Archive for August, 2010
In advance of my speech tomorrow in Port Townsend, Washington, anti-Palestinian activists have been privately circulating a 12-page dossier on me, and on how to “counter” and “expose” me.
The document is being circulated by Rob Jacobs, Northwest Regional Director of StandWithUs. StandWithUs is an extreme pro-Israel hasbara group supported by funders with a clear anti-Palestinian and anti-Muslim agenda.
The StandWithUs dossier (attached below as a PDF) is a mishmash of biographical information about me, much of it taken from my own writing, but wildly distorted and wrapped in hostility. Its main purpose it to advise anti-Palestinian activists how to “expose” me. Parts of it are quite complimentary though: “When Ali Abunimah comes to your campus, be prepared for a sophisticated, smooth advocate of radical Palestinian positions.” It warns that my “calmness, highbrow style and constant references to international law and human rights cannot conceal [my] intense hostility about the very founding of Israel… .”
The most interesting part is the advice on what questions to ask to confound me:
Though Abunimah seems calm and even reasonable, he is extremely radical. When countering him, maintain your own composure and be as rational as he is. He has written many article [sic] and made many public statements. Use his own words to expose and challenge him.
But none of the questions designed to “expose” me are particularly difficult to answer — I answer them at almost every lecture I give and I am more than happy to do so again. Mr. Jacobs is welcome to come and ask them in person and need not circulate them secretly to encourage others to do so as if they were spontaneous and not part of a well-funded and planned hasbara operation.
It’s worth recalling that StandWithUs has worked closely with the Israeli government and acted as a public relations arm for the Israeli army to help prettify it following the war crimes and crimes against humanity it committed in the Gaza Strip in early 2009 and thoroughly documented by the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict chaired by Judge Richard Goldstone.
Activists at a recent StandWithUS sponsored rally in San Francisco also shouted ugly anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian slogans and threats at members of the peace and justice groups Bay Area Women in Black and Jewish Voice for Peace.
What the StandWithUs dossier reveals is that in the absence of any credible arguments to defend Israel’s occupation, violent ethnic cleansing and colonization of Palestinian land, war crimes and crimes against humanity, its rank racism and apartheid, and the growing religious extremism motivating its politics, Israel’s defenders must rely on a strategy of ad hominem attacks.
Many of StandWithUs’s tactics would appear to come straight from the “sabotage” and “attack” playbook of Israel’s Reut Institute. These include a StandWithUs produced video that personally targets me and other advocates of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel in an attempt to discredit BDS.
The video and the dossier also fit the strategy advocated by several anti-Palestinian outfits of “naming and shaming” so-called “delegitimizers” of Israel.
But here is the problem. There is no shame in standing up for universal human rights for everyone in historic Palestine, international law, equality and peace. It is those who deny the Nakba, defend colonization, ethnic cleansing and apartheid, and offer apologias and lies to justify war crimes and crimes against humanity who should be ashamed.
Editor Palestine Monitor
28 August 2010
The weekly protest march at the village of Bil’in ended in Israeli Occupation Forces storming the crowd, hitting three activists with tear gas grenades, and shooting a man in the knee with a rubber-coated bullet from less than thirty yards away.
Ashraf Khatib was rushed from the field to the Palestine Medical Center in Ramallah, according to the Bil’in local popular committee.
The march started at the local popular committee headquarters near the Bil’in mosque. Activists from all over the world joined Palestinians and residents in a 150-person protest of the construction of the separation barrier through the village.
“Wahda wahda wataniya!” they chanted.
Many donned masks of Abdullah Abu Rahmah, a school teacher and leader of the popular struggle at Bil’in, who was convicted last Friday of “incitement” after an eight-month long trial.
“Today we are all Abu Rahmah,” said a village leader before the march. Called the Palestinian Ghandi, the investigation of the non-violence leader prompted a critique by European Union foreign affairs and security chief Catherine Ashton.
“[The conviction] and possible imprisonment is intended to prevent him and other Palestinians from exercising their legitimate right to protest against the existence of the separation barriers in a non-violent manner,” read Ashton’s statement.
The march snaked down through olive fields in the mid-morning heat, before stopping before a tangle of barbed wire and concrete. The marble grave of Bassem “Pheel” Abu Rahme, the only death since the weekly protest started, nearby. The group shouted at the distant soldiers across the road.
Detonation of a sound grenade interrupted the protesters. White trails of tear gas canisters brought gazes skyward tracing the dangerous chemical weapons – Bassem was killed by one.
Clouds drifted over the crowd and many ran, splitting them in two. Twenty minutes of continual waves of tear gas decimated the crowd. Two Palestinians used slingshots to hurl stones at the heavily armed soldiers with riot shields and helmets.
A cry from the uphill olive groves notified the protesters to running soldiers flanking their frontline position. Many ran back towards the village through the olive trees or up the road. Green uniforms and black guns followed. Eyes streamed tears.
“Bil’in is not the only or the first,” said an Israeli organizer before the tear gas and rocks. “But it has become a symble of the struggle against the wall.”
ST McNeil reporting from Bil’in.
By ALI ABUNIMAH
GEORGE J. MITCHELL, the United States Middle East envoy, tried to counter low expectations for renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations by harking back to his experience as a mediator in Northern Ireland.
At an Aug. 20 news conference with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, announcing the talks that will begin this week, Mr. Mitchell reminded journalists that during difficult negotiations in Northern Ireland, “We had about 700 days of failure and one day of success” — the day in 1998 that the Belfast Agreement instituting power-sharing between pro-British unionists and Irish nationalists was signed.
Mr. Mitchell’s comparison is misleading at best. Success in the Irish talks was the result not just of determination and time, but also a very different United States approach to diplomacy.
The conflict in Northern Ireland had been intractable for decades. Unionists backed by the British government saw any political compromise with Irish nationalists as a danger, one that would lead to a united Ireland in which a Catholic majority would dominate minority Protestant unionists. The British government also refused to deal with the Irish nationalist party Sinn Fein, despite its significant electoral mandate, because of its close ties to the Irish Republican Army, which had carried out violent acts in the United Kingdom.
A parallel can be seen with the American refusal to speak to the Palestinian party Hamas, which decisively won elections in the West Bank and Gaza in 2006. Asked what role Hamas would have in the renewed talks, Mr. Mitchell answered with one word: “None.” No serious analyst believes that peace can be made between Palestinians and Israelis without Hamas on board, any more than could have been the case in Northern Ireland without Sinn Fein and the I.R.A.
The United States insists that Hamas meet strict preconditions before it can take part in negotiations: recognize Israel, renounce violence and abide by agreements previously signed between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization, of which Hamas is not a member. These demands are unworkable. Why should Hamas or any Palestinian accept Israel’s political demands, like recognition, when Israel refuses to recognize basic Palestinian demands like the right of return for refugees?
As for violence, Hamas has inflicted a fraction of the harm on Israeli civilians that Israel inflicts on Palestinian civilians. If violence disqualifies Hamas, surely much greater violence should disqualify the Israelis?
It was only by breaking with one-sided demands that Mr. Mitchell was able to help bring peace to Northern Ireland. In 1994, for instance, Mr. Mitchell, then a Democratic senator from Maine, urged President Bill Clinton — against strenuous British objections — to grant a United States visa to Gerry Adams, the Sinn Fein leader. Mr. Mitchell later wrote that he believed the visa would enable Mr. Adams “to persuade the I.R.A. to declare a cease-fire, and permit Sinn Fein to enter into inclusive political negotiations.” As mediator, Mr. Mitchell insisted that a cease-fire apply to all parties equally, not just to the I.R.A.
Both the Irish and Middle Eastern conflicts figure prominently in American domestic politics — yet both have played out in very different ways. The United States allowed the Irish-American lobby to help steer policy toward the weaker side: the Irish government in Dublin and Sinn Fein and other nationalist parties in the north. At times, the United States put intense pressure on the British government, leveling the field so that negotiations could result in an agreement with broad support. By contrast, the American government let the Israel lobby shift the balance of United States support toward the stronger of the two parties: Israel.
This disparity has not gone unnoticed by those with firsthand knowledge of the Irish talks. In a 2009 letter to The Times of London, several British and Irish negotiators, including John Hume, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize for the Belfast Agreement, criticized the one-sided demands imposed solely on Hamas. “Engaging Hamas,” the negotiators wrote, “does not amount to condoning terrorism or attacks on civilians. In fact, it is a precondition for security and for brokering a workable agreement.”
The resumption of peace talks without any Israeli commitment to freeze settlements is another significant victory for the Israel lobby and the Israeli government. It allows Israel to pose as a willing peacemaker while carrying on with business as usual.
As for Mr. Mitchell, since he was appointed Middle East envoy, he has so far enjoyed almost 600 days of failure. As long as the United States maintains the same hopeless approach, he can expect many more.
Ali Abunimah is the author of “One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse.”
August 30, 2010…7:58 am
Yesterday, Al Masry Al Youm celebrated Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali on the 23rd anniversary of his London murder (August 29, 1987).
Al-Ali, a prolific cartoonist, was—and is—widely loved in the Arabic-cartoon-reading world. However, with “cartoonists” (er, graphic novelists) hitting an even higher note of prestige and popularity in recent years, it’s a shame to have a pen like al-Ali’s missing.
According to Al Masry Al Youm, al-Ali viewed the role of a political cartoonist as not unlike that of other artists: “The function of a political cartoonist, as I see it, is to provide a new vision.”
Al-Ali’s best-known character, حنظلة, was a 10-year-old boy who always kept his back to the viewer and his hands tightly clasped. In a 1984 interview with Egyptian novelist Radwa Ashour, al-Ali talked about what حنظلة meant to him:
That was when the character Hanzala was born. I introduced Hanzala [also transliterated as Handala, Hanthala, or Handhala] to the readers at some length: “I am Hanzala from the Ain Al-Helwa camp. I give my word of honour that I’ll remain loyal to the cause…” That was the promise I had made myself. The young, barefoot Hanzala was a symbol of my childhood. He was the age I was when I had left Palestine and, in a sense, I am still that age today. Even though this all happened 35 years ago, the details of that phase in my life are still fully presentto my mind. I feel that I can recall and sense every bush, every stone, every house and every tree I passed when I was a child in Palestine. The character of Hanzala was a sort of icon that protected my soul from falling whenever I felt sluggish or I was ignoring my duty. That child was like a splash of fresh water on my forehead, bringing me to attention and keeping me from error and loss. He was the arrow of the compass, pointing steadily towards Palestine. Not just Palestine in geographical terms, but Palestine in its humanitarian sense — the symbol of a just cause, whether it is located in Egypt, Vietnam or South Africa.
Although al-Ali collected his works into three books (and was preparing a fourth at the time of his death), only one book-length version of his work is, to my knowledge, available in English: A Child of Palestine. The collection, with an introduction by Joe Sacco, was released last summer by Verso.
Today, I started out by some work at the university with my students (research in biology) then taking a group of visitors on a tour of the area of Bethlehem that shows the impact of the wall and settlements. We also went to one of the weekly demonstrations and on this third Friday of Ramadan both here and Bilin and other places showed several injuries and use of excessive power by the Israeli occupation/apartheid army. The demonstrations commemorated the assassination of famous Palestinian Cartoonist Naji Al Ali and of the leade of the PFLP Abu Ali Mustafa. It also came in solidarity with the “conviction” by Israel’s apartheid courts of Abdullah AbuRahma on charges of organizing nonviolent demonstrations in Bilin. I posted 5 minute of the video I took of the event here. Please watch especially the unprovoked abduction of Kobi, an Israeli peace activist. They also detained Matan (not shown on video) who was released a short while later. Kobi was released also but will have to face trial later in an apartheid court.