Sunday, June 28, 2009

Lift the Closure-Give Life a Chance!

Ah-the Shalit deal. On again. Off again. On again-and now, off again (according to Haaretz and Hamas both, it never existed to start with).

As though Shalit were the end all be all of the Palestinian problem. Nevermind the 1.5 million Palestinians trying to survive under siege. Nevermind the 11 thousand palestinian prisoners in israeli jails.

In any case, it appears that there was perhaps something in the works-and in an attempt to pressure Hamas to sign on, Egypt (already sealing Rafah Crossing in collusion with Israel for going on two years now) has hindered passage through Gaza's only land crossing to thousands of Palestinians yesterday and today. This, despite an announcement that they would open the crossing for 72 hours. Collective punishment.

Of the some 5000 Palestinians registered to cross, only 250 were allowed out of Gaza on the first day (a total of 5 buses), and only 4 buses scheduled to depart today.

My parents-on bus # 16, are waiting along with thousands of others. They registered to travel over 2 months ago, and keep checking whether their names have appeared on the list of the lucky on the website of the Ministry of the Interior, but nothing is ever guaranteed in Gaza.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mapping the Arab Blogosphere

Last week, I was invited to participate in an event on Arab Blogging held by the US Institute of Peace and Harvard's Berkman Center on Internet & Society: “Online Discourse in the Arab World: Dispelling the Myths,”

The panel discussed a report just issued by the center: Mapping the Arabic Blogosphere: Politics, Culture, and Dissent

The case study was part of a series of studies produced by the Internet & Democracy Project, a research initiative at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, which investigates the impact of the Internet on civic engagement and democratic processes.

THe study identified a base network of approximately 35,000 active Arab blogs (about half as many as the the Persian blogosphere in their former study), created a network map of the 6,000 most connected blogs, and with a team of Arabic speakers hand coded 4,000 blogs.

Interestingly, Palestinian blogs signalled relatively low on the radar; it appears there bridge bloggers and social networking sites or online forums figure more prominently.

Among the interesting Key findings:

1) the Arab Blogosphere is mainly a country-based networkkas opposed to political ideologies and topical issues, such as reformist and conservative politics, religion, poetry, etc.

2) Arabic bloggers are predominately young and male. The highest proportion of female bloggers is found in the Egyptian youth sub-cluster, while the Syrian and Muslim Brotherhood clusters have the highest concentration of males.

so I am proud to say I represent the "old" (ok, 31, not so old) and female contingent! which interestingly seems to be predominant in Palstine.

3)Personal Life and Local Issues are Most Important

4) YouTube: Arabic bloggers tend to prefer politically oriented YouTube videos to cultural ones. Videos related to the conflict in Gaza and the throwing of shoes at George Bush in Iraq are popular across the entire blogosphere, while clips related to domestic political issues are linked to more heavily by the various national clusters.

5)Anonymity: Arabic bloggers are more likely than not to use their name when blogging, as opposed to writing anonymously or using an obvious pseudonym. However, female bloggers are more likely to blog anonymously than males.

6) Human Rights and Culture: Human rights is also a popular topic of conversation across the Arabic blogosphere—much more common than criticism of Western culture and values. Among cultural topics, poetry, literature and art are more discussed than pop culture (music, TV, movies).

7)Arabic Media Ecosystem: Bloggers link to Web 2.0 sites such as YouTube and Wikipedia (both English and Arabic versions) more than other sources of information and news available on the Internet. Al-Jazeera is the top mainstream media source, followed by the BBC and Al-Arabiya, while US-government funded media outlets like Radio Sawa and Al-Hurra are linked to relatively infrequently.

The full report can be found here:

Gaza Bonanza: the nuts and bolts of the ongoing occupation

A chilling inside view of how the continued occupation and blockade of Gaza works-the nuts and bolts. This is what i mean when I say that living in Gaza is living in a place where everything-down to the food you put on your table and when and whether you can move is subject to Israeli control.

The same Israeli Ministry of "Defense" unit- COGAT, also operates in the West Bank.

Last update - 10:55 15/06/2009

Gaza bonanza

By Yotam Feldman and Uri Blau

Every week, about 10 officers from the Israel Defense Force's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) unit convene in the white Templer building in the Kirya, the Defense Ministry compound in Tel Aviv, to decide which food products will appear on the tables of the 1.5 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. Among those taking part in the discussion are Colonel Moshe Levi, head of the Gaza District Coordination Office (DCO), Colonel Alex Rosenzweig, head of the civil division of COGAT and Colonel Doron Segal, head of the economics division. These officers decided, for example, that persimmons, bananas and apples were vital items for basic sustenance and thus permitted into the Gaza Strip, while apricots, plums, grapes and avocados were impermissible luxuries. Over the past year, these officers were responsible for prohibiting the entry into the Gaza Strip of tinned meat, tomato paste, clothing, shoes and notebooks. All these items are sitting in the giant storerooms rented by Israeli suppliers near the Kerem Shalom crossing, awaiting a change in policy.

The policy is not fixed, but continually subject to change, explains a COGAT official. Thus, about two months ago, the COGAT officials allowed pumpkins and carrots into Gaza, reversing a ban that had been in place for many months. The entry of "delicacies" such as cherries, kiwi, green almonds, pomegranates and chocolate is expressly prohibited. As is halvah, too, most of the time. Sources involved in COGAT's work say that those at the highest levels, including acting coordinator Amos Gilad, monitor the food brought into Gaza on a daily basis and personally approve the entry of any kind of fruit, vegetable or processed food product requested by the Palestinians. At one of the unit's meetings, Colonel Oded Iterman, a COGAT officer, explained the policy as follows: "We don't want Gilad Shalit's captors to be munching Bamba [a popular Israeli snack food] right over his head."


Besiege the Siege at the Rafah Gate

6 months after Israel's brutal attack against Gaza, the siege stand unrelenting; Rafah has been open a total of ZERO days for normal traffic during the course of the past two years, according to GISHA; and only a day or two every couple of month for "humanitarian purposes"; This month, a group of people-mothers, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, students, continue to wait at the crossing in a makeshift camp dubbed "Rafah Camp", to get through; Here is an update from the Intl Movement to Open Rafah Border:

June 21, 2009

The International Movement to Open the Rafah Border

Rafah Crossing-Rafah, Egypt

In the ninth day of a sit-in camp at the Rafah, Egypt border gate, the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border (IMORB) rejects President Obama's rationale for the siege of Gaza and the limited access through the Rafah gate. In his address to the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) last month, US President Obama said that arms shipments to Hamas must stop.

"The Rafah gate is not a point of transfer for weapons, but a throughway for Palestinians and commerce," said Paki Wieland of Northhampton, Mass, USA. "Through our extensive interviews we have heard again and again, from aging parents, families, and students, that they want to visit with family in Gaza, attend weddings or return home; this is so normal," continued Ms. Wieland, " and when they are denied, the emotional stress and economic strain brings sadness, anger, and devastating despair.

"The technology is available to monitor for potential weapons shipments through Rafah," said Don Bryant of Cleveland, Ohio, USA. "This siege is just an excuse to strangle Gaza to death," he said.

The IMORB will continue the sit-in and fasting at the Rafah gate indefinately. On a daily basis, IMORB challenges the closed border and escorts people seeking entry to Gaza.

One Palestinian-American family from Texas USA has been waiting over two weeks, like hundreds of others, to enter Gaza. "This is so humiliating," said the Texan mother of four.


Paki Wieland (002) 018 735 8621
Nada Kassass (002) 012 250 4611

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Carter in Gaza

Former Pres. Jimmy Carter visited Gaza a few days ago, which six months after its invasion has yet to receive a repreive from the criminal siege. The situation, he said, is unique in history, and a terrible human rights crime. Speaking in Gaza June 16 at a graduation ceremony for some 200,000 students who took a special UNRWA Human Rights curricula, Carter talked earnestly about the absurdity of the Israeli closure regime:

..."Last week, a group of Israelis and Americans tried to cross into Gaza through Erez, bringing toys and children’s playground equipment - slides, swings, kites, and magic castles for your children. They were stopped at the gate and prevented from coming. I understand even paper and crayons are treated as ’security hazards’ and not permitted to enter Gaza. I sought an explanation for this policy in Israel, but did not receive a satisfactory answer – because there is none...."


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

8 Nos, but Nothing New

“8 no’s, but nothing new”. This is the reaction I hear over and again from Palestinians refugees here in Lebanon’s Wavel Refugee Camp, where 4 generations wait to return to the homeland from which they were brutally evicted over 60 years ago, in response to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s so-called landmark policy speech.

This is for from those who even bothered to listen.

The United States and Europe saw his speech as a move towards recognizing two-states (while dismissing the right of return, a divided Jerusalem, an end to settlements, and the list goes on), and thus, some sort of advance towards peace; others suggested it was a step backward.

Both analyses are flawed. One confuses a call for a Palestinian ghetto as a call for a sovereign, viable Palestinian state. The other is based on the assumption that progress was made over the past (few) decades vis a vis Palestinian statehood.

The speech was full of rosy conjectures. The word” peace” was repeated 45 times.

Tellingly, the word occupation was not mentioned once. Neither, for that matter, was international law. Or Freedom-except in the context of facilitating some freedom of movement only after Palestinians give up their rights to move freely.

“Peace has always been our people’s most ardent desire” he explained, citing 3 “immense” challenges that stood in the way (the Iranian threat, the economic crisis, and the advancement of peace).

In fact, it is an illegal, draconian, and malicious occupation that have stifled peace and that continues to pose the biggest threat to Israel’s security.

In his speech, Netanyahu called for negotiations without preconditions while simultaneously imposing the conditions that would make a just and viable peace impossible: an undivided Jerusalem, no right of return, no sovereignty, continued settlement expansion.

The demands to recognize Israel as a Jewish state- annuls the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes from which they were systemically and violently expelled in 1948 in what is now Israel-a right enshrined in international law and at the heart of the Palestinian struggle.

Such a state one would promote, subsidize, and allow Jewish only immigration and rights as it does now while denying native inhabitants this same right.

Nations are quick to dismiss the Palestinian right of return as Israel’s end, but equally quick to facilitate the return of Darfur, Kosovar, or East Timor refugees in recent years.

This demand also consolidates Israel’s racist Apartheid like policies, and would dismiss in one fell swoop the rights of the Palestinian minority in Israel, who make up 20% of the population.

It is effectively saying: we have the right to discriminate against you, to take any measures we deem necessary in order to sustain the Jewish majority. Measures that have already been suggested in the Knesset, like a loyalty oath, even population transfer.

Then there is talk of the illegal settlements. New settlements aren’t the issue. Who needs new settlements if Israeli loophole policies in recent years have provided ample room for expansion?

Currently, the illegal annexation barrier, together with settlement-related infrastructure (including settler-only roads, army bases, closed military zones, and over 600 checkpoints) consume 38% of the West Bank, annexing land and livelihoods, dividing villages, towns, and families from one another and tearing apart the very fabric of Palestinian social and economic life.

So, we have not moved forward. But we are certainly a step backwards from the heyday of Oslo, some might say. The fact is, during the Oslo years from 1993 to 2000, four under Netanyahu’s reign, the the Israeli settler population expanded by 71 percent.

Such policies are already being implemented in Jerusalem, where land theft and demolitions continue daily, and where Palestinian Christian and Muslim residents are subject to draconian laws that would strip them of their residency rights there if they fail to renew their ID cards regularly -made all the more impossible a task by the closure regime and the Apartheid wall.

Netanyahu’s vision of a Palestinians states is one bereft of the very factors that make a state sovereign: effective control over land, sky, and sea, among other things.

But this should come as no surprise. Israel’s long-standing policy has been one of re-packaging the occupation and postponing viable Palestinian statehood indefinitely by rendering it impossible.

It is a goal summed up by the late Israeli sociologist, Baruch Kimmerling as politicide: a gradual but systematic attempt to cause their annihilation as an independent political and social entity.

In tune with this policy, no where in Oslo is there mention of a Palestinian state, only limited self-rule.

Netanyahu’s own Likud party’s charter flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Neither is the Hamas the issue, with whom Netanyahu foreswore talks. They were not even elected prior to 2006. Not even existent prior to 1987. But they enjoy broad support among Palestinians; they were rightfully elected in free and fair elections encouraged and unhindered by the United States and Israel respectively, despite con; and they are deeply entrenched within society; they are a reality with which Israel must come to grips.

And long before Hamas, Israel was similarly destroying civilian infrastructure, assassinating Palestinians, closing borders, de-developing the economy, and sowing lawlessness and chaos in Gaza; all punishment for not being “cooperative” enough; “moderate” enough; tame enough.

All of this, of course, is leaving aside the 1.5 million human beings consigned to a life of living death by Israel and its allies-and by allies I also mean the Arab world. Closed in on all sides, deliberately deprived of the most basics rights of life.

Even after the so-called disengagement from Gaza-the landmark event that supposedly reigned freedom unto Gaza and its people, Israel continued to maintain effective control over Gaza’s borders, her air, sea, sky, even the population registry; continued to impose a longstanding siege.

This despite warnings from experts about the dire consequences that would ensue by not guaranteeing movement and access to people and goods. Gaza faced poverty and unemployment unprecedented in 40 years since Israel’s occupation as a result.

But by Netanyahu’s estimates, this is peace. Gaza is the model-the vision- for what a so-called Palestinian state would look like.

Netanyahu talked idyllically of a peace in which a tourism-driven economy would draw millions to Nazareth and Bethlehem. He forgot to mention the caveat that tourists will first have to face an Apartheid barrier twice the size of the Berlin wall, navigate a Kafkaesque matrix of Israeli administrative control, and, if they carry the wrong color ID, scale sewers if they desire to visit a family member across the way in East Jerusalem.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Action Alert: Demand That Saudi Authorities Divest From Alstom NOW!

Action Alert: Prevent Alstom From Building The Haramain Express Railway! End Saudi collusion with Israeli apartheid!

Saudi Arabia awarded French company Alstom a multi-million dollar contract for the construction of Haramain Express Railway, to link the holy cities of Makkah and Madina. Alstom is in violation of international law for its part in the construction of the Jerusalem Light Rail, which will link illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory (including East Jerusalem) with the city of Jerusalem. The construction of the light rail is part of a wider Israeli policy to ethnically cleanse the Palestinians from Jerusalem and turn permanent the illegal occupation of the city.

The decision by the Saudi Arabian authorities is in violation of its own international commitments. The Arab League barred member states from dealing with companies involved in the construction of Jerusalem Light Rail project. The Saudi contract sends a signal of approval for Alstom's actions in Jerusalem and highlights the lack of integrity of the Haramain project: the Saudi Arabian government has chosen to link two of Islam's holiest cities by sponsoring the colonization of another.

Across the world a divestment campaign is taking pace against Alstom and its partner company Veolia, with victories in Sweden and France. In 2006, Dutch ASN Bank took the responsible decision to divest from the project. Alstom and Veolia are accused by Palestinian civil society, represented by the BDS National Committee, BNC, of complicity in grave violation of international law and Palestinian rights for their role in the JLR project. Despite the pressure, the two companies have refused to end their participation in the project. With construction at an advanced stage, Alstom and Veolia are guilty of actively colluding with Israeli apartheid.

Demand That Saudi Authorities Divest From Alstom NOW!

1 - Write to the Saudi Railway Organization and to the Saudi Arabian diplomatic representation in your country demanding immediate cancellation of the contract with Alstom.
Saudi Railway Organisation contact details (;
karni@; (Vice President)
shafqatrabbani@; (Project Manager)
salim@; (Project Manager)
sohail@; (Project Engineer)

Saudi Arabian diplomatic representations worldwide:;
Please bcc us on your correspondence: saudialstomdivestment@;

2 - Sign the petition:;

3 - Write about this issue in your local media. Discuss it in your local mosque and community centers. Participate in actions for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel.

Find Out More:

The Case Against Veolia and Alstrom:
GulfNews: Company in Saudi rail project linked to Israel

Divestment campaign gains momentum in Europe

Veolia looses 3.5 billion EUR contract in Sweden

PLO takes Veolia Transport and Alstom to court in France

Legal action in France against Veolia and Anstrom

Time to hold Veolia to account

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians From Jerusalem:
Ethnic Cleansing in East Jerusalem

Civic Coalition to Defend Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem

Israeli House Demolitions in Jerusalem Slideshow

Policy of Residency Revocation of Palestinians in Jerusalem

Global Movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel