud Olmert, the Israeli PM, has described a recent rampage by Jewish settlers through the village of Assira al Qibliya as a "pogrom".

In response to an altercation between two youths, one Palestinian and one Jewish, heavily-armed settler terrorists rampaged through the village on Saturday, shooting indisciminately and vandalising houses and property. Several villagers suffered critical gunshot wounds while soldiers from the Israel Occupation Force stood passively by.

A pogrom is a form of riot directed against a particular group, characterised by destruction of their houses, businesses and religious centres. The term is more usually associated (though not exclusively) with riots against Jewish communities in eastern Europe during the 19th Century. For Olmert to use it in this instance is both a correct choice of words and an indication that the government of Israel has lost control of the monster which it created - the settler movement.

Friday, September 12, 2008

School's a gas!

Once the children are at school they are still not safe. Reports are coming in that 50 students at a girls' school in the West Bank village of Ni'lin required medical attention after Israeli "Defence" Force storm troopers lobbed tear gas canisters into their school.

For the full story follow the link to the International Solidarity Movement website on this page ( for the article "I used to dream about my future".

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Back to school

Imagine this, where you live, here in Australia: You send your kids off to school in the morning. On the way, they are stopped at an army checkpoint, questioned and maybe searched. Then, before they get to the safety of the school grounds, they are verbally abused, stoned and spat upon by immigrant children and their parents. These immigrants have arrived in the country uninvited, illegally. The police stand by and do nothing. On their way home it is the same story - your children run the same gauntlet of abuse and humiliation.

Sound far-fetched? Well, not if you're Palestinian and live in the West Bank adjacent to an Israeli colonist settlement. Every day of the school week many children leave their homes in fear of their Jewish neighbours, whose sole aim is to drive them from this land. The situation is probably worst in Hebron, where settlers have established themselves in the heart of the city. Foreign human rights workers from such groups as the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Ecumenical Accompaniment and the International Solidarity Movement do their best to shepherd the children to and from school, hoping to ward off the worst violence, but they themselves are open to attack.

Last week school began again for the children of Palestine after their summer holidays. It should be a positive, enjoyable experience. But for many, school days are tinged with fear.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Home of the brave, land of the free.

One of the most depressing aspects in the run-up to the US presidential election has been the candidates' unseemly scramble to demonstrate his or her unflinching commitment to Israel. Not to peace. Not to justice or fairness. To Israel.

Obama or McCain, Biden or Palin, Democrat or Republican, it doesn't really matter, all are in the thrall of the pro-Israel lobby. They know that it is political suicide to demonstrate anything other than fawning admiration for the Zionist state. AIPAC (the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee) and other powerful lobby groups work unceasingly to purge the Senate, Congress, universities and public life of any American who dares to speak up for Palestinian human rights. It has come to this.

Israel may attack a US warship in international waters, plant its spies in US defence establishments, soak up billions of US taxpayers' money each year and thumb its nose at calls to respect the "peace process" with, it seems, impunity. Indeed, as the rape of Palestine accelerates, the stranglehold of the pro-Israel lobby grows stronger.

The Americans and their toadies (sorry, allies) will abandon Iraq in the not-too-distant future. Echoing the Vietnam experience, they will one day retreat from Afghanistan, with their tails between their legs. Their client state, Israel, has maintained a military occupation in the remnants of Palestine for over forty years. Unless a just solution to the conflict is found then America's woes in the region will not go away.