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January 4, 2010

But wait, given a choice, Palestinians would prefer to live in Israel over neighboring societies, right?

by Philip Weiss on March 3, 2009 · 25 comments

A Zionist friend told me recently that polls show that most Palestinians living in Israel would prefer to live there than in neighboring societies; they like the freedom. He offered this as the smoking-gun of Israel’s advancement. I asked my friend Anees, who lives in Jerusalem: “A Zionist friend says: ‘Palestinian citizens of Israel would rather live there than in neighboring Arab countries or Palestine. That shows Israel is a model.’ Is it true? What’s the answer to this?”
Anees writes:

It’s a specious remark your friend makes. Some and perhaps many Israeli Arabs/Jerusalem residents (IA/JR) would agree to staying in Israel. This group would predictably say the reasons why: they are not ready to give up the health care and social services (reliant on heavy taxation though they are) which living in Israel allows them and their children, compared to most Arab countries. (I don’t include education in these “pro’s” because the education IAJR receive in schools inside Israel is terrible by any standard.) But if you give them a choice to live (or to have lived) in certain places like Amman or UAE or Cairo or Beirut, I think some in this group might think again.
In the first 20-or-so years of Israel’s existence, most IA suffered considerable injustices: many were not allowed to leave their towns without permits. After these restrictions eased, they found themselves still isolated and poor in their small communities. Many came here to Arab East Jerusalem to find a better life, and they did, especially the doctors, lawyers, and other professionals who were lucky enough to have something to offer and thus make a decent living. Could they have done as well if they stayed in their undeveloped towns/villages? Not likely. Could they have done well in Jewish Israeli communites? No, because they are not an accepted minority and discriminated against in jobs and housing.
I am a Jerusalem resident (JR) and growing up in East Jerusalem, there were always one or two pupils from such “immigrant” IA families in my classroom. They came to East Jerusalem from Nazareth, from Tarsheeha, Acre, etc. So who stayed behind in those towns and villages? I am sure not everyone who stayed behind in IA communities is starving right now. Some may be doing OK, but they are living a very demeaning life, always reminded of their typically much-better-off Jewish neighbours, and of their status as second-tier citizens.

And then you have a really destitute group among the IA, especially in Um el-Fahm. It’s the so-called internal refugees (i.e. Palestinians who in ’48 were disposessed and displaced but within Israel proper). They never recieved compensation from Israel. Today they and their children are basically Israel’s cheap manual labor. Is that a life this group is grateful for? Doubt it.
Finally there is us, East Jerusalem residents, under threat of Israel taking away our right to live here (the blue ID card) if we live just across the checkpoint oustside, or abroad, for longer than half a year or so. (Remember Moustafa Barghouti’s grievance on 60 Minutes?) The Israeli project of ethnically-cleansing Arabs from Jerusalem by various policies and laws is making JR stick to their ground here even more solidly. There may be dual motives to their clinging (to retain benefit of social services vs. to be a thorn in Zionist demography’s throat), but that just goes to show it’s a complex world we live in, where everyone negotiates his/her own principles and priorities.
Anyway, the argument your friend tries to make doesn’t hold water even if all IAJR choose to stay in Israel in a hypothetical offer. “That shows Israel is a model”? Please. That’s quite a leap. It may be an advanced nation in a sea of backward ones, but to us Palestinians it’s a model of injustice and tyranny before all else. If we, ALL Palestinians not just IAJR, had been treated by Israel with dignity and equality, then.. well.. a great many things would be different, wouldn’t they?

Weiss: I realized I’d forgotten to ask Anees specifically about polls. I put that question.

I think the poll might well be right, that there are a majority who answer “yes we’d stay”. They are being true to self-serving nature; they don’t want to give up the security of Israel’s welfare system.
Ask the same Yes Group, “Do you believe Israel is being fair to you?” and the picture starts to get murky with No’s.
Because if Israel were being fair to them, they’d be doing WAY better than they are, living as they are as second-class citizens. And if Israel were not killing and oppressing their brethren in the West Bank and Gaza, they might even stop harboring resentment towards it.

Weiss comment: A great coalition of liberals, blacks, Christians, and Jews liberated my country, America, from southern Jim Crow in the 1960s. Today Hollywood makes glorious movies about this. Let us come together again to end the discrimination that our country supports in Israel/Palestine before Anees’s children have to experience it too.

Meantime, Anees sent me another note:

I keep thinking: Some Israeli Arabs also might not want to leave Israel… simply because it’s their homeland.

source

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Viva Palestina aid convoy hours away from breaking Gaza siege

4th January 2010

The Viva Palestina international aid convoy is just hours away from breaking Israel’s three and a half year siege of Gaza.

Despite repeated obstructions from the Egyptian government, including its refusal to allow the convoy to land in the Egyptian port of Nuweiba, convoy members hope to be in Gaza tomorrow.

198 convoy vehicles, including ambulances and vans, were loaded on to a ferry in the Syrian port of Latakia on Saturday (2nd January) and have now docked and cleared customs at the Egyptian port of El Arish.

Convoy members will fly to El Arish today from Latakia to pick up the vehicles and drive less than one hundred miles to Egypt’s Rafah border crossing with Gaza.

Since Israel imposed its near total blockade on Gaza in 2006, people, aid and vehicles have been blocked from entering the Strip.

The convoy, jointly organised by Viva Palestina and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, will be taking in aid, including specialised medical equipment, and will also be leaving all its vehicles in Gaza.

It had hoped to enter the Strip on 27th December 2009, to mark the first anniversary of the day Israel began its three weeks land, air and sea assault on Gaza, killing 1,400 Palestinians and destroying homes, farms and essential infrastructure.

However, the convoy was forced to retrace its route through Jordan and Syria last week, after being refused permission to sail from Aqaba, Jordan to Nuweiba.

Kevin Ovenden, convoy organiser, said: ‘Despite all the difficulties, by land, by sea and by air, we are within 24hrs of breaking the siege of Gaza.’

‘We now have every right to expect unhindered and safe passage into Gaza, but we call on all our friends internationally to stand ready to raise their voices if we face further unjustified delay.’

For further information on the Viva Palestina Gaza aid convoy and updates visit http://www.vivapalestina.org

Press information from Alice Howard on Tel: 07944 512 469 or via email: alice@vivapalestina.org

Gaza freedom march wrap up

By Sana (Keffiyeh And Onions)

I’m sure its going to take me some time to process everything that has happened in Cairo with the Gaza Freedom March over the past week or so but here are some of my initial thoughts and feelings. Bear in mind, these are my own opinions and reflections and they surely are not the same as the 1300 other people who were in Cairo. So for what its worth – here it goes:

This whole political experience here with CODEPINK, for me, has been honestly disappointing and angering. I’m going to be honest here, I did not participate in many of the protests that took place in Cairo because I had serious issues with the way everything was being handled and the way that the March really seemed to have fallen apart and unraveled once everyone realized that our chances of getting into Gaza were really slim to none. From the very first meeting that was held in Tahrir Square, the individuals who were going to be staying in Gaza longer (past January 2nd) were told to not participate in any of these demonstrations because if we did somehow come up with a way to get into Gaza, if we had any record or history with problems with the Egyptians – this would effectively eliminate any chance of us getting in. People told us to completely “disassociate from the March” and that because Egypt is not a democracy, “nothing we do will change their minds” – which sadly, ended up being quite true despite how often people demonstrated, were barricaded in by people, and some even beaten up. Moral of the story: This is not the U.S., they don’t care that you’re Americans, and we did not fly thousands of miles to protest in Egypt.

Aside from this though, there were so many critical problems with the way things were being done and decisions were being made that I really felt uncomfortable with doing anything that GFM was doing in Cairo.

I felt as though there was no insight to the way the Egyptian government works, or the greater public opinion in Egypt, at all. We cannot simply think that a country, who has religiously served the agenda of the U.S. and Israel, will do a complete 360 and open the borders when a group of activists show up, no matter how big. Anyone who has any familiarity with the politics of this conflict, know that Egypt’s role in ensuring the Palestinian suffering is not a new or novel concept. Given that, the fact that CODEPINK did not prepare for the very unsurprising setback that Egypt delivered by closing its borders, really baffled me. When we got news on Monday, that the borders were going to be closed and no one would enter, I figured that this was a very expected move (especially after news of Egypt’s steel wall just was released as well) and that the steering committee and whoever else also saw this coming and that surely back up plans and strategies were on hand now that Egypt played its cards. But after a couple days when everyone started arriving and it was time to figure out what we were going to do, it just seemed like these small fragmented actions (the hunger strike here, french sit-in there) were things that groups were doing on their own, hardly with any support from the mass collective. There was no unified message besides come out in the streets and protest. It felt like everyone kind of went their own way and that now instead of focusing on the occupation we were going to go after the Egyptian government – which as much as I have issues with that they are doing and how they add to the Palestinian suffering – that is not why I came here.

Lets clarify something here. As much as I hate Egypt, Egypt is NOT occupying the Palestinian territories. ISRAEL is. I mean, to a certain degree, by doing of all this, I feel, we took a lot of heat off of Israel b/c the press coverage just shows a bunch of people demonstrating in Cairo, which is giving the message that we have a problem with Egypt for what they are doing wrong when we were here to raise awareness of the ISRAELI OCCUPATION and Operation Cast Lead which was carried out by ISRAEL one year ago. Why are people shouting “Free Egypt” at the demonstrations? It makes no sense, we had no focus.

I want to believe that GFM tried to do the best that it could, given the circumstances, but honestly it just led to many people feeling as if they had to do something, anything, since we weren’t being allowed in Gaza. Don’t get me wrong, I am a firm believer in public resistance and demonstrating, even getting arrested when its necessary, etc – but you cannot do these things without tons of planning, proper escalation tactics leading up to massive direct action like that, and a solid SOLID solid foundation in Egypt (resources, connections, lawyers, etc) for the people that do take those risks. Otherwise, you just end up looking like a bunch of stupid foreigners (mostly Americans) who are protesting, sitting in, going on hunger strike – for what? We came here to deliver aid and stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people in Gaza – if that was not going to happen then we could have held all of these actions back in our home towns where we know how things work, we know what resources we have, and we can accurately assess what type of risk we are willing to take for this dire cause. After these past few days, I feel that all we’ve done is agitate Egypt for a brief period of time, spent a lot of money fueling this unjust country’s economy, and made the daily lives of the Egyptian people harder.

When our plans fell through, and it did not seem like we were going to get in, there should have been a massive meeting/discussion with a vote with all of the delegates who have come from around the world as to what we think would be the best thing to do. But when people were told to figure it out and come up with ideas, you had serious fragmentation and people, like the French delegates, who were occupying the area in front of the Embassy feeling like they did not have support or instances like when the entire Japanese delegation just left after the first day for the West Bank. All I’ve been asking myself these past few days is “What the hell is going on?” and “What is all of this?”. And to tell the truth, I still really don’t know because I don’t think GFM really even knows.

The “100 people to Gaza” stunt was also another fiasco that only further divided this group and our efforts. At first, CODEPINK accepts this offer and takes credit for it since the women went and talked to Suzanne Mubarak. They come up with a list in a very short time of these people who would get to go, not realizing what a bad mistake this is. After a few hour, they do realize its a bad idea, send out an official message saying how they have ‘rejected’ this offer, and yet, lo and behold people STILL got on the buses and went? Again, “What is going on?”

I realize that this has gotten really long already and these are just some of my preliminary thoughts from the past few days. As of right now this is how I feel: as much as I’d like to really blame fully the repressive Egyptian dictatorship for the Gaza Freedom March falling apart and not succeeding, I believe that CODEPINK, and the same old foreign arrogance/ignorance we have, has a lot to do with it this time as well. Sadly, the Palestinian people are still under occupation and I wish the best of luck to the VIVA Palestina convoys who seem to have a better grasp on how to deal with all this nonsense than we do.

Until later, free free Palestine,

-Sana

Yousef Abudayyeh – Mubarak is no Abdul Nasser and Galloway is no Salah Eddin, but ‘Israel’ is the problem

It’s a fact that most of the Arab people everywhere believe that their Arab rulers are corrupt to the core and that for them to stay in power they need to be in bed with the US, which always works against the Arab people’s aspiration for freedom and democracy. The misery and oppression that most of Arab people live under is a direct result of this unholy relationship and alliance.

It’s also a fact that the Zionist state that was implanted into the Arab World body more than 62 years ago, is fully supported by the US, the EU and many in the so-called World Community, even though this rogue body is illegal and does not abide by any of the international laws and resolutions.

I know of no Arab person, and certainly, no Arab Palestinian, who is not grateful for the support our people and struggle for liberation and freedom get from Internationals, be it vocal or material .The fact is, many Internationals were killed, wounded or jailed by the Zionist rogue state, simply because they were standing in defense of a defenseless people. These people will always be etched in our memory and history and one day soon, when Palestine is liberated from the River to the Sea, will be honored as true freedom fighters. All through our struggle, many from pretty much everywhere on this globe joined – with no preset conditions – our march for freedom and they gave it their all.

What these freedom fighters had, which many in the current supporters of Palestine lack, is the true understanding of our struggle, which is really very simple to understand: Our homeland is colonized by a foreign force, and our people due to this colonization were forced to flee their homes and homeland, and have been scattered all over the map for more than 6 decades, but for not one moment did they gave up their dream of going back to Palestine. For not one moment did they believe that they will never liberate Palestine, even though, they can understand the huge odds against them. If the true supporter of the struggle understands this, then our struggle will become that much easier.
Without understanding that ‘Israel’ is the core problem in the Arab World, and trying to fashion methods to cripple this colonizing body, all will fail. It’s crucial for all the Internationals who are working in support of Palestine to work against the Zionist colonizers of Palestine. This work should start by forcing their respective governments to stop any kind of support of ‘Israel’, and should continue by facing the Zionists. Doing it face to face in defense of the defenseless Palestinians, like many did and are still doing on the ground in colonized Palestine.

That’s why it’s hard to understand why anyone would want to send medical supplies in a break the siege effort through Egypt, and not cut through the borders from Lebanon or Jordan, (which is closer), and be in direct contact with the rogue state that is imposing the siege on the Palestinian people in the first place. Egypt and Jordan and Saudi Arabia, etc., are implicated in much more than enforcing the siege, but the address for imposing that siege and committing war crimes is ‘Israel’. Why the Internationals are not doing this is beyond anyone’s understanding. It’s the only method that will guarantee the collapse of the siege and the collapse of the state that is imposing it.

So unless these Internationals believe that they can export revolution into Egypt, so the traitor Mubarak Regime can collapse and the border between Gaza and Egypt then can be cracked open, I for one can not see the reason for not tackling the core problem, i.e., ‘Israel’ head on, unless they believe that a heart disease can be treated by putting a band aid on it.

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