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Miko Peled

Miko Peled : It’s Personal.

Miko Peled

As thousands of Palestinian political prisoners jailed by Israel are going through a hunger strike, we would do well to delve into the deeper, more personal and historical aspects of Palestine.  Though the politics and violence of settler colonialism have determined its fate for almost one hundred years, Palestine is not just a “case” or an “issue,” it’s personal. My dear, dear friend Nader Elbanna said to me a long time ago, “The Palestinian tragedy is more than just losing the house and the land.”  None of us will ever fully understand Palestine, none of us who are not Palestinian, that is, because it is personal. But there are ways to learn. Visiting Palestine is a good start. Living in Palestine is good too and learning Arabic affords a glimpse. Reading Ghassan Kanafani’s stories is moving and enlightening.

 

Ghassan Kanafani, in his short stories presents an intensely personal narrative and paints a picture that is painfully detailed. In one of his short stories, a young man asks, “would you like to hear about my life?” and he proceeds to describe a mother who died under the ruins of a house in Safed, the house that was built for her by her husband. He describes the father, now working in another part of the Arab World and unable to see his children, and a brother “learning humiliation” in an UNRWA school. In another short story Kanafani describes a father who is standing in the rain leaning on a broken shovel, taking a break from the back- breaking work of digging a ditch in the rain. He is digging in an effort to stop the rain water from flooding a tent where his family, now refugees, must live. He is cold, tired and hungry but avoids going inside the tent, not wanting to see his wife’s glare, knowing she blames him for the inevitable state of being unemployed and unable to provide for his family. Seeing his child wear a torn, old shirt he contemplates taking part in a scam operation, stealing bags of rice from the UNRWA storage facility and selling them on the black market. “The guard is in on it and for a small fee he will look the other way,” he is told by a man of whose morals he does not approve, and whose very presence makes him uneasy.

The occupation of Palestine is not only about the brutality that is inherent in settler colonialism but the daily, painful existence of a nation that is denied the right to live in the land to which it belongs. A nation forced to live in abject poverty in camps that are unfit for humans and which exist just hours away from the land and the homes from which they were kicked out. A land for which they have the deeds, and homes for which they still hold the keys now inhabited by Jewish settlers. “For us, to liberate our country is as essential as life itself” Kanafani says to an Australian reporter in a rare interview in English. He is fierce and forthright, sitting in his office, with photos of Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh behind him.

But Palestinians are permitted only to be victims or terrorists, never freedom fighters or heroes. If Palestinians wrote “Live Free or Die” on a license plate they will be accused of terrorism and locked up, deported or simply killed, though in New Hampshire it is the official motto. Ironically, Israeli children learn about a legendary Jewish hero who, having been killed in battle in Palestine said, “it is good to die for one’s country” though clearly, he was fighting to take the country of others. Kanafani was brutally murdered, along with his young niece Lamees who was only seventeen, for saying and doing just that – fighting to liberate his country. Since his assassination by Israel almost half a century ago, countless Palestinians were killed by Israel, some fighting, most while sleeping in their beds or trying to flee.

Kanafani talks about “them,” the “Yahud” the Zionists who colonized Palestine and exiled his people, turning them into “people with no rights, with no voice.” “They have put enormous efforts into trying to melt me,” he writes, “Like a sugar cube in cup of tea.” And he talks about “You” the Arab authorities under whom Palestinians are now forced to live. “You had managed to melt millions of people and lump them into one lump, into a single thing you can now call ‘a case.’” And, he continues, “now that we are all ‘a case’” there is no personal attachment to any single person or story. How convenient. That is what allows for the ease with which the world treats the Palestinian tragedy. That is how the West can sell Israel the weapons and technology with which it slaughters Palestinians by the thousands and maintains the oppression.

One wonders what Kanafani would say about the horrific, large scale massacres endured by the people in Gaza since 2008. What would he say if he knew that since his death things have become worse now that Israel’s army of terror has access to more “modern” weapons that allow it to murder and maim thousands in a single “operation.” How would Kanafani react if he heard about entire families that were wiped out by mortars and missiles fired at them and others, incinerated by millions of tons of bombs dropped from war planes? One wonders what stories he might write about children burned and mutilated with such ease in the twenty first century? “We are a small, brave nation” Kanafani said in 1970, “who will fight to last drop of blood.”

Israel – the name that was given to the Zionist state which occupies Palestine – is indignant at the very mention of Palestine and at the idea that as a state it should respect the rights of Palestinians. People who support Israel are offended when they hear accusations of racism, indiscriminate violence and genocide. But these same people have no problem with the actual ongoing campaigns of genocide, ethnic cleansing and the reality of racist apartheid perpetuated by Israel. Because for them Palestine is not personal, it is just a “case,” just a “problem.” But Palestine is not a problem, it is personal, it has a beating heat, and that is why the fight for justice in Palestine is gaining momentum all over the world. As the Palestinian leader and political prisoner Marwan Barghouthi wrote recently from a cell in an Israeli jail, “The chains that bind us will break before our captors can break our resilience.”

 

Hillary Clinton – Another great President for Israel

Miko Peled

The 2016 AIPAC convention looks like it’s going to be sad and lusterless. With President Obama conveniently in Cuba, Israeli PM Netanyahu doesn’t feel like making the trip to the US so he will speak to the attendees via satellite.  Donald Trump apparently only goes to his own events, Bernie Sanders does not seem to be an AIPAC type of guy, he has no taste for PACs altogether making it unlikely that he will show up. So the list of speakers is pretty boring. But wait, breaking news! A ray of light is finally shining in on the lusterless AIPAC convention: Hillary Clinton, still a serious AIPAC pawn, and a politician that loves herself some PAC money, confirmed that she will be there in person! So for now at least, Hilary promises to be the main highlight of this year’s AIPAC event.

There will obviously be others there to speak for AIPAC:  Questionable dignitaries like Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barakat, and war criminal Avi Dichter (former head of Israel’s secret police, the Shabak), are confirmed. Other lesser dignitaries from Israel include mayors of small cities, two bit politicians, journalists and other hangers-on who jumped at the opportunity to get a free all-expenses-paid trip to America. There are a few has-beens, drab ambassadors, greying senators and members of congress that are excited to speak in front of any crowd. That’s really all the attendees have to look forward to. Oh, and of course there are the symbolic Palestinians, willing to debase themselves and shame their families by standing with Israel and showing the world what a wonderful democracy she really is, (after all, they too deserve a free trip to America). This year these are Ali Abu Awad and Mohammad Darawshe.

Hilary Clinton who likes to call herself “Progressive” apparently did not get the memo telling her that during the AIPAC convention Progressives will be on the outside of the D.C. convention center. While the above-mentioned speakers will be groveling, explaining, excusing and justifying Israel’s genocidal policies, Progressives, and all other people of conscience will be outside demanding justice for Palestine. We will be demanding the right of return for all Palestinian refugees, freedom for Palestinian prisoners and calling in no uncertain terms for the end of Israel’s seven decade long strangulation of Palestine.

AIPAC has a lot of problems these days, and the following is a short list of these problems. BDS is gaining more victories every day, it is gaining more support and recognition worldwide, thanks in part to the attempts by Israel and its supporters to legislate against it; the presence of Students for Justice in Palestine on campuses is more pronounced than ever. Like wild flowers in spring they are spreading all over the US; there is a growing understanding in the US regarding the issue of Palestine, and the conclusion that more and more people are reaching is that Israel is an embarrassment. It has become more apparent to people in all walks of life that the plight of the Palestinians has to end, that the legitimacy that the world has bestowed upon the settler-colonial project in Palestine, also known as Israel, was premature if not all together wrong, and that it is time to remedy the situation.

But for Hillary none of this matters, so it is likely that her speech will begin with reminding the crowd of the unending love between her and Israel. She will reminisce on the wonderful relations that her husband Bill had with Israel – after all it was he who pushed and facilitated the peace process which acted as an enormous fig leaf and allowed Israel to steal more Palestinian land, erase the West Bank and destroy what little there was of the Palestinian economy, he made sure that life for Palestinians would become completely intolerable.

Hillary is not likely to mention this, but what is arguably the biggest gift President Bill Clinton gave Israel was to sign Executive Order 12947 on January 23, 1995. This order designated as “Specially Designated Terrorists,” or STD’s a list of people and organizations that Israel deemed to be “threatening disruption of the Middle East peace process.” It made opposition to the same process that brought disaster after disaster upon the Palestinian people, i.e. the “peace” process, a crime. This order legalized the persecution and prosecution of Muslims and Arabs in America, focusing particularly on those whom the Israeli government did not like.

The list of organizations that were designated as terrorists includes Hamas and Hezbollah, the PFLP, (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), and other Palestinian organizations that are dedicated to resistance against the Israeli occupation and who realized early on that the peace process was a sham. It lumped them in with Jewish underground terrorist groups, Al Qaeda and several other international terrorist organizations. This order made it possible for President George W. Bush to close the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) in December 2001, and order the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) to seize millions of dollars that were donated by American Muslims to feed the poor in Palestine. The Holy Land Foundation, which at the time was the largest Muslim charity in the United States, was accused of funding Hamas, which thanks to Bill Clinton was a designated terrorist organization. It was a false accusation based on lies, falsified evidence and unsubstantiated testimonies and it brought about the closure of the organization and the imprisonment of Shukri Abu-Baker, Ghassan Elashi, Mufid Abdulqader, Abdulrahman Odeh and Mohammad Elmezain, also known as the HLF-5.

Hilary will surely tell the AIPAC crowd that she will outdo Bill and she will do even more for Israel. She may rest assured that the AIPAC convention attendees will welcome her warmly, and they in turn can expect that if elected she too will be a good president for Israel. Sadly, there are still a handful of millionaires and politicians in the US who are not embarrassed to stand with Israel. But the list is obviously shrinking and pretty soon AIPAC will find itself with a very short list of speakers willing to come to its conventions. As for 2016, if they are very lucky maybe Marco Rubio or Ben Carson will have time to stop by.

 

From The Holocaust To The Massacre In Gaza Through Ben-Gurion Airport, by Miko Peled

The morning after “Lailat Al Qadr” the death toll in Gaza was approaching its first thousand. I spent the holy night of “Al Qadr,” (The night before the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan is a special night, believed to be the night when the Holy Koran was revealed to the prophet Mohammad)  with friends in Ramallah, after participating in the 48K March for Gaza. The march began in Ramallah and went to Qalandia checkpoint. What began as a peaceful event with families with children and even babies in strollers, ended with young Palestinians with gunshot wounds being rushed in ambulances to the local hospital.

Qalandia crossing was fortified and air tight, and the Israeli soldiers stationed were shooting live ammunition at the crowd. As the ambulances were speeding through the crowd I couldn’t help wondering why there is no hospital between Qalandia and Ramallah, a good distance which includes the municipalities of Jerusalem, Al-Bire and Ramallah.

48K March, July 2014

The following night I was scheduled to leave Palestine to return to the US but Israeli forces sealed all the roads from Ramallah to Jerusalem for the night, and they were likely to be sealed the following day as well.  At the crack of dawn, when things quieted down, my friend Samer drove me to a checkpoint that he suspected would be open. It was open, albeit for Israelis only, and from there I made my way back to Jerusalem.

COOPERATION WITH THE AUTHORITIES

That evening, as I was preparing to leave for Ben-Gurion airport in Tel-Aviv, people around me were trying to calm me down. “Don’t aggravate them, cooperate and they will be nice,” “why go through all this unnecessary inconvenience?” They were talking about the “Smiling Gestapo,” Israeli security officers at Tel-Aviv airport that go by the squeaky clean name of “Airport Security Division.”

בודקת

(image taken off of Israel Airport Authority WEBSITE,  )

Listening to this I was reminded of Jewish communities under the Nazi regime who believed that if they cooperate and show they are good citizens then all will be well.  But the road from cooperation to the concentration camps and then the gas chambers was a direct one. The Nazis would not have been able to kill millions of people if it were not for the naive belief held by the victims, that if one would cooperate and lay low things will be ok.  The policies of racist discrimination and humiliation at Ben-Gurion airport, and the policies of ethnic cleansing and murder of Palestinians in Gaza, emanate from the same Zionist ideology. As we have seen over the past seven decades, cooperation and laying low do not make things ok.

It is often said that Hitler was a monster. But hitler was not a monster, and any child will tell you that there are no such things as monsters. There are however many cruel people who get the support and cooperation of others in order to do unspeakable things.  Hitler was not unique, the list of vicious, murderous men and women who as leaders of nations committed unspeakable crimes is too long to recount. But none of them could have done it without the cooperation of the victims and society in general.

Cooperation with the Israeli authorities might lead to short term relief but it also validates Israel’s right to terrorize and humiliate Palestinians with our consent, “we” being all people of conscience.  Whether we are Palestinian or not, the call of the hour is non-cooperation and resistance against the injustice.

HAMAS IS NOT THE PROBLEM 

Today people lay the blame for the violence in Gaza on Hamas, but Israel did not start its assaults on the Gaza Strip when Hamas was established in the late 1980’s. Israel began attacking Gaza when the Gaza Strip was established and populated with refugees in the early 1950’s.  Palestinians, particularly in Gaza, are not faced with an option to resist and be killed or live in peace. They are presented with the options of being killed standing up and fighting or being killed sleeping in their beds.

Gaza is being punished because Gaza is a constant reminder to Israel and the world of the original sin of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the creation of a so-called Jewish state.  Even though Palestinian resistance has never presented a military threat to Israel, it has always been portrayed as an existential threat to Israel. Moshe Dayan, the famed Israeli general with the eyepatch described this in a speech in April 1956. He spoke in Kibbutz Nahal Oz, an Israeli settlement on the border of the Gaza strip where Israeli tanks park each time there is a ground invasion of Gaza.

Dayan giving the eulogy at Nahal Oz settlement, April, 1956

“Beyond this border exists an ocean of hatred and a deep desire for vengeance,” Dayan said then. Ironically, when six months later Israel had occupied Gaza and my father was appointed its military governor he said he saw “no hatred or desire for vengeance but a people eager to live and work together for a better future.”

Still, today, Israeli commanders and politicians say pretty much the same: Israel is destined to live by the sword and must strike Gaza whenever possible.  Never mind the fact that Palestinians have never posed a military challenge, much less a threat to Israel. After all, Palestinians have never possessed as much as a tank, a war ship or a fighter jet, not to say a regular army.

A THREAT TO ISRAEL’S LEGITIMACY 

So why the fear? Why the constant, six-decade-long campaign against Gaza? Because Palestinians in Gaza, more so than anywhere else, pose a threat to Israel’s legitimacy.

Israel is an illegitimate creation, born of the unholy union between racism and colonialism, and the refugees who make up the majority of the population in the Gaza Strip are a constant reminder of this.  They are a reminder of the crime of ethnic cleansing upon which Israel was established. The poverty, lack of resources and lack of freedom stand in stark contrast to the abundance, freedom and power that exist in Israel and that rightfully belongs to Palestinians.

Alshati refugee camp, Gaza

Back at Ben-Gurion airport that night, I was told that if I cooperate and plead with the shift supervisor it would make the security screening go faster. When I declined this generous offer I was told they “did not like my attitude” and they proceeded to paste a sticker with the same bar code on my luggage and give me the same treatment Palestinians receive.

“NEVER AGAIN?”

As I write these words, the number of innocents murdered by Israel in Gaza has risen beyond two thousand. Ending the insufferable, brutal and racist regime that was created by the Zionists in Palestine is the call of our time. Criticizing Palestinian resistance is unconscionable. Israel must be subjected to boycott, divestment and sanctions. Israeli diplomats must be sent home in shame. Israeli leaders, and Israeli commanders traveling abroad must fear prosecution. And these measures are to be combined with disobedience, non-cooperation and uncompromising resistance.  This and only this will show mothers, fathers and children in Gaza that the world cares and that “Never Again” is  more than an empty promise.

Never again?

source

Miko Peled

Final Words on Sharon By Miko Peled

Sharon pic

Ariel Sharon, visit to the Temple Mount, October, 2000

I never understood how people could rejoice at the news of a person’s death. I happened to be in the UK when Margaret Thatcher died so I witnessed the celebrations. The expressions of joy as the news of the Iron Lady’s death spread around the country shocked me at first, as people were actually throwing parties to celebrate her death. As I visited different parts of the country, particularly Wales and Ireland, it occurred to me that when Ariel Sharon dies we may see similar outbursts of joy taking place.

Sharon has been in a coma since January 2006 when he suffered several brain hemorrhages that left him in a vegetative state. But now there is news that his kidneys are failing and concerns are expressed in Israel that there is a chance he will die soon.

One can imagine the long eulogies we will have to endure once he is laid to rest: “A hero,” “a great leader,” “a military genius,” all of this will be said and more. The press will recount every military achievement, ever battle he won, every enemy, both military and political that he defeated. His resolve as Israel’s leader will be heralded, and, we will be told, he will be remembered for giving his all to his country.

In my book, The General’s Son, Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, I mention Sharon several times, in his capacity as a military man who was cruel, brilliant and reckless, then as defense minister and finally as prime minister. But it is important to set the record straight about this man before the nauseating outpour of condolences, replete with hypocrisy and lies, that are sure to follow his death.

Ariel Sharon was an ambitious man. He was brutal, greedy, uncompromising and dishonest. He possessed an insatiable appetite for power, glory and fortune. His tendencies as a cold-blooded, merciless killer were evident from early on in his career when he commanded the Israeli army’s Unit 101 in the 1950’s. Unit 101 was an infamous commando brigade with special license to kill and terrorize Palestinians. It operated mostly in Gaza, but also in other parts of the country and beyond. Unit 101 was so brutal in its practices, and claimed so many innocent lives, that even by Israeli standards it was thought to have gone too far and the unit was eventually disbanded.

Sharon went on to be promoted to other commands in the Israeli army earning a name for himself as a promising commander and all were expecting that he would one day be the Israeli army’s top commander, or Chief of Staff. But this was one job he never got, he did better. Sharon entered politics and was nominated to be Defense Minister under Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In that capacity he lead Israel’s catastrophic invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

This invasion left countless Lebanese and Palestinians dead, wounded and displaced. Sharon was also behind the massacres that took place in September of that year in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps near Beirut, and here once again, even by Israeli standards Sharon had gone too far and was removed from office.

Though Sharon was reprimanded for his role in the Sabra and Shatila massacre, and was prevented from serving as defense minister, his political career continued nevertheless and his sphere of influence grew. As minster of Housing and Development he contributed more than any other to the racist, anti Palestinian policies and the corruption within the ministry. It is claimed that during his tenure the ministry’s budget was without limits, exceeding Israel’s entire defense budget. He used his full weight to achieve the colonization and displacement Palestinians from what used to be the West Bank.

Surely the most absurd thing ever said about Sharon, is that he was a man of peace. That he “left” Gaza and that he “gave” Gaza back to the Palestinians. That he did it for peace and in return all Israel received were rockets fired from Gaza. The Israeli disengagement from Gaza was a cynical, unilateral move. It allowed Sharon to get the Israeli settlers in Gaza out of his way, close Gaza like a prison and score a few political points with the US administration. It was a cruel move that allowed him to further suffocate the people of Gaza, people that he was determined to destroy from early on in his violent career. But the proud Palestinians would not surrender and served as a constant reminder of the blood with which his hands are stained.

One could go on and on about Sharon and his crimes. As he lay dying, perhaps within days or minutes of his final breath, we must all remember his victims, the countless dead, wounded and displaced and remind the world that this man was not a hero but a criminal.

As I write these words Ariel Sharon is still alive, if one can call it that, and in many ways the state in which he lives now could be the hell he so richly deserves.

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