Monday, 25 April 2011

For The Right Not To Be Denied

By Abdel Rahman Migdad
Student in Palestine

Every place is different, every person is different. Unique differences make people and nations special, this fact we have been informed about, where a phrase in the holy Quran says "O mankind! We have created you male and female, and have made you nations and tribes that ye may know one another". From here comes the importance of travel, in particular face to face communication. Gaza plays the role perfectly, where it communicates with hole the world by exporting. However, I believe that Gaza is one of few that engage in this kind of exporting. Gaza leads in exporting means of freedom to the world. Every individual’s soul is free and the heart is directly affected by that freedom, this mean is perceived quite fast by people in Gaza, but keeping them from acting are many components one of which is man.

           Obvious, and unarguable among two intelligent, that we live in a world that could be described as conflicting in all its aspects. When conflict is mentioned it is a great deal, and conflicts result in huge misconceptions and misunderstanding among nations and people, leading to undesired consequences, wars, closures, economic blockades, most important (HATE) which may sound simple but its total chaos. Don’t you forget its humans were talking about they could be devils or angels. All those undesired consequences are clear, and everyone is aware of, but does anyone care to care?  Apparently, economies of some countries are built on war industry so there has to be a victim to be bullied. Be smart and guess who is doing the bullying, and who is the victim?    

             Denying efforts of those that want to build and want to spread freedom all over the world is non of our ethics. For that is a message we adopt, sacrifice our time and effort for achieving, and some go beyond that and sacrifice the most precious. In the day of freedom the waves of the Mediterranean Sea carry the blood of the legends of freedom to the shores of Gaza city. The message of freedom, unity, and love we wish to see grow and concur the glob, and those freedom activists on the Gaza flotilla wrote the first letters of freedom, and the ink was their blood. However, this might be bothering to some nations or some people, the idea of freedom and care among nations might be faced with resistance and un-acceptance. Well, we are denied the right to travel, and others are denied the opportunity to visit Gaza, why might that be?... Simply because the deniers refuse to build and contribute in brightening, instead they choose darkening man kind’s minds.  

            Meeting with many people in different positions, from different countries, with different backgrounds, and different believes, resulted in comprehending an outcome which appeared to be mutual, which simply is, we all desire to exchange cultures, thoughts, ideas, and to develop and build bridges among nations and build  individual friendships. However, applying that to Gaza strip seems not to be possible, and reasons behind that are apparent. Gaza caries truth within it, such truth terrifies. All those that are afraid from the Palestinian Gazan truth to spread all over the world support the idea of maintaining Gaza hand cuffed and mouth shut. Because the Gazan truth will form a threat to those that had contributed in denying Palestine its right throughout more than sixty years. 

           Palestinians are simple people that ask for nothing more than the right, the right that any human deserves in the world. They demand that the monopoly of information and media is broken. They demand an opportunity to change the naive thinking that puts the victim in the same category with the violator of all human laws, an opportunity to shut the naive voices that deny Palestinians the right of resistance in its simplest forms. People in Gaza have stored ambitions to explore the world and share the truth, share the culture, contribute in building a good peaceful world community. Finally the demand is "for the right not to be denied". 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Vittorio, Jihad, and So Many Question Marks!

By Jehan Alfarra
Student in Palestine
Rest In Peace Vittorio Arrigoni
Last Friday (April, 8th) was another tribulation in the interminable, life-long list of our tragedies here in Gaza. It wasn’t anything unusual really, but it was still agonizing and I could not help but write something brief about it. This Friday (April, 15th), however, was a tragedy of a different sort. Palestine has lost a jewel. A sparkling, precious jewel and a loved son. All Palestinians have lost a dear brother- Vittorio Arrigoni.
“In my DNA, my blood, there are particles that push me to struggle for freedom and human rights.” Vittorio
It stings to recall how I playfully greeted Vik with ‘Shalom’ (Hebrew for hi, or more precisely: peace) the first time I ever saw him, and the many times I teased him with it, and how he’d flip rejecting what he called ‘Hebrew Zionist bullshit’. It stings to remember his unceasing wide smile drawn perfectly on his calm face whenever I accidently saw him in the street, or having a meal at one of my favourite fast-food restaurants, and apparently one of his, in Tal Al-Hawa in Gaza called ‘Al-Dar’ (Arabic for home), and playing with the little kids who come up to him to say hi. Or occasionally seeing him at the Gallery (Now his mourning house) which he frequently visited. What stings even more is reading his now-so-bitterly-ironic comment on Ahmad Alsafadi’s photo (Ahmed was one of Vik’s best friends in Gaza)… :’(

 The reports of his kidnap came as a loathsome SHOCK to everyone in Gaza. Waking up to the tweets and Facebook pages and statuses demanding the release of a KIDNAPPED Vittorio was well-beyond predictable, dislocating any sense of reality! The YouTube video of Vik, blindfolded and beaten, and the demands of exchanging Vik with ALL Salafi prisoners arrested by Hamas in Gaza claimed that it was done by a Salafi group. The YouTube video gave Hamas 30 hours to release all Salafi prisoners or else they would kill Vittorio. Meanwhile, all salafi groups had denied any involvement or responsibility: “We strongly deny any responsibility for or connection to the kidnapping of the Italian (Vittorio Arrogani)… Our statement are distributed exclusively through Shoumoukh al-Islam, Attahadi Netwrok, and the Ansar al-Mujahedeen Network… Any statement attributed to us that are not released through these channels, has nothing to do with us, even if they are published on Jihadi websites.”

Over Twitter, none of us even dared to expect that we were to never see Vittorio ever again… In one lengthy conversation, we were discussing who could be behind this and we talked about it feeling that it was only a matter of time that Vik will be out and will be laughing at our jokes and what had happened as he always does even in the worst situations. And then all of a sudden and in one venomous moment, Reuters reported that Vittorio’s body was FOUND- he was DEAD!!!! None of us believed it! We kept arguing that they must be mistaken! Then Al Arabiya reported it! Soon, Twitter was swarming with the most heart-wrecking tweets ever! A new hash-tag found its way to our forcibly-tweeted tweets- #RIPvittorio !!!<<<<<!!! Then contradicting tweets said BBC denied that he was killed! Yet, more tweets confirming the death and the area kept coming up!! That hour was most torturous- heart thumping like a drum and air tearing into lungs, is he dead? Yes? No? WHAT!!! NO!  It cannot be! Oh, but he is… :s

This horrendous, senseless murder could not have been committed by Palestinians! Holding a Palestinian passport does not mean that they are! Vittorio was. There are so many great exclamation marks and question marks about this whole thing. It stinks to high heaven. For one, Vik was killed only hours from when he was kidnapped; meaning that the intention was to kill and not to trade prisoners.

Secondly, it’s VITTORIO!!! What does that mean? It means a big, muscled-up man! Of all the ISM activists and internationals in Gaza, they chose the one physically most challenging! Kidnapping a female or a male of a smaller size would have definitely been a whole lot easier and more effortless, and would have had the same effect still had the intention really been a ‘kufor’ matter or a prisoner-exchange! And on this note, it is worthy to note that Vittorio was the #1 ISM activist on Israeli hit list!

Thirdly, the timing! This is  the first an international (A GREAT SOLIDARITY FIGURE FOR THAT MATTER) is kidnapped and killed in Gaza, and it happens only 10 days after the Juliano Mer Khamis murder~! I find this too much to be a mere coincidence! Not only that, but it is happening at a time when Israel is doing its utmost to prevent the next Flotilla sailing to Gaza in attempts to break the siege, and to end this growing momentum of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Such ‘security’ concerns would intimidate potential passengers coming with the next flotilla “those unsure of the exceptional good will and generosity of the people there. A good will Vik would tell you about. If he were still here.“, as Lauren Booth writes, but would they?

Booth adds: “Both men [Juliano & Vittorio] were part of a new uprising, arguably, the most successful yet. The uprising that hurts Israel where it hurts most – in the TV studios of Europe and the US, right in the intelligentsia. Their impact on the Israel ‘fascisti’ [as Vik calls it] machine was a phenomenon in the expanding worlds of twitter and facebook. They had voices like no others in this movement.
More though. Vik was pivotal in the reformation of the ISM Gaza Group, the non violent resistance team, put on hold after the murders of two of its members by Israeli forces ; Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie. After it became clear that Israel’s leaders had taken the decision not only not to ignore the human rights of internationals in the West Bank and Gaza (thus putting them on a par with Palestinians), but to actively target them. “

To top it all off, the three suspects involved in the kidnap and the murder are Abdul Rahman Breizat, Jordanian, and two Palestinians, Belal Al Omari and Mohammed Al Salfiti. So a freaking Jordanian ‘salafi’ is involved!! And this guy has apparently entered Gaza with the Viva Palestina Convoy, and is an agent for 3 countries! Smelling some filthy rotten rat, eh?

Hamas has managed to find the three suspects and surround them in a building in Nuseirat Camp. Hamas tried to negotiate, and one of the suspects’, Belal’s, mother came and tried to talk him out. This only resulted in clashes, and then this Jordanian proclaimed ‘salafi’ SHOT HIMSELF, and threw a grenade on his fellow suspects, critically wounding Belal, who died of his wound
s, and lightly injuring Al Salfiti, who is now under arrest and taken to hospital. Now, the ‘salafi’ committed suicide. Haha, what a joke. Anyone who knows a tiny speck of Islam knows that a true salafi would not, under any circumstance, commit suicide. It is Un-Islamic and it is an intervention with God’s well. It is also evident that this Jordanian did not just want to end his life in fear of torture or the like, but he wanted to make sure that all of them are! Thoughts?

I want to take this opportunity to address what the word ‘Jihad’ means and what it has come to mean. It infuriates me how it is attached to every terrorist, or extremist act or group!!!! This is NOT what JIHAD is!! This is not ISLAM!

Tallha Abdulrazaq writes about this in his essay on Al-Qaeda:
“As al-Qaeda’s primary target audience for gaining popular support is the Muslim world, one may then begin to question the religious justification of such terrorist acts. Firstly, a brief definition of jihad is necessary to dispel frequent misconceptions. Jihad literally means in Arabic to expend effort and energy.[1] Abdel-Kareem Zaydan, former professor of religious studies at Baghdad University, then goes on to refine the word jihad in its religious context. He states that, in the Islamic lexicon, jihad means to struggle in the way of God; against oneself and the propensity to sin, against poverty in society, against evil by arguing against it, and against aggressors who wish to do harm unto Muslims or even others, no matter the faith.[2] In fact, this is supported by the verse in the Quran that states, ‘There is no compulsion in religion’[3], which means man is free to peacefully follow whatever religion he chooses, and also, ‘Why should you not fight in God’s cause for those oppressed men, women and children who cry out; “Lord! Rescue us from this town of oppressors and by Your Grace, send us a protector and helper”’.[4] Indeed, Sayed Qutb, a man frequently demonised as the ideological father of so-called extreme Islam, comments on the preceding verse and implores Muslims to protect the weak and those who are being oppressed.[5] These verses also may indicate Islamic military rules for international intervention in other states suffering from repression, but they certainly do not indicate that Muslims ought to butcher whomsoever they please, as is al-Qaeda’s method.
Vittorio's Funeral in Gaza
Verses from the Quran that are pointed out by extremists and Islamophobes alike in support of arguments for and against “aggressive” Islam are, ‘Kill them [enemies] wherever you find them….’[6] and also, ‘When the forbidden months have elapsed, kill them [idolaters], seize them, besiege them and wait for them….’[7] Although this may appear to be damning evidence to the layman ignorant of Islamic teachings, these verses have been grossly taken out of context. Indeed, the former verse is preceded by another that specifies that permission is granted to kill those who kill you, and the verse in question itself is completed by, ‘….and drive them out from where they have driven you out, for persecution is a greater evil than killing’,[8] which clearly demonstrates that the verse is giving permission to fight defensively. The latter verse cited by al-Qaeda and critics of Islam is actually in reference to those aggressive polytheists in the Prophet Muhammad’s day who regularly killed innocent Muslims, broke treaties with them, and attempted to forcibly convert Muslims back to idolatry and paganism. It is not, as it often is erroneously claimed to be, a mandate for the killing of any non-Muslim. Indeed, the verses directly preceding and succeeding this instruct Muslims to not harm those who have maintained their peaceful ties and treaties with the Muslims,[9] and to grant safe passage and protection to those who seek peace and good relations, even if they are idolaters.[10] Although there are many more examples of verses that have been misused by religious fanatics and anti-Islamic bigots, the aforementioned examples should aptly demonstrate that while Islam is a religion of peace, it is not the peace of the meek and the weak, but rather the just, strong and the able.”

Shariah law is formulated by correct interpretation of the Quran, sound exegesis, and also the hadeeth, traditions and sayings, of the Prophet Muhammad that have an accurate isnad, or chain of narration, that verifies its legitimacy. If the hadeeth is accurate and it conforms to Quranic verses, then this can be taken as a guiding legal principle, and not an inflexible law, which is then subject to interpretation dependant on the time, place, and context of the society or state in question. Some verses from the Quran have already been assessed, and it remains to give a few examples where the Prophet Muhammad himself forbade the killing of innocents. Although the terms of civilian and non-combatant are modern in usage, in case of war Muslims are still prohibited from killing what would be defined as non-combatants and civilians. This is demonstrated by a hadeeth which narrates how the Prophet was grieved after he saw the corpse of a woman after a battle because a non-combatant was killed, and therefore forbade such acts in future engagements.[11] The hadeeth following the previous one specifically mentions that no woman or child is to be killed,[12] and this can be interpreted as being an instruction to target only combatants. Many more hadeeth’s prohibit the killing of merchants, clergymen, hired labour, and even give specific instructions that the trees and livestock of the enemy should not be wantonly destroyed, and this in accordance with the aforementioned Quranic verses thereby giving the conclusion that Shariah dictates that no acts of senseless destruction can be justified, particularly if it means the deaths of innocents and non-combatants.”

Vik may not have been a Muslim, but he sure gained our FULL respect, love, and appreciation. He was a human. And he has won. He left this world a beautiful symbol for humanity and freedom. While this Jordanian bastard has a left a hated, cursed bigot; so to hell he may go.
Whatever their motives were, they FAILED, and FAILED MISERABILY. Vic is alive inside every Muslim and every compassionate true Palestinian. His soul will always be in Gaza and he shall never be forgotten. From the fishermen in the sea, to the farmers in the buffer zones. From the restaurant and shop owners who knew him, to every child in Gaza whom he drew a smile on their faces. From every Real Madrid lover, to every Barca brother.

And the next flotilla is coming with even greater determination- STAY HUMAN. Vik, you have been our unknown soldier all along and the world is coming to realize it. I salute you. Gaza loved you and will always continue to do.

[1] Zaydan (1986), p.262 [2] Ibid. [3] Quran, 2:256 [4] Quran, 4:75 [5] Qutb (1985), p.616 [6] Quran, 2:191 [7] Quran, 9:5 [8] Quran, 2:191 [9] Quran, 9:4 [10] Quran, 9:6 [11] Bukhari (1979), v.4 p.21 [12] Ibid.

Friday, 15 April 2011

My Letter to the World: Free Palestine

By Nadia Marques de Carvalho
LSE Palestine Society 

Today I got called an extremist. An extremist because I believe the fight for justice in Palestine, is a just one. More than that – a necessary. If you had your land, livelihood and history stolen, your family massacred, your body skilfully powdered with white phosphorous and you died a torturous death without trial because you dared to resist – wallah, I’d fight for you too. Why? Humanity demands it off me: off all humans. You are no exception. If I stay silent, if we stay silent in the face of oppression, dispossession or occupation than we diminish our humanity. If something lessens your worth as a human being, then it lessens mine too. To act in your defence, is really to act in defence of myself.

Today I got called an extremist. An extremist because I believe in the self-determination and the Right to Return of all Palestinian people. I believe in a one-state solution, to live side by side, in understanding and respect. I am an advocate for peace. You call me an extremist but you forget you are the terrorist. You attempt to steal my land by building a 670km Iron Wall – if you must, because you are scared of me (although you have one of the most powerful armies and all I have is this pen), then you must; but not, not on my land, not when 85% of your wall is on my land. On second thought, your whole country is on my land but I have kept silent. I have kept silent when you destroy my farmland and contaminate my water. I have kept silent when you encircle and strangulate me with a wall that costs $2.1 billion to build; money that you could give to the education of Palestinian children – but no you deny that to us too. Deny our freedom. You have imprisoned my body but never, never my mind and soul – still I keep silent. You can silence me. You can silence the world. You can never silence Justice.

I am the extremist? Then my friend, you are the terrorist. Your hands are stained with the blood of Deir yassin, Homeen Al Tahta, Jabalia – massacres. Cast Lead – War on Gaza? No my friend, Massacre of Gaza. In 22 days you murdered 1500 Palestinians. In 22 days you sent me gifts of DIME explosives, fuel air explosives and oh, how can I forget, white phosphorous? How can I forget when it stains the pure and innocent body of my daughter? How can I forgive when I cannot forget? I do not forget the ground constantly shaking with the bombardment of your gifts; it felt like hunting season had begun. Were you satisfied with your catch? 400 Palestinians killed for every Israeli killed, 25 cement factories destroyed, 250 000 tonnes of rubble, the only flour mill in Gaza destroyed (I loved khubz in the morning), 400 children dead and my friend, every plane returned – untouched, my gift to you, Israel. You are the terrorist; the one who glorifies and relishes in violence, the one who smiles when a new settlement is built and the one who violates International Law with unrelenting and shameful persistence. Remember occupation is violence, dispossession is violence but the greatest violence is to take away my right to resist violence. Remember Israel.

If I am not Jewish, am I inferior?
If I am anti-Zionism, will you quote me as anti-Semitic?
If I am Palestinian, does that make me non-human?

I am isolated. Separated. Apart.

Being human is not only about respect but also to be able to see past narrow interests, and to understand how as humans we are linked together. But when you cut me off from my country, when apartness becomes dogma and ideology, when apartness is enforced through law and its agencies; this is called Apartheid. When you are privileged because you are born a Jew and you use this to dispossess and discriminate against me; this is called Apartheid. This apartness only becomes a breeding ground for ignorance of the other, with whom one shares a common space. A breeding ground for the Zionist idea of Israel – the ingathering of all Jews, the idea seems to me to get rid of the old neighbours and to bring in new ones. Ethnic cleansing.

“Have our Jewish sisters and brothers forgotten their humiliation?”

The world was absolutely wrong to think that Nazism was defeated in 1945. Nazism has won because it has finally managed to Nazify the consciousness of its own victims.

But now, I am the victim.


Free Palestine 

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Palestinian Girl: "I Want to Survive"


By Sameeha Elwan
Palestinian Student in Gaza

A Personal Reflection on the Massacre of Gaza - 2009 Gaza War 

I unconsciously replied to my big brother’s question. He did not expect such an answer to his inquiry on what I wanted him to get me from the supermarket before it gets dark, before hell would break again that night as it usually did every night at the same time. He laughed, bitterly. I did not.

It took me some time to realize that still then, I was surviving. After what seemed a long time, I still survived. It was a miracle to survive the nights. It wasn’t the same in the morning, but at night every thing went loose. Our house would be lighted every now and a while by a near bomb, but then the light we’ve missed for a while at night was of no use to us as staying up in our third-floor apartment was just an act of craziness. Here, one could definitely get shot any second. It was too close. The war was too close I couldn’t believe I’m still surviving. Here, you wouldn’t know when a bullet finally rests at your heart or chest or your eye, or a shell just tears you all apart. It was definitely crazy at night. Night was the time for evacuation, or shall I call it displacement? Leaving our house was never optional. It’s either you die or you leave the house to survive, which again was not guaranteed as you might leave the house to find that bullet waiting to rest in your heart as well. But, we had to go down anyway.

It was about sunset now. I could hear it begin again. I could hear it begin as every night at the same time and I would grab my mattress, my pillow, and my blankets, with the voice of my mother urging me to hurry. “It’s no time to be an obtuse” she would say, and I would discover that she was right as she always is, for I would have to crawl to go downstairs with not a bit of light on the stairs and with that luggage in my hands, in my pockets, on my head and covering me all around. I would crawl and cry. I’ve never paid much attention to history before and I so much hated history classes, but every time I would get downstairs seeing my mother, my father, brothers and sister with the luggage they could collect; most of which was not important, I could not but recall my late grandmother’s talk about the way she left her home. I thought we’re destined to displacement.

The downstairs room was not as clean or as wide as own lighted well-cleaned house. It was fine but bitterly cold. Somehow, my father thought it’s safer. My mother had to obey. It seemed to me that for this time, she was going to let him decide where we shall spend the night. Desperate, she would let him decide where we shall die. She could not. She was courageous though or acting so. She refused to get out of the house completely. I Thought I would never hear her say so, but she courageously refused to leave the house, and she repeated what I for once thought a cliché “I want to die at home.” My brother, terrified to death by the news of a close bombardment to a neighbors' house, started crying, shouting at her face. “I don’t want to die”, he pleaded. Back then, I shamefully thought of how selfish of her to sacrifice all of her children for the sake of an old cliché and an older house. But, she was a refugee. She knew what it’s like to leave home. She knew the guilt she would feel when time passes by. That I knew later. I remember that her mother died, wishing she never left home.

The nights were dark and cold at that room. And when all would decide to stop talking, and try to sleep, I would start reading. Solaced by one and only one book that I kept reading over and over again, my mother, taking notice that I, unlike the others did not pretend to sleep, would start rebuking me every time she sees me holding the book so close to my eyes with one hand while the other holding a candle. “Are you planning to die burnt? Wait for your fate.” It was then I grew that fascination for Darwish, his “She is a song” was such a great relief. He, too, lived a war. He, too, wanted to survive to sing her a song and to make a cup of morning coffee. How many wars have we witnessed so far? Why didn’t the word cause me to tremble before as I’m trembling now? Perhaps it’s only cold.

Cold were those dark nights, sometimes terribly loud, frighteningly loud that I wished for some silence. That I could not get with the old radio my mother kept in her pocket day and night, tuned on. Was it her curiosity that made her listen to every single piece of news? Was she hopefully waiting they would announce the end of the war soon? As tortuous as it was, I was thankful electricity was off. Listening to my aunt crying heavily on the telephone and asking us to persevere, I knew that I have missed a lot. I heard the radio say a family was massacred the other day. I heard they say they demolished a whole neighborhood, sometimes on the head of its inhabitants. I heard them announce figures of children, women, and men killed. I even heard some people calling and screaming for the help of the Red Crescent. Yet, I knew nothing. I’ve seen nothing of it.

“War would end soon. Perhaps it ends tomorrow. They say so.”
“You said so yesterday and the day before, and every day, father” I mutter, not caring.

The next day, the bombardment was faintly heard. There were still some warplanes around. But most importantly, electricity was back. TV was turned on again. In fact, we knew nothing, we’ve seen nothing. The last 23 days started passing in pictures and voice into the screens. I was not on TV. None of my family was. I survived a war while more than a thousand of my people did not. I survived a war not because I was a hero, but…

A war ago, I wouldn’t have thought about writing this, about writing anything. Today, trembling, recalling, I find it an obligation to write the details of it no matter how trivial it might sound for I have to survive. We shall survive.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Hypocrisy of the Palestinian Authority

By Joseph Daher
(Student at SOAS) 

In a conference in Geneva called "women in resistance" Leila Shahid, representative of the PA at the European Union, spoke with great enthusiasm about Revolutions in the Arab world and of youth movements around the region. I therefore asked her what is her position towards the youth movement in Palestine, as she did not mention it at all. They have actually been attacked, arrested, and kidnapped by Fatah thugs and Palestinian Authority mukhabarat for demonstrating in the streets of the West Bank since the 15th of March. I asked her how can she speaks about plural and democratic society while the PA is repressing demonstrations and protesters now, as well when Palestinians wanted to show their support during the Egyptian and Tunisian Revolutions.

I told her that the President of the PA supported until the last day Moubarak, so how she differentiates from him. I told her several groups of Palestinians and supporters of the cause as me demonstrated around the world and in Palestine on the 15th of March to end the division, but also chanting songs as "end Oslo" or calling the "PA a collaborative state". For many of Palestinians and supporters, the PA represents the opposite of any form of resistance, more busy protecting settlements than Palestinians. This youth movement is a way to come back to principles and fundamentals of the Palestinian cause: any kind of resistance and not collaboration, what is her position I asked her?

Leila Shahid: The envoy of the Palestinian
Authority to the European Commission
She basically answered me that I don't live in Palestine so I should not talk like this and that I was ideological in my statement. She added that I should go demonstrate in front the Israeli embassy to ask for the end of the occupation instead of going in front PA representations. She avoided answering to my intervention and questions on what is happening in the West Bank now, while this was a conference organized around the issue of women in resistance, she also did not comment on violence perpetrated against women within the demonstrations in March, while we were providing her with evidence that it happened.

During the rest of the conference she was challenged by other members of the public and of the panel for not answering my question. She turned down the question and was aggressive against everyone. She repeatedly said she was proud to be a representative of the PA.

I personally salute what Leila Shahid did in the past for the Palestinians, but using credentials of the past cannot be in any way a justification or an excuse for what is happening now on the ground and for the behavior of the PA.

On the issue I can’t criticize the PA because I am not Palestinian, I disagree with this argument. I support the Palestinian cause and I am not Palestinian, I believe it is an Universalist and humanist cause, but the same way I support this cause, why should I not be allowed to criticize the PA on humanist principles. I don't think you have to be of a particular nationality to be able to support or criticize anything.
After this is not to say I take the place of the Palestinians in anyway, which I did not in anyway, did I ever say the Palestinians should do this or this? No! This is their own right! 

Few close Palestinian friends reacted to this “clash” after I sent them a resume of it. 
Here are few comments:

“It is more urgent than ever for the Palestinians to reclaim the PLO, their national institutions via direct Palestine National Council (PNC) elections, so that Palestine Liberation Organization representatives speak for them, and not against them!”

 “It is very ridiculous that whenever we criticize, shame and blame the PA for its irrational and illegal conduct, the given answer always is: Please go and use this energy against the Israeli occupation instead of the PA...How long should it take them to understand that the occupation does not path the way for the PA to commit crimes against its people. The occupation is the major creator of the mess Palestinians are sinking in, yet one should not be blind to the blunt truth that immorality remains immorality, it is not a subjective term that goes according the body that practices it...And truth should be said the PA reflects immoral actions towards Palestinian people”

Interesting how they immediately shift to "you should protest against the occupation " argument “
The March 15th movement is driven by the youth it is in part aimed at a civil Palestinian mobilization to end the catastrophic political factionalism. But it must be placed in the larger context of reclaiming the struggle to liberate Palestine. March 15th calls for an end to division, but this does not mean confinement to mere reconciliation rhetoric. In fact, the organizers explicitly demand the re-democratization of the Palestinian National Council and the establishment of new electoral law inclusive of all Palestinians inside and outside Palestine & Israel, stating: ‘Our demands for change go beyond ending Palestinian disunity and partial tweaks to the status quo. We insist on full democratic representation for Palestinians all over the world.’

It was actually the hijacking of the Palestine Liberation Organization by Fateh and the Oslo agreement of 1993 that excluded other parties as well as the Palestinian people from the decision-making process, and that undemocratically substituted the resistance doctrine with cooptation, concessions, and negotiations.
Therefore, an end to the division requires a thorough and substantive change of the entire framework of Palestinian politics.  Oslo must be put to an end, its birthchild the PA dissolved, and the PLO redefined as a representative movement inclusive of, amongst other parties, Hamas.

March 15th has invigorated Palestinian civil society.  In a reactionary move, Palestinian parties like Hamas, Fatah and Fayyad’s government are attempting to co-opt this grassroots non-aligned initiative by calling on their part for ‘End the Division’ protests. The PA and Hamas have expressed both rhetorical support for an end to division while simultaneously confronting the previous demonstrations in Ramallah and Gaza with violence and arrests. Hamas police also repressed many of protesters of the March 15th movement, killing one of them, while attacking and sexually assaulting some demonstrators.

As the PA continues to get bankrolled on American dollars and to engage in security cooperation with Israel, and as Hamas continues to dominate Gaza on the basis of the continuing fragmentation of the Palestinian struggle, it is unlikely that either side of the divide genuinely wants to put it to an end.

In conclusion, my intervention and my question was a way to salute the bravery and the determination of these young Palestinians-claiming, far from any factionalism such as Fatah or Hamas, the roots of the Palestinian cause: Resistance.  This notion of Resistance is crucial today against the continual aggressive behavior of the Apartheid, colonial and Settler State of Israel. The youth movement is reminding to the different political parties, and especially the PA, that the real enemy is the Zionist State and not other Palestinians, while the objective should be liberation and not the quest for power.

Monday, 11 April 2011

An Academic Piece On The Origins of the 1948 War: al Nakba or Milhemet Haatzma'ut?

By Nadia Marques de Carvalho
(LSE Student)

The essay below details an event in history that has really moulded and determined the world we live in today. To understand, let alone resolve it, it is so important to go beyond the 1967 boarder line, you need to go back to 1948: the defining year of Catastrophe and "Independence".
 Or even better go back to 1882. 

The 1948 Arab-Israeli War was the inevitable result of decades of bitter, protracted and intractable hostilities between two national movements that embody a tangled and tortured history. The thesis of this essay maintains that the quintessential origin of the 1948 War is the clash and the inability to coexist of the Zionist movement and the Arab-Palestinian National Movement.  This clash shall be explored in four main parts; the impact of Zionism, Britain and its Mandate, effects of rising Arab-Palestinian Nationalism and the United Nations (UN) Partition Plan. The different names for this war; al-Nakba and Milhemet Haatzma'ut, in themselves highlight the conflict of both narratives, ergo different ‘origins’ of the war. For Palestinians, Zionism is an outpost of colonialism, inherently belligerent and expansionist, bent on driving the Palestinians from their land, thus causing for them to react with hostility. Zionists, however, feel they have to act decisively to secure the Jews’ right to an independent state on their ancestral land: it is the aggressive Arab-Palestinian rejection of their right to a sovereign state that has caused for them to resort to violence. The ‘origin’ suggests the beginning, and it is arguable that the beginning is with Abraham’s Covenant; nonetheless for the purpose of the word-limit this essay shall only address the history of the 20th century.

Lord Balfour
Britain’s Three Promises and it Mandate of 1920 created the historical conditions for the successful implementation of the Zionist Project. It set the framework for the colonization of Palestine and the disenfranchisement of its own people, thus inducing the clash between two national movements eliciting the catastrophic war of 1948. The Promised Land, which became twice promised, is one of the origins of the war. The McMahon-Hussein Agreement, the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration Britain made contradictory, irreconcilable and ambiguous promises. Under the Balfour Declaration, in 67 words, Britain became, “one nation promising another nation, the land of a third nation”[1]: Britain provided the protective umbrella for the establishment of a “Jewish National Home”[2]. The Balfour Declaration referred to 90% of the population as “the non-Jewish community in Palestine”: it was this arrogant, dismissive and racist tone that highlighted Britain’s pro-Zionist stance: thus the Palestinians need to resist. The Balfour Declaration was arguably the original sin, “creating a gangrene of suspicion and mistrust in the British-Zionist relationship in Palestine”[3], which was to haunt British rule for the next three decades. Britain’s colonial ambitions concocted with the expansionist Zionist ideology prompted a fearful and hostile Palestinian response.

The clash between Zionism and Palestinian Nationalism was not allayed during the British Mandate (1920-1948) but dangerously fueled. In essence the British Mandate favored the Zionist cause[4] but by aiming to implement the Balfour Declaration, the British set up irresoluble and incongruous goals of self-rule of Palestinians and a national home for the Ashkenazi Jews. This fueled Zionist-Palestinian tension and can be identified in economic, political and social policies. Palestinian land was being leased to Jewish Settlers by British authorities (by 1947 this was 195 000 dunnums – 70% purchased by PLDC)[5], this land was then exclusively for Jewish use[6]. The withdrawal of so much arable land from access/use by Palestinian peasants to economic hardship and became a threat to Palestinian sovereignty. Palestinian activism and hostility against Zionism were higher after periods of high transfer; indicating that land acquisition was a strong cause of enmity. The mandate also permitted the Aliyahs, Jews would then come to inhabit land bought for them:  it allowed for the rapid change of demographics without Palestinian consent: immigration and the growing presence of Jews only made real the threat that Palestinians faced.

The Jewish Agency
The British Mandate provided settlers with monopolistic concessions and industrial protectionism, which facilitated the building of an exclusive Jewish economy.  Britain provided for Jewish enterprises in an “incoherent but clearly recognizable” [7]protectionist policy and preferential tariffs, this is exemplified in the Atilt Salt Company, who had artificially high salt prices which hurt all Palestinians as salt is a staple food. Pro-Zionist policies, which favored the separate Zionist economy, only fueled its success as well as Palestinian resentment. Consenting to the bifurcation of the country’s economy and by helping to create a Jewish privileged enclave, the British enhanced the chance of Zionist success in Palestine, ergo another reason of Palestinian resistance. Politically, the British mandate permitted for the Jewish State within a State by allowing for the establishment of an independent Jewish Agency, which was well organised and well financed, ergo able to mobilize the Jews. This autonomous Zionist nucleus allowed the Zionists to “conduct an affective internal war, against the less-organised and financed Palestinians”[8] Moreover the rejection for the Palestinians to have their own centralized and independent political agency only electrified anti-Zionist passions: Palestinians began to feel economically and politically oppressed.

Pro-Zionist British social policies fueled Palestinian resentment. This is exemplified in the decision to make Hebrew an official language, even though Jews only constituted of 10% of the population. Britain also financed a separate and exclusive Jewish school system whilst denying Palestinians a private education system. In 1944 only 32.5% of Palestinians were enrolled in school, compared to 97% of Jews[9]. Pro-Zionist policies under the British Mandate attempted to choke Palestinian nationalism whilst promoting Zionism. Balfour’s claim in 1922 that, “Zionism be it right or wrong, is of far profounder import than the desires and prejudices of the 700 000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land” [10] not only embodies Britain’s pro-Zionist stance and its view of the Palestinians as a backward, Oriental, inert mass but also its amoral attitude to the future. This in essence accentuated the clash between both identities.

Theodor Herzl
The origin of the 1948 War can also be identified in Zionism: “an arrogant, insolent and provocative ideology…that would precipitate a catastrophe”[11]. Zionism’s core aims were to establish a Jewish state on their ancestral land, this would have to be done through “force and the Arabs will have to go, but one needs an opportune moment to make it happen, war”[12] highlights Zionism’s preparation for an inevitable war that would decide destinies. Hence the very origin of the war can be identified in the inability to coexist of Zionist aims and Palestinian Nationalism. Nonetheless Zionist aims were actualized by the British mandate and by its own initiatives. Socially, politically and economically Zionism had secured its presence through the Jewish Agency, its own private schooling and health care service and its separate and successful economy: this was all making of the Zionist reality which would then “deal militarily with the demographic reality”[13]. Ben-Gurion’s words embody Zionism’s urgent militancy, words which fueled Palestinian fear of this aggressive and expansionist ideology.

One of the origins of the war was that to achieve Zionist aims one needed the right opportunity: the only way to do this was to fuel nationalist tensions, secure a Zionist entity and prepare for war. Zionism did so in four distinct ways: informative preparation, military preparation, support overseas and the exploitation of events. Informative preparation is epitomized in the Village Files. This archive recorded topographic locations of each village: from access roads, ages of individual men to “hostility” towards Zionism, “quality of arms at disposals” in each village. The Village Files are evidence contrary to the standard Zionist narrative that the 1948 war was an attack on the Jews just because of the rejection of Resolution 181: these archives started in the 1920s show a movement preparing for war. Yigael Yaldin comments that “it was this detailed knowledge that enabled the Zionist military command in 1947 to conclude the Palestinians had nobody to organize them; it was the right opportunity.[14]” Military preparation is evident with the planning of the Haganah, (theft of arms from British barracks)[15], its military experience in WW2 and the offensive position of the Irgun and LEHI[16]. These groups played an important role in inciting hatred and fear in the Palestinians; sporadic terrorist attacks on Palestinian villages as well as the British and the 1936 Arab Revolt gave these groups a chance to practice their skills. Support overseas was also of essence to a Zionist success, and is characterized by the 1942 Biltmore Conference. The resolution reached at this conference called for the opening of Palestine to immigration, and that “Palestine should be established as a Jewish Commonwealth”[17]. The Biltmore Conference gave to American Zionism by appealing to the West’s guilt of allowing the Holocaust to occur. Zionism had managed to initiate a global pro-Zionist movement through sympathy, whilst simultaneously launching attacks on Palestinians. Zionism’s aims to create the right opportunity elicited Palestinian fear and fueled Palestinian nationalism.

The origin of the 1948 war can equally be found in the Arab Palestinian’s hostile and antipathetic reaction to Zionism and Resolution 181. The Arab mobilization to defend Palestinian Sovereignty was a militant and threatening response, endangering Jewish presence in Palestine. The Arab League began taking “military measures’[18] such as the formation of a military committee that was preparing the one million pound armament of the Palestinians and the many volunteers sent to Palestine to “bolster local militias”[19]. Moreover before the passing of the Resolution, “Arab forces had been mobilized, equipped and trained volunteers along the Palestinian boarder”[20] and the Syrians had not only set up training camps at Qatana but also deployed thousands of troops “whose exercises were alarmingly close”[21] to the Palestinian boarder. However what was threatening to the Jews and galvanized nationalist tensions was the ominous Arab rhetoric such as that of the Iraqi Prime Minister, “If a satisfactory solution of the Palestine case was not reached severe measures should be taken against Jews in Arab countries.” [22] Not only was this a menacing threat to the Zionist dream of securing its national home but also anti-Semitic intimidation reminiscent of previous Jewish persecution electrified the clash of nationalism.

The Arab reaction to the passing of Resolution 181 drove Zionist fear and highlighted to them a dire need to fight for the implementation of the Resolution. The Middle East and North Africa was rampant with violent demonstrations and pogroms, calls for “Jihad” echoed across the continent – whereby Syria “promised to comply and be at the forefront of the liberation of Palestine.”[23] These events and political rhetoric managed to induce a frantic atmosphere burning with national fervor and forcing Zionism onto the defensive. The Zionist determination to form their own State mixed with the Arab resolve to Palestinian Sovereignty paved the path to a clash of nationalism in the three day strike, hence the beginning of the 1948 War.

The making of the partition plan and Resolution 181 sowed the seeds for war, by again spurring the clash of nationalism. “By voting for partition the UN provided, unintentionally, the signal for a civil war in Palestine.”[24] To Palestinians the United Nations was inexperienced; none of the UNSCOP members had experience on solving conflicts or any knowledge about Palestinian history[25]. Moreover the United Nations was not in a legitimate position to hand over Palestinian land to the nationalist claims of the Zionist Movement, out of sympathy and compensation for the Nazi Holocaust in Europe. Not only can the origins and makings of war be found in a biased UNSCOP but also intrinsically in Resolution 181: Jews owned 6% of land, formed less than one-third of the population but were given 56% of Palestinian land – the most fertile land went to the Jews[26]. To the Palestinians and to humanity this was “both illegal and immoral” [27]Walid Khalidi puts it succinctly, “Resolution 181 was a hasty act of granting half of Palestine to an ideological movement that declared openly ready in the 1930s to de-Arabize Palestine.”[28] Hence the UN violated the basic rights of the Palestinians, instead of calming, it heightened tensions – with an overwhelming majority in favour of partition, not only did law and order in Palestine break down but also propagated the prerequisite for the 1948 War. Nonetheless, Resolution 181 did not only fuel the Arabs and Palestinians to war but also the Zionists: Ben-Gurion made very clear in October 1947 to his colleagues that the Palestinian rejection or acceptance of the Partition Plan would have made no difference, as the Zionists would accept and work against it[29], as to him a “valid Jewish State meant one that stretched over Palestine and allowed for no more than a tiny number of Palestinians.”[30] The origins and makings of the 1948 War were only made possible by the arrogant, immoral and unjust passing of Resolution 181, which unleashed a surge of Arab and Zionist nationalism.

Nonetheless it is arguable that the War of 1948 was predestined in the contradictions between the Old Testament and the Quran, and is thus not originated in the clash of nationalism but in the rivalry of two brothers – Isaac and Ishmael. However Palestine/Israel has become another outpost of imperialism: its boarders a fiction created by rule under the Persian, Hellenistic, French, Ottomans, British and many more. In quintessence the framework for the 1948 War was set with rising Zionist and Arab-Palestinian nationalism, which was then galvanized by not only the original sin of the Balfour Declaration but by pro-Zionist British policies that alienated and marginalized Palestinians. Zionism was inherently an aggressive and driven ideology whose aims if ever were to be achieved would inevitably lead to war, and to a rise of pan-Arab nationalism. The rise of Arab-nationalism, fueled by the immoral and injustice unleashed upon Palestinians by Resolution 181 also sowed the seeds for war. War involves the need of an irrational emotional response – to go to war both your hearts and minds must have the same resolve and conviction: the events written above elicited this response – and so the catastrophe was promised. The ramifications of the 1948 War bear significant importance as peace now depends on deciphering and understanding not only the Zionist and Palestinian narrative, but recognising that when the hearts and minds are galvanised with such a passionate, irrational and emotional resolve, this translates to uncertainty that can elicit catastrophe or peace.

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