Friday, October 31, 2008


One instantly-recognisable image, seen on walls all over Palestine, is that of Marwan Barghouti, his manacled hands held above his head in a gesture of defiance.  Widely regarded as a popular successor to Yasser Arafat, Barghouti was imprisoned by the Israelis on spurious charges in 2002. He was re-elected to the Palestinian Parliament in 2006 from his prison cell. 

An estimated 11,000 Palestinians languish in Israeli jails, including a number of elected parliamentarians.  They include women, children, sick and elderly.  Most of them are political prisoners - prisoners of conscience tried by military judges using archaic penal codes derived from Ottoman times or the pre-1948 British Administrative Detention system. These laws do not apply to citizens of Israel.  How's that for a healthy democracy?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kiwi Peace Call

I liked this graffiti on The Wall near Bethlehem.   Sonny Bill (Williams) is - or was, until he defected to rugby union - a star New Zealand rugby league player,  As is, I assume, TC.  

They may speak funny but those Kiwis have their hearts in the right place.  And, bless them, they have even painted their message in the Australian sporting colours!

Banksy (2) too

Banksy at Bethlehem.

Another Banksy wall painting, this one on the apartheid wall near Bethlehem.  It's quite a witty piece of role-reversal, the little girl patting down a spreadeagled Israeli Defence (sic) Force soldier.  Body searches at the hands of the occupying force are an everyday part of Palestinian life and are carried out more as a form of humiliation of the population than out of any concern for security.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


A Banksy painting at Qalandia checkpoint.

The pseudo-anonymous British street artist Banksy works in an instantly recognisable style.  He uses a stencil technique to transfer his graphic images onto walls and footpaths.  His work is remarkable for its visual wit, often using satire to make his point.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Stop killing my sons....

A Michelangelo-inspired wall painting near the Qalandia check point.

Contemporary visual arts practice is, for the most part, really boring.  Audiences have switched off in droves from the rampant egotism and posturings (hello, Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin et al, are you listening?) of the young and not-so-young wannabees.  This kind of art just doesn't connect with ordinary people. 

An art of rejection has grown out of this.  For decades now young artists have turned to the streets, to walls, to railway carriages as their canvas of choice.  I'm not talking about the brain-dead "taggers" who disfigure our cities with their repetitive tags, but to the genuine graffiti artists who have something new and original and heartfelt to say.  Crikey, some have even become rich, like Banksy, or been subsumed by the mega-rich art market (Basquiat, Keith Haring and so on) and received the ultimate accolade - their paintings reproduced on tea towels and coffee mugs!

Massive, bland, obscenely expensive, Israel's separation or apartheid wall is a metaphor for the New York art scene.  However, in an act of subversion, graffiti artists from around the world have turned it into a huge canvas for their ideas and beliefs.  Over the next short while I'd like to share some of this with you.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Hooligan settlers

Soldiers watch on while settlers threaten olive harvesters.

Yesterday's editorial in Haaretz  "Hooligan settlers who call themselves Jews", condemned the actions of militant settlers in no uncertain terms: "They have been stealing the land of powerless farmers for decades and do not recoil from stealing the fruit of these farmers' humble land. A society that declares its longing for peace cannot accept such malicious Jewish terror against innocent Palestinian civilians."

Oh that our own quality newspapers dared to  speak with such objectivity and courage on matters concerning Palestinian human rights.  Instead, we must turn to an Israeli newspaper to find the truth.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Harvest of hate.

Settler attack in Hebron olive grove (courtesy ActiveStills)

Haaretz has reported the most recent attack on Israeli, Palestinian and foreign helpers attempting to harvest olives near Hebron, in the southern West Bank. Several of the pickers were attacked, including Janet Benvie, a British volunteer with the Christian Peacemaker Teams, who was punched in the face after settlers attempted to steal her camera.

Israel Defence (sic) Forces arrived and promptly declared the area a closed military zone.* They described the harvest as a "provocation" because it had not been previously cleared with the IDF.

* Closed military zones have the effect of making Palestinians' presence on their own property unlawful.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Olive harvest

Olive grove at Ni'lin, Occupied West Bank.

Australian growers rightfully pride themselves on producing world-class olive oil, most of which, because it is a young industry and production levels are comparitively low, is sold at premium prices.  It is something of a luxury.

By contrast, in Occupied Palestine olive trees are grown virtually everywhere.  Wherever it is possible to plant and nourish these hardy trees they grow; on barren hillsides, in the valleys and in household gardens.  The fruits of the trees are eaten at every meal - as preserved olives, as a dipping oil, in salads or used for frying.  They sustain life.  Far from being a luxury, they are a basic necessity.  They are also, by far, the country's most important crop.
As in Australia, the olives are harvested once a year, in late summer.  However, Palestinian farmers face a threat which their counterparts in Australia (and Italy and Spain and Greece) do not - spiteful, sometimes murderous, Jewish settlers intent on disrupting or stopping the harvest.  As an encouragement for the Palestinian owners to abandon their lands Zionist thugs from nearby settlements routinely chop down and burn the trees, and attack villagers attempting to harvest their crops.

Despite these religous zealots bent on destruction and a complicit army of occupation, international volunteers go to Palestine each summer to help with the harvest and, by their presence, to discourage the worst of the violence.  I urge anyone who has the time and the means to do so to go and help the Palestinians bring in their crop.  You will be welcomed with open arms.

Thursday, October 9, 2008


Tom Hurndall

The activists I met in the West Bank earlier this year came from Japan, the UK, South Africa, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, the USA and Norway.  They were wonderful people, giving up their summer holidays and paying their own way to take part in a just, humanitarian struggle. 

Not all of the young volunteers who have come to Palestine over the years have returned home. Rachel Corrie, run down by an army bulldozer while protesting house demolitions in Gaza and Tom Hurndall, shot in the head by an IDF sniper while escorting young children to safety, also in Gaza, never went home. Both members of the International Solidarity Movement, they became martyrs in the struggle for Palestinian human rights.

So far this year 420 Palestinians (including 80 children) have been killed by Israeli forces. Amnesty International (UK) in a recent report describes a situation where Israeli military forces kill civilians in Gaza with "near-total impunity, week in week out". This is state sanctioned murder.
To read the full report go to:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Time to leave

Israel's daily newspaper Haaretz reports on Middle Eastern issues with the kind of objectivity that news media in Australia and the United States - in thrall to the Zionist lobby - do not. It can be read online at: 

In today's issue an article by Avi Primor, "It's time for the IDF to leave the West Bank", argues that security concerns are the biggest drawback to Israel pulling out of the occupied territories. He suggests that an international force of armed observers could be installed in place of the IDF, thus ending 41 years of military occupation.

Such a force, I suggest, would be better disciplined, more humane and more professional than the IDF and the brutal Border Police.  Their role would be that of peacekeepers, not as oppressors of the native population and facilitators for settler violence.

Whether the Israeli political class can wean itself off its war mentality and relentless expansionism is another matter.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Watch out Fatima

The now-faint graffiti on the wall of a Palestinian home near the Tel Rumeida settlement in Hebron reads "Watch out Fatima - we will rape all Arab woman".  It is meant, obviously, as an encouragement for the indigenous population of this beleagured neighbourhood to flee their homes.  It reminded me of another slogan I had seen, years earlier, on a wall on Jerusalem's Mount of Olives, "Death to all Arabs and Christian dogs".

These purveyors of hate are, sadly, everywhere.  In today's Haaretz ( the Israeli commentator, Akivar Eldar, gives an excellent analysis of the state of the "peace process" and observes that the PA has become "a fig leaf covering the nakedness of a deluxe version of occupation."  However, the published comments on his article come overwhelmingly from religious/nationalist zealots, whose hatred of Palestinians and opposition to a just resolution of the conflict is entrenched.

Hatred of Jews, hatred of Muslims, hatred of Israelis, hatred of Palestinians, all have their wellsprings in ignorance and fear.  All are abominations.