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I have a parallel blog in French at http://anniebannie.net

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October 27, 2009

Bill Moyers talks with Justice Richard Goldstone

October 23, 2009

Bill Moyers talks with Justice Richard Goldstone, who headed up the controversial UN Human Rights Council investigation into fighting in Gaza between Israel and Hamas.

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/10232009/profile.html

VIDEO Part I: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/10232009/watch.html

VIDEO Part II: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/10232009/watch2.html
…and if international law fails, then what?,
Sam

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Crazy israeli settler attack pacifists at Jerusalem

Would you want this person as your neighbor ? LOL
Interesting conversation with an israeli settler (august 17th). I went to a protest against Senator Mike Huckabee, who is here in Jerusalem to support the Israeli settler cause in occupied Palestine and particularly in Sheikh Jarrah. On the way down from the protest, we came across a young woman who asked us where the protest was in Hebrew. We told her we did not speak Hebrew, and she asked us again in English, after which we gave her the directions. She asked us where we were coming from, and we said that we were coming from the Peace Now protest, which is against settlements. Immediately her face changed. She asked us if we were Jewish. When we said no, she asked us why we were in her country. She said that we had no right to be here, and that this country was only for the Jews, who were given this land by God. My friend asked her if she thought God would distinguish amongst people of different religions. She said yes, because she was part of the “Chosen People”. In this video, one of my other friends ask her if this justifies the murder of tens of thousands of Arabs (referring to the massacre that took place with the creation of the State of Israel). You can hear her assert that yes, it does. Not only that, she says that she loves that Arabs are killed. Then she tells us to get off her land, and threatens to break our camera. Her words weren’t empty. Unfortunately, the footage ends when she jumped on me ( I was holding the camera ). She hit us all and would not let us leave. We did not want to react, because we were afraid of being accused by her of attack instead of self-defense (settlers are often favoured by the police in Israel). So, we waited (I was a bit scared, not gonna lie) until police showed up and saw that she was the one attacking us. They told us to leave right away, and told the settler to go away. What is interesting is that if a Palestinian would have attacked us in the same way and the police would have seen, the Palestinian without a doubt would have been arrested and imprisoned. It is a bit windy, so it might be hard to understand her clearly. Listen closely and you should be able to make out what she is saying.

Israel pulls textbook over reference to ‘ethnic cleansing’

JERUSALEM (AFP) – Israel’s Education Ministry has recalled all copies of a history textbook because of a passage alleging “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinians during the 1948 war, a newspaper reported on Monday.

Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said the secondary school textbook was removed from shelves because it sought to present both Israeli and Arab perspectives on the departure of some 750,000 Palestinians during the fighting that erupted after the creation of the Jewish state.

The Palestinians have always said they were violently expelled by Jewish forces while Israel has maintained they were ordered to flee by invading Arab states or alarmed by inflammatory Arab radio reports.

The fate of the refugees and their descendants, who now number some 4.6 million and are scattered across the region, has been one of the most divisive issues in the decades-old Middle East conflict.

The textbook in question, for 11th and 12th graders, contained both versions of the events side-by-side, but according to Haaretz the ministry took issue with the Palestinian version.

It quoted the passage in question as saying: “The Palestinians and the Arab countries contended that most of the refugees were civilians who were attacked and expelled from their homes by armed Jewish forces, which instituted a policy of ethnic cleansing.”

Haaretz said the textbooks would be reissued after “corrections” are made.

The education ministry could not immediately be reached for comment.

Since assuming office in March, Israel’s right-wing government has sought to reinforce Israel’s Jewish identity, including by instituting a plan to change traffic signs to display only Hebrew place names.

Israel’s former dovish Education Minister Yuli Tamir sparked controversy in December 2006 when she said school textbooks should show Israel’s borders prior to the 1967 Six Day war, during which it conquered Egypt’s Sinai, the Gaza Strip, the Golan Heights and the West Bank including east Jerusalem.

Israel returned the Sinai under a peace treaty with Egypt in 1979 and annexed the Golan and east Jerusalem. The Palestinians have demanded the occupied West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza as their future state.

UN makes a drama out of Gaza crisis

by mail

UN makes a drama out of Gaza crisis

Israel’s attack on an aid warehouse that was a lifeline for Palestinians has been powerfully reconstructed for the stage. But such controversial material is leaving audiences divided.

Donald Macintyre reports
The Independent
Sunday, 25 October 2009

Her face larger than life on the big screen at the back of the stage, Jodie Clarke explains just what was happening at her workplace on 15 January 2009, and how the military she was constantly in touch with were insisting it was not. “My dear, I am standing in my building,” she says she told the person at the other end of the phone. “It is collapsing around me. There is a huge fire. You are hitting the UN compound.”

The Australian warehouse manager goes on calmly to describe how she crawled under the wheels of a fuel truck to push away a burning a “softball-sized” chunk of white phosphorus that would have caused a devastatingly lethal explosion if it had ignited the vehicle.

Matter of fact as it is, Ms Clarke’s account is powerfully dramatic. Appropriately so, since it is now the centrepiece of what by any standards is one of the most unusual dramas to be staged in English in 2009. All the more so since the author, sole actor and director, is Chris Gunness, the chief spokesman for the UN Relief and Works Agency. And especially so given the unwieldily titled but highly watchable Building Understanding: Epitaph of a Dead Warehouse is intended for Israeli audiences, whose military was responsible for the artillery bombardment of UNRWA headquarters in central Gaza City during the last week of the invasion.

Provocative agitprop dramaturgy on the fringe-theatre circuit may seem rather beyond the remit of a UN press officer, however senior. But Mr Gunness decided last spring that this was the best medium with which to engage the Israeli public, among whom, as the body responsible for the welfare of almost a million of Gaza’s refugees, his employer UNRWA is, to put it mildly, far from universally popular, on the impact of Operation Cast Lead.

Mr Gunness, a Briton and one-time BBC correspondent turned diplomat, became internationally well-known during last winter’s war as he took to the airwaves and regularly protested about UN installations in Gaza, including the warehouse, coming under fire from the Israeli Defence Forces.

It was on the strength of one such appearance on a satellite channel that Tami Berger from Bezalel, Israel’s most venerable art school, invited him to take part in a one-day event on “storage-space” ranging from the human womb to a TV network’s archive. Mr Gunness thought of the UNRWA warehouse and with the backing of his bosses and the help of his Israeli assistant, Yael Azgad, sat down and wrote Epitaph.

On stage throughout the 40-minute performance, Mr Gunness plays – however improbably – the eponymous warehouse, announcing early on that he is “the victim of an excruciatingly painful fire that burned me down”. Most of the goods coming into Gaza, including food, medicine, basic health items and other humanitarian supplies “pass through me”, the warehouse explains, adding, “I am a lifeline to a society behind bars”.

Unsurprisingly, the play has generated controversy, especially since Jewish international judge Richard Goldstone’s UN-commissioned report on the Gaza operation, which excoriated the attack on the compound and triggered outrage through much of Israel; so much so that a planned performance at Tel Aviv’s Hasimta theatre last week, which was to have been followed by a panel discussion with a Israeli government representative, was cancelled. There is no sign that the theatre’s creative staff were responsible for the axing. The theatre director, Avi Gibson Bar El, referred enquiries this week to the Tel Aviv muncipality, which in turn refused two requests for comment.

Epitaph was similarly pulled – this time at the last minute – from Acre’s al Laz theatre, back in August. Mony Yousef, who runs the city’s arts festival who saw then recommended the play to the theatre, broke the news to Mr Gunness after he had arrived in the northern Israeli city to set up. Asked about the sudden U-turn, Mr Yousef suggested, somewhat bizzarely, that the problem was, in fact, that the play had not been provocative enough. “It was not theatre, it was not very radical,” he insisted. “There was no pressure.”

So far, therefore, Mr Gunness has been able to stage his play only twice for the Israeli audiences for whom it is intended. In Tel Aviv, 20 people (out of an audience of more than 100) walked out early on. One man rose to his feet halfway through the performance to denounce what he saw as the drama’s frontal onslaught on Israel’s military.

Mr Gunness defused the interruption by promising to discuss his concerns. At the end, he walked down to the man’s seat and pointed out that the show was not saying the bombardment was deliberate, or that it was a war crime. The man was apparently placated but Mr Gunness conceived the idea that performances should from then on feature a chair for audience members to come up on stage and engage in debate if they wanted.

The other performance was for a class at Sapir College in Sderot, the western Negev town which has borne the brunt of Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza. Although the students, including former soldiers, were on an elective course studying Palestinian refugees – and therefore more familiar with UNRWA’s work than the average Israeli – they were initially sceptical. “There was a lot of ‘Yes, but’,” said lecturer Maya Rosenfeld. “But in the end I think the whole idea of watching an UNRWA official doing this impressed them.”

For Mr Gunness, the show is partly about repairing the image of the UN, once famously dismissed as “Oom Schmoom” by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. Israelis who dislike the UN may sometimes scrawl “Unwanted Nobodies” on its cars. Mr Gunness says the UN is “expected to stay put when there is danger and conflict and it does”. He believes that audiences who engage with Epitaph find that “our values are ones that a lot of Israelis identify with, including giving help to those who need it most”.

But was the highly sensitive subject of the Gaza War the best subject to begin this process of engagement and image building? “If I contact Israelis-journalists and others about other things we do, development and so on, they understandably glaze over; but if I say look, there’s a play with a pint-sized Australian woman from UNRWA who risked her life to stop an even worse conflagration in the middle of the war, they sit up and listen.”

Pointing out that Israel’s Foreign Ministry had encouraged UNRWA to engage more with the Israeli public, he adds: “Like Daniel in the biblical den, I’m ready to take this to the most leonine audiences anywhere in Israel.”

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