Friday, February 29, 2008

They kill babies, don't they

Originally I was going to write about the latest from Obamarama, with quite enlightening facts peeping through about the latest "new hope" of America's politics. But not to unjustly deflect his noteworthy progress aside, I was more emotive ie disgusted, about the latest string of killings in the Gaza Strip, all thanks to our friendly neighbourhood occupier, Israel. I do not think it is unfair that the Obama post was put on the shelf, and in hindsight it is perhaps better off that I refrain from the hysteria that is engulfing Barack. His exploits has been well documented by the blogosphere, all by better and more experienced analysts than myself. So I would just be a small fish in a really big pond, and who needs to be superfluous when it comes to Israel-Palestine.

All Obama aside, Gaza has been raging with its residents screaming. Israel refuses to ease on the blockades, despite the EU and the UN all rightfully reprobating Israel for its misguided policy of "collective punishment". Upon this writing, Israel is continually warning (threatening) of a full-scale invasion of Gaza, letting everyone know that what has happened recently in Gaza is just a precursor of more pain and suffering to come. In fact, it was one particularly event that immediately gained my attention, and should also make the rest of the world balk at the "benevolence" of "the only democracy in the Middle East": a six-month old baby falling victim by Israel's bombs. His name was Mohammed Al-Boraiy.

This is earth shattering news, or it should be. I do not doubt that it will be lost in the midst of other spectacular deaths that too frequent the Palestinians. It is true that there was a casualty in Sderot from a Qassam attack, and this will prove very useful for the two Ehuds in the Knesset: it gives more justification for the kind of acts that we see too plainly, like the one above. Sderot is just the perfect pretext for more death and destruction to be inflicted on Hamas and the Gaza Strip. It matters not to the West that some of Hamas' members were killed previously before the Sderot death: what matters is that an Israeli died, and some Palestinians have to pay for their death, and with record numbers to boot. Poor tiny Mohammed, his life taken away, and he didn't even get a chance to utter his first word. A scant search for an Israeli comment on Mohammed goes unrewarded: the only one I found was a "no comment" and the usual reply that it was in retaliation for Qassams. What could they say about that? What could the media say about it? No CNN google hit, no Fox News google hit, no New York Times article, no Washington Post. Where's Thomas Friedman and his intellectual insight now?

Unfortunately, Mohammed was not the only tragedy in the last few days coming out of the Gaza Strip. Among the numbers were four children, and some reports naming a fifth, "killed while they played football".

"While the Israeli military said it had been targeting militants and rocket-launching squads, the officials said the boys were playing football close to their homes in Jabalya, northern Gaza."

Israel was not content there: they pummelled the home of Ismael Haniyeh, and caused more destruction at a nearby pharmacy, "a disabled centre catering for 400 chronically ill patients". This occupation was already ugly; it has just reared its ugly head yet again. What was Rice's response? "Hamas" is to blame for this purgatory.

More and more pictures, footage and articles appear that reveal that the occupation is not something that can be prettified. Jonathan Cook reported not only the lack of rights for Israeli Arabs, but also on the revelation that the killer of Aseel Asleh will not be punished close to eight years later. Still no justice for the Palestinians. Secondly, the reports that the behaviour of the IDF is purile, exposing themselves to Palestinian shepherds as they expel them from their land. And Hebron has been a haven of incidents:

"Shooting Palestinian bystanders; illegally commandeering cars and going on joyrides; torturing a youth by pressing a heater to his face and beating cuffed prisoners on their way to custody. These are only some of the reported cases of abuse for which Israel Defense Forces soldiers serving in the West Bank are currently on trial."

The article has some hideous testimonies:

"Last July, soldiers from the brigade commandeered a local taxi...The driver, Mohammed Issa Mahrazeh, was also removed, tied up and blindfolded and returned to the vehicle, where he was held for the duration of the incident. He sustained bruises...

According to Israel Radio, IDF soldiers used the cameras on their mobile phones to record themselves abusing detained Palestinians. Some of the soldiers allegedly beat the detainees while one of the soldiers is accused of exposing himself...

"We'd go on a patrol," one soldier told Channel 2 [television]. "If even one kid looked at us the wrong way, he'd be slapped. Rocks were thrown at us during one patrol, and we caught one of the kids who knew the perpetrators. We beat the crap out of him until he told us who did it." The soldier said that he and other soldiers tracked down a boy said to be involved, aged 14, and placed the tips of their rifles in his mouth. "We said, 'You want to die? Just say when and where,'" the soldier recalled...

[S]oldiers at roadblocks choked 10-year-old Palestinians with their bare hands until the children passed out."

Why there has been another report in Hebron of IDF soldiers beating a Palestinian and forcing him to dance naked. This is all too indicative of the moral decay that is happening within the IDF ranks as well as the Israeli Jewish mentality. The sheer humiliation that is being inflicted upon the Palestinians is sick pleasure for the IDF, high on the euphoria of their superiority, drunk with power, and now subject to capriciousness and whimsy as sick as their mind can take them. See what they can do to a pathetic Palestinian: reduce him to an animal, cage them in, brand them with ID cards, burn their olive trees, bulldoze their home, split their land, make him dance naked. We can even bomb their children and get away with it. This is what Palestinians see when they talk of the "only democracy in the Middle East". Gaza is a living experiment, and the prison is threatening to break out in a violent rage.

In fact, there's been a slippage of sorts, as Israel's Deputy Israeli Defense Minister Matan Vilnai reportedly called for a "bigger Holocaust" on the Gaza Strip. Ali Abunimah recalled that Vilnai used the Hebrew term "shoah" which is what the Jews use to refer to the Nazi Holocaust. Now Israel's officials are in deep damage control as they want to distance themselves from Vilnai's Freudian slip or attempt to downplay its intention that Vilnai only exclaimed for it to be a "disaster or a catastrophe". Now even Israel's leaders are invoking themselves as Nazis as they undertake a search and destroy mission in the Gaza Strip.

Further review of Abunimah's article only iterates that the call for the culling or removal of Palestinians is not something new.

"On 28 February, Vilnai's colleagues added their own inflammatory statements. Cabinet minister Meir Sheetrit stated that Israel should "hit everything that moves" in Gaza "with weapons and ammunition," adding, "I don't think we have to show pity for anyone who wants to kill us."

This is what we're growing accustomed to. Israeli Chief Rabbi Metgzer advocates a Palestinian state in the Sinai where "the plan would be to "take all the poor people from Gaza to move them to a wonderful new modern country with trains buses cars, like in Arizona - we are now in a generation where you can take a desert and build a city." Unfortunately we're not reciting any silly fantasies here: as Abunimah has alerted, the call for Palestinian displacement is quite normal among Rabbis.

Vilnai's slip-up is not really that big of a deal when we're dealing with the Palestinians. It is just another in the archives of Israel's intention to dehumanise their enemies and reduce them to rubble. We're going to get more hard words from each leader and Mohammed's death is going to be used to further fan the flames of aggression, just like the infamous bombing at a Gaza beach during Operation Summer Rain back in 2006. It is no accident though that we have forgotten about that incident, just like further down the road many will forget about what happened to Mohammed. The violence is just too much and we're inured to it. "Shit happens" during war: I find it hard to believe that Mohammed's parents will take solace in that reasoning.

Although the call for a "new Holocaust" has not balked many as of yet, it is in glaring constrant with the current polling statistics that has Israelis wanting a dialogue with Hamas: a gesture that was advocated here over and over. Not to toot my own horn but it was foreseen that the only way for the Qassams to really be stopped is to negotiate with Hamas, give them legitimacy and let them have the power over who to police the rocket fire. Just upon finishing Abunimah's book One Country: A Bold Proposal To End the Israeli-Palestininan Impasse, where he responds to a critic of his against a one-state solution he writes

"Give people rights and conflict diminshes...

When people's rights are recognized, it is possible to stop seeing them as terrorists and murderers and start seeing them as national assets and fellow citizens." [pg 174]

Just a small gesture to talk to Hamas will go a long way as it will give Hamas a reason to believe that Israel sees them as something significant, or of importance, or even of equal margin as Israel. With some trust, maybe the distance between enemies will be reduced. They don't have to be best friends: Egypt and Jordan both have peace deals with Israel and they don't recognise the Jewish state. They have "normalisation": why can't this be the same model for Hamas?

To be accurate, 64 % want Israel to talk with Hamas about a ceasefire and the release of Shalit (remember him?). That is a great margin and one that is gaining "public traction". More revealing is the fact that the Likud (48 %), Kadima (55 %) and Labour (72 %) are all a majority being in favour for a Hamas negotiation. Why then, does not Olmert put his guns down and talk to Hamas? His public wants him to, and even his coalition are in favour of it (except Barak of course)? Is this going to be another case of the population showing more common sense than its government? I believe it is more evidence that it is the public who truly feels the rockets being launched and its ramifications as Israel's officials sit in their safe offices and put more Sderot residents in harm's way just to make a point of not "talking to our enemy who wishes us dead". They're not doing that good of a job if that is their intention as Israel is leading the way by far on the dead campaign. Or is this the way for a "new Holocaust"?

The moral bankruptcy of the occupation is turning for the worse. It could be these unenlightening facts that is making young Jews in America turn away from the "pro-Likud" line that Obama rightfully rues as the way toward mutual destruction. And it is a possibility that that is what they see in Obama when they talk of "change": it is a very new development when a Presidential candidate talks so clearly about the Israel issue in America. While Clinton and McCain both aim to be more hawkish on Israel's front, Obama is making us breathe a fresher air when he reminds Israel that

"there was a tension that arose between the African American and the Jewish communities during that period when we were dealing with apartheid in South Africa, because Israel and South Africa had a relationship at that time."

Obama is opening up the debate even more, and it is more than welcome. Being too precocious when it comes to Israel is a big mistake especially when the consequences are so dire. We have children dying here so whenever Obama puts Israel in its place, it is more than backed up by circumstantial evidence when Mohammed is recalled. And Obama is right when he says that a "pro-Likud" thinking is not necessarily what most American Jews want. Here's Glenn Greenwald's account:

"With regard to virtually every issue, the right-wing American Jewish factions which act as arbiters for what views are "pro-Israel" and what views signify "anti-Israeli" animus or even anti-Semitism actually represent a minority -- often a small minority -- of Jews generally, and their views are sometimes even rejected by a majority of Israelis."

And it's Israelis again who are embarrassing Americans and Israel's government yet again. Debates are fierce in Israel; in the US the only debate is whether your criticism is anti-Semitic or not and that does a great disservice for not only Israelis who desire peace and normalisation in the Middle East, but those who truly see themselves as a great ally to Israel. Right now, the calling for a "new Holocaust" is not one that will end good, and for the Palestinians, it could be close to extinction.

Maybe it is a little too late to engage Hamas now when another Palestinian toddler is slain. As I was typing this, the report came in that there were more casualties inflicted, and this time a 13 month old baby was killed. That's two babies in the span of two days.

"The bloodletting began before midnight Friday in the northern town of Beit Hanoun, where a 13-month-old girl, Malak Karfaneh, was killed by shrapnel."

Sadly the report does indicate that it was the Qassam firers who were responsible as their launch fell short and landed in the area of the baby's house. Now this cycle of violence is really on the tipping point. Maybe this may make Hamas rethink their position too but I somehow doubt it. Hamas is not as guilty as Israel but their insistence to retaliate is not helping matters anymore. It's true that they have to show Israel that there is a price to occupy but now we're stuck in a turmoil and little children are being killed. "In all, more than 70 Palestinians, including around 40 civilians, have been killed since fighting flared on Wednesday." That's a tragedy right now.

Condoleezza Rice is on her way back to the Middle East for "conflict resolution" but she still laments Hamas over all of this. The polls say talk to Hamas and Rice just continually blames them. This is not the way to go. Hamas were voted in for a reason. Mark Perry has been quoted that "Hamas is moderate" as well as Tony Karon. NOT to engage with him is a policy that will lead to nowhere but more Qassam rockets. As Sderot hears more alarms, Gaza ends up burning. And Olmert is not phased by any of this.

It might be safe to say that Annapolis is effectively over. Abbas is unable to do anything to appease the situation, even as the West attempts to bolster his image as the sole provider for the Palestinians. Hamas is resisting but it seems that their campaign is falling short as the world calls for them to be implemented. Annapolis could have been a guide to a better talk and we know that it could have been better than what we see happening in Gaza, but instead we were still stuck with the "ideological" battle over "good vs evil" that Daniel Levy warned us about. Back in November, Levy said if Bush and Olmert are intent on upholding the fact that Hamas is not someone to talk to then Annapolis is over and done with before it begins. Look where we are now: can you say that Levy was wrong?

What's more sickening to think of is that neither side seems willing to go back. Olmert wants to make Gazans pay. Hamas wants to show it can still be effective in taking some chunk out of Israel. The occupation just gets uglier by the day as the West Bank is carved up and East Jerusalem is severed from Palestinian life. The sole light right now is Obama, as hopes could be pinned on him on turning back this path toward a "new Holocaust". The bad news is that Obama can only be sworn in in 2009, and even if he does win, there really is no indication that he can take on a spineless Congress whose pockets are stuffed with AIPAC money. But just as Israeli officials are in damage control over Vilnai's slip, the Jewish quarter are also in major damage control over Obama's ascendence into the prime candidate for the Democratic party. Their methods are well-known but it only seems to give more steam to the Obama train.

Now I am not ready to endorse the man but he seems quite the reasonable option. He is talking a good talk (lately) and he does have Robert Malley as an advisor. Maybe there might be a Democrat whom we could vote for. It is still premature but Obama's latest exploits have made me warm up to him. And with recent events we can only hope for more of Obama's sternness in front of Israel's crowd.

Note: I had this written out yesternight but lost the heart of it due to a terrible computer malfunction. Vilnai's comments should not be easily forgotten, as it evokes the Nazis but only this time, it is Israel that is being compared to them (although some scholars have done so previously). Vilnai's quote reminds me of a statement that I found on Palestine Remembered:

"Through their own words do they damn themselves."

The Zionists have been on record through diaries and memoirs stating their intention for the removal of Palestinians, the existence of Palestinians and their plans to provoke response against Arab states in order for more war to gain territory or recognition that Israel is under constant attack. This is just another quote in a big archive dating back to Herzl upon the birth of Zionism. Upon further understanding of what Zionism really meant for the Palestinians, it is painstakingly clear that what drives the Zionists today is the same thing that drove the Stern Gang, the Irgun and the Haganah back in the 40s: the realisation of the total Jewish majority in historic Palestine. When given this information, the conflict is given a deeper meaning than just politics over rights and terrorism and "peace processes". There is internal debate over whether to give up the occupied territories, but not many question the need for a Jewish state that champions Jews over Palestinians. Vilnai only went a step further that most will not say in public but think in private.

Now I do feel quite remorseful thanks to the latest numbers. But what's more telling is there really is no end in sight now. I doubt the offer of a ceasefire will be on the table for much longer. Hamas is being arrested in the West Bank and Israel wants to continue with their failed policy of liquidation.

And it could not be any more logical: the open arms of Osama Bin Laden and co will be welcoming such Israeli bombing. The ignorance of this is too telling as Iraq provides the perfect lesson that no one is learning from. Here's the thing: more deaths will only mean more martyrs. Mohammed will be lifted to this profile I'm sure of it.

It is the same case for Israel: another death in Sderot only means that Hamas is not really sincere with their gesture of a ceasefire. But Israel has the means to put an end to this: Gaza is still being controlled fully by Israel (along with Egypt, the EU and the US). The easement of the sanctions can slow down Qassams. A bilateral talk with Hamas would show that you are serious about Hamas' concern and they would match that with an offer that would deal with Israel's concern about security. Hamas oversaw a unilateral ceasefire for a year. It can be done if Israel wants to.

I do not want more people to die but Hamas needs something to cling to or else other factions will take the lead in the resistance front and by the looks of how things are turning out, it is those peripheral groups that are being proven right: there's no legal way of dealing with Israel when it comes to Palestinian concern. Fatah was neutered, going from a large resistance movement with arms, turning into a hapless party with no power and full of corrupt officials. Hamas condemned the PLO of being just another tool of the occupation: now they are part of it. What's Hamas to do now when they played with the cards that the occupier gave them and they still come out with a losing hand? Islamic Jihad's contention that Israel has NO intention of ever conceding anything to Palestinians unless you threaten them with an armed struggle is looking more alluring to estranged Gaza youth who get killed while they play football. Not only that, they lose limbs, get beaten up, see their relatives shot at, and have their freedom of movement taken away. This is not a way to make friendly neighbours.

We are no closer to a mediation. Ironically, we're closer to "new Holocaust". Can we invoke those two words "never again"?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Paging Israel: Let's have a ceasefire

For lack of a better way to end the constant assault on Sderot, Hamas is still putting the offer of a ceasefire for Israel to accept, despite the current casaulties that afflicts Gazans, as well as the relentless siege mentality that has left three dead today at Bein Hanoun, seventy injured at a non-violent protest in Bethlehem, and at least 170 people killed by Israel since the beginning of the Annapolis peace conference back in November. On top of that, Gazan life has become quite unbearable, with the power outages hurting not only the hospitals, but even the sewage system that has left Gaza "stinking", as Mohammed Omar put it.

"Sewage water is filling the streets... The stench is unbearable...

The amount of children who have been taken ill has increased considerably. Cases of diarrhea are mounting by the day. Even now, children continue to play outside amongst the raw sewage – where else can they go?"

What's also surprising is the fact that the Gaza siege is also destroying Israel's economy also. Here is an excerpt from an article in the Middle East Times:

"The West Bank and Gaza Strip constitute Israel's second biggest market after the United States. In 2006, the combined 3.5 million residents of the Palestinian territories imported over $2 billion worth of Israeli products, or more than 6 percent of all Israeli exports excluding diamonds. This is the same amount that Italy and France combined, two of the eight richest countries in the world, imported from Isreal.

Israel's business community has voiced its alarm. Ronen Leshem, head of the business department at Israel's Peres Center for Peace, wrote recently in an op-ed in The Marker, an Israeli business publication: "In a few weeks, the business sector in Gaza is going to collapse, and one of the big losers is going to be Israel."

Rather appalling when you have a government cynically putting their own people in harm's way, threatening normal citizens about the security of their job because they refuse to let them deal with a market that has been so sacred to them, and all for the sake of imagery: the big bad wolf Israel still has its might, and you Arabs better not have any thoughts about taking us on. We're still strong, we still have (nuclear) weapons, and our military budget is bigger than your's. Naturally, we'll bomb you without any provocation and perhaps even liquidate some of your peripheral (eventual) martyrs: this will show you Arabs who's boss.

Although one could conclude that this is all very silly, it is not when you partake in Middle East politics. In fact, this revealing article by Patricke Seale elevated Israel's need for "targeted assassinations" for the purpose of deterrence and strategy:

"[P]ossible explanation for the Mughniyeh killing is that Israel was keen to demonstrate to its regional opponents -- not just Hizbullah and Hamas, but Syria and Iran as well -- that its long arm can reach deep into their home territory. This seems also to have been the message of Israel’s air-raid last September against a military installation in eastern Syria -- an unprovoked violation of Syrian sovereignty and international law, which the Bush administration appears to have approved.

No doubt, such spectacular feats of arms are also intended to remind Washington -- and especially its intelligence community -- that in spite of the fiasco of the Lebanese war, Israel remains a valuable strategic asset in America’s ‘global war on terror'.There may well have been some reasons of internal Israeli politics for the assassination of Mughniyeh."

And we shall not forget about Olmert's own reasons for wanting to pummel Palestinians:

"Olmert may have felt the need to restore his prestige with the Israeli public after the Vinograd commission’s stern indictment of his leadership in the 2006 war."

But we're missing what's important here: sure, Qassams are a rather pesky nuisance for Sderot residents, but they have inflicted such tiny damage, which only is testament when one sees the total disparity between Gaza dead and Israeli dead: "at most one Israeli is killed for the death of some 40 Palestinians." I do not wish to minimise the launcher's intention: I assume it is to terrorise the Israelis; but what about the "daily raids and the cruel siege"? Do they not have the same intention to terrorise Palestinians into cowering humans, hoping that they would uprise against Hamas, the only organisation who seems to have their best interests at heart?

Back on the 18th, a UN official described the conditions of Gaza, saying

"Medical services in Gaza are deteriorating, private industry has more or less collapsed, and there are real worries about education. There is increasing dependence on international aid, which has risen very sharply over the last eight months."

He also hinted at a "humanitarian catastrophe" and said 73 percent relies on food aid. This is quite the comfortable living that Olmert has remarked at, "an affront to the dignity of the people" in Gaza as stated by Mr. Holmes of the UN. Apparently we have differing versions on what living comfortably really means. And this is omitting the simple fact that Gaza is stinking while being amongst the most densely populated place on the planet, all done with the support of the West.

Despite this gruesome reality, Hamas continues to lay down the ceasefire offer. I know many would say it's just another opportunity for them to build arms. So what? Would Israel not build more arms to counter that? Or would Hamas be the only one required to cease any military activity? Preposterous.

Hamas intention for opportunism should only be a sidenote from what truly matters: a cessation of hostilies that sees both Gazans and Israelis fearing the air. We're getting alot of commonsense from the local people who are suffering from the inept policies of Olmert and co., getting alot of groundbreaking work on blogs. It is with great pride that I do feature the blog that has one Gazan and one resident of Sderot doing their best to show that Palestinians and Israelis are not fated to destroy each other. And continuing on that same vein, February 23rd saw a "Gaza Siege Day", seeing "[p]eople in more than 30 countries from the four corners of the globe to protest the "inhumane" Israeli siege of the Gaza Strip." We can only hope for more activity along this nature.

On the plus side, we're getting two major calls to talk with Hamas from important posts. The Israeli Mayor of Sderot himself has indicated that he "would say to Hamas, let's have a ceasefire". Now this isn't some fringe member of society here that is either an anti-Zionist, post-Zionist or even a dove, but the actual mayor of the town being terrorised is wanting to negotiate with "the devil", ie Hamas. He even refers to Hamas as "the devil": now there can be no threats of a pro-Palestinian here, can there be?

But maybe he's just seeing what all of us is seeing: that Hamas should be engaged with. This is precisely what a former Mossad chief has suggested Olmert should do. Again, this is not some left-wing nut who wants to appease the Palestinians and go back to the 67 borders such and such, but "Efraim Halevy received the prestigious CIA Director's Award from then-director George Tenet for his assistance to the U.S. intelligence service". He's been described as "a hawk", and his interview is one that must be read by everyone who believes that Hamas is an entity that should be ignored.

"Hamas is not al Qaeda and, indeed, al Qaeda has condemned them time and time again. Hamas may from time to time have tactical, temporary contact with al Qaeda, but in essence they are deadly adversaries. The same goes for Iran. Hamas receives funds, support, equipment, and training from Iran, but is not subservient to Tehran. A serious effort to dialogue indirectly with them could ultimately drive a wedge between them."

This means that Hamas is not some extremist regime that wants to stifle any effort for normalisation. It is not a terrorist faction: it is the body that was voted by the Palestinians to represent them. They have a voice which should be heard. They were voted in for a reason. Hamas "has demonstrated that they are more credible and effective as a political force inside Palestinian society than Fatah", and "[i]t makes sense to approach a possible initial understanding including Hamas—but not exclusively Hamas—at a time when they are still asking for one. No side will gain from a flare up leading to Israel re-entering the Gaza strip in strength to undo the ill-fated unilateral disengagement of 2005."

And the ridiculous precondition for Hamas to recognise Israel's "right to exist" is ludicrous. The intent is for a ceasefire, you do not need to recognise anyone's right to exist to halt attacks. You just need to negotiate a treaty that both parties can agree to. Having Hamas cave in to the demand is "an a priori renunciation of ideology before contact is made. Such a demand has never been made before either to an Arab state or to the Palestinian Liberation Organization/Fatah."

Halevy also testifies that Abbas is weak, and the US and Israel have done nothing to empower his movement. He seems rather neutered, and creating a Palestinian satrap has been a large failure so far. Halevy ends the interview with a very pessimisstic view:

"It appears by all indications that neither Israel nor the United States are prepared to contemplate such a test of alternative strategy."

And how can we say that he is wrong? We've got Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John McCain as the options for Presidency. Many want to back Barack, but he's shown no real indication that he can do what no other President since Eisenhower has done: take on the Zionist Lobby. He seems more like cosying up to the old Jewish establishment to reassure them that Israel is safe in his hands. Some change. Nevertheless, he is taking a battering in the smear column.

But what is Olmert to do now? We know that he has to look strong, reeling from the defeat of the Lebanon War: hence the actions at Syria and the slaying of Mughniyeh. He also has to keep Hamas off the legitimacy table, considering he is unable to stop Qassams from landing in Israeli territory. Someone has to die for Qassams being launched; what kind of a lesson will that be for Israelis? We talk to our enemy who wants us dead? I don't think so.

For too long we've been ignoring the fact that Hamas wants to talk, and it wants to engage with the rest of the world. Why do we continue to sideline them and pretend that they are not serious in their intention? Why are we stuck in a paradox where the only way to talk is to "not talk" and provide action that only decreases the possibility for justice and peace? Alastair Crooke analyses the failings of the West to engage in dialogue with Islamists, that

"Unless there is this questioning and awakening in the West [about Islamism] - and I use the word deliberately - an awakening - then I think that the West will remain unchanged...

Talking therefore, in terms of the title of this talk, is not overdue. Sadly, at this stage, the West cannot hear."

It's still xenophobia and ignorance that prevents the West from normalisation with the Orient. Israel may want Hamas to go away by their own rules, and by the delaying tactics that would only encapsulates their policy of maximisation of land into Israeli control and the monopoly of arms and power in the region; the West accepts the ideology that Hamas and Hizbollah and all the rest are just backward people who cannot be trusted when they talk of "peace" because their just disingeniune and are merely playing possum so they can destroy civilisation and turn it all into Sharia law. Or to put it plainly, "the devil". But even we have to talk to "the devil" himself some day. Why not now when they offer to stop terrorising Sderot for a very long time? Are Halevy and Sderot Mayor Eli Moyal's cries to talk to "the devil" going to go unheard? Or are Sderot residents left to rely on the aid that charities give them because Israel just uses them as an excuse to continue their siege of Gaza?

Are we going to listen? When soldiers are "Breaking the Silence" by exhibiting the toll Occupation has, do we continue to deflect the call to look amongst ourselves when we remain silent about all of this?

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kosovo Independence means good news for Palestine

With Western opinion so gravitated towards the humility of Kosovar Albanians, we have one nation-state after another pushing each other over in whom is recognising the new state of Kosovo. They're lined up like children at an amusement park, itching to declare Kosovo the newest statelet under the aegis of Western civilisation.

"Hello Kosovo, make yourself at home. We're the EU, over there is NATO, (you remember them? They helped you slaughter those Serbs who were trying to inflict a genocide.) and here's someone you have to meet: Our emperor, Washington. Pssst, she calls the shots."

Or that's how the parody went. What is more interesting is the fact that Kosovo has NO legal basis on declaring independence but yet that has no bearing on the Western powers right about now. They feel the need to reward this little beacon of humanitarianism amongst the Serb animal that international law is not a prerequisite for such a maneuver.

Accompanying this little historic action were two very informative pieces on Counterpunch, one by George Szamuely and the other by Diane Johnstone. Both are stunning in its lucidy and very welcome in its rigidity, especially with the compliant media over the Kosovo encounter for almost a decade now. For years we've been satured with the adoration of Kosovar Albanians, while the demonisation of the Serbs, along with Milosevic had no quarter. Johnstone's piece focused on the "uniqueness" of Kosovo amongst other tiny territories that hope to gain independence but have not been given such the positive response as the Kosovar Albanians have. Here Johnstone quotes Roger Cohen who laments on what to do about the non-Albanians:

"But what about the Serbs who still live in the historic part of Serbia called Kosovo? Cohen takes care of that problem in a few words: "Some of the 120,000 Serbs in Kosovo may hit the road."

Ah. Truly a paradigm of humantarianism at its finest. Bomb them. Terrorise them. Ethnically cleanse the area. Then whoever is left can "hit the road".

Szamuely's article is even more stunning, which also features many parallels within Europe that hopes to gain independence. These secessionist movements have been suppressed, and no one has been recognising their efforts for statehood. Secondly, Szamuely accounts that Kosovo has far less legal options for independence than other territories such as South Ossetia, Nagorno-Karabakh and Transnistria. In fact, the "uniqueness" of Kosovo is the glaringly obvious fact that it is backed by the US and the EU, along with a strategic military base in its centre. Thirdly, Serbia is the main hub for Kosovo, and since its declaration to secede, it definitely will face grippling shortcuts on its economy.

"A newly-independent Kosovo would have poor relations with Serbia and would be subjected to an economic blockade. Its electric grid is integrated within Serbia's electric grid. Its debt has been taken care of by Serbia."

So what if they are relying solely on aid: this is a new state, rejoice! It's amazing that only Vladimir Putin seems to be the only sane voice here amongst the public officials. The world is going mad and no one is stopping them.

Dangers ahead

But what does this mean for the rest of the world? Putin analysed correctly that "these double standards" are a terrible precedent that only shows bad faith for other separatists movements.

"Why do we promote separatism? For 400 years Great Britain has been fighting for its territorial integrity in respect of Northern Ireland. Why not? Why don't you support that?"

It's clear that the EU is forcing pressure on Russia, trying to limit its power across the former Yugoslavia. But what of other movements? What of the Chechens? The Cypriots? The South Ossetias? The Basques? Even the Quebecoix? Could they find parallels in the Kosovo model? Could they share in its "uniqueness"? Definitely it will send shockwaves throughout the world that little majorities could attempt to gain control in a hope to gain independence from the title nation that they believe is oppressing them. Territorial integrity? Hah. No way.

What about Palestine?

For too long now the Palestinians have been demanding their own independence. Too bad they do not share Kosovo's "uniqueness". Terrible, also, is the fact that Israel is the one who owns "uniqueness" in this part of the neighbourhood. What is too alluring is the lesson of the KLA, and the fact that now, almost nine years later, the actions of the KLA along with NATO helped created a favourable situation for Kosovar Albanians at the expense of the Serbs. Here's an excerpt from Szamuely's piece on Kosovo's treatment of Serbs:

'Kosovo's Serbs -- the few that remain -- live behind barbed wire and need armed escort whenever they step outside their enclaves. According to a recent European Commission report, "only 1 per cent of judges belong to a minority group and less than 0.5 per cent belong to the Serbian minority. Only six of the 88 prosecutors belong to minority groups." Overall, the report concluded, "little progress has been made in the promotion and enforcement of human rights."...

Kosovo Serbs fear that they will become a decoration to any central-level political institution with little ability to yield tangible results. The Kosovo Albanians have done little to dispel it."

Could this be a model for Palestinians to follow? Already Abbas is dismissing the notion. Why, didn't the PLO declare independence in '87?

"Abbas ruled out taking such a step unilaterally soon, saying he would pursue negotiations with the Israelis until an agreement is reached by the end of 2008, including a settlement on the status of occupied east Jerusalem."

He is really taking it too far now. Discussing East Jerusalem? Now that's a fat chance. Olmert already is procrastinating; and while he does that, more buildings are being constructed and more outposts are being erected in the West Bank. How inept can Abbas be that he plans to negotiate with the occupier, who dismisses him and his demands, and when he wakes up in Ramallah he finds more settlers in the West Bank.

"The Civil Administration has not taken any practical steps to prevent the new construction."

This is where he is placing his faith on to declare a viable Palestinian state? Not very likely, is it? What does he have to lose? I mean, declaring independence is surely a missive that would not even reach the negotiating table, but at least demand something more since Kosovo has done so much in such a little timespan. It's been forty years for the Palestinians under occupation. And it's not as if they haven't demanded freedom, have they? Kosovo has done, why not Palestine?

"For the US and the EU, Kosovar Albanians, having enjoyed almost nine years of UN administration and NATO protection, cannot be expected to wait any longer for their freedom, while the Palestinians, having endured over 40 years of Israeli occupation, can wait forever."

How truly cynical is that?

Yes. Kosovo and Palestine are not that similar; each has its own idiosyncrasies. But the only significant difference is the evident aid that goes to the Kosovars who are celebrating freedom against the Israeli war machine who are oppressing Palestinians. Kosovo is a Muslim majority, no? Why not show more of that steel and support another Muslim majority who wants freedom from a people who want to ethnically cleanse them? Isn't that parallel just? (Naturally, the Yugoslav government has been accused of such an action without any proof, while the Israelis do so overtly, even with international acclaim. I mean, look at Gaza.) Certainly if figures such as Richard Holbrooke and Roger Cohen testify to their sympathy for Muslim persecution at the hands of genocide whackos, they would do best to pinpoint Jerusalem, not Kosovo.

It's a perfect scenario: Kosovo Muslim majority declares independence followed by Palestine Muslim majority declares indepedence (in West Bank and Gaza). The US and EU all fight each other on who recognises them first. Idyllic. And it's not as if there aren't similarities between the both of them: Kosovo relies on aid and Serba; Palestine on aid and Israel; Kosovo is almost purely Muslim; Palestine's Arab population is almost purely Muslim (with the Christians dispersing); Kosovo was under threat of extinction" by Serbs; Palestine is under threat of pauperisation by Israelis. It's win-win.

But Kosovars are just mere pawns being played. They are duped, especially with the enlightening fact that their "democracy" is far from it. It's all under the mercy of Bosnia, the ICR, ESDP and the IMP, all under the tutelage of NATO. In fact, it's a "NATO Colony". Purely just theatre to fund support for Camp Bondsteel.

Terrorism Works

I must confess that I love the idea of precedence. If Iraq is bombed, what is stopping the US from doing the same to another country with fictitious weapons of mass destruction? If torture is legal in certain cases, why is it okay for the West to condemn other developing nations from praticising CIA taught strategies? If Kosovo declares independence, what's stopping the next separation movement from doing likewise? Despite what the counter-terrorists would want us to believe, Kosovo is the prime example of terrorism working. The KLA decimated the Serb minority, cowed them into their little areas, likened sometimes to "Bantustans" (sound familiar?), and now have pushed most of them out of Kosovo. These Serbs are so evil that they have no rights in the EU (also sound familiar?). Here we are, almost nine years later and they have their own state.

Jonathan Freedland wrote a rather naive piece about the Palestinian strategy. He advocates that for Palestinians to gain momentum, they have to undertake a non-violent approach. He was also echoing Mustafa Barghouti, who believes that a reactionary response to Israeli atrocities is not the way to gain the West's support. In light of Kosovo, it seems silly NOT to take a more harder stance against their occupier. After all, against a genocidal enemy, take matters into your own hands.

What is rather disappointing is in light of the numbers Barghouti stressed, that

"Palestinian freedom of movement is more restricted now than it was on the day of all those fine speeches. Now there are 561 checkpoints on the West Bank; in November there were 520. His figures showed an increase in Israeli attacks of 220% (largely, no doubt, in retaliation for those incoming Qassams). He counted 177 Palestinian deaths since Annapolis, the vast bulk in Gaza.

Yes, it was true that the confidence-building measure of prisoner releases happened: 788 Palestinians have been set free. But how much confidence could that build when 1,152 have been newly arrested since Annapolis?"

After citing those figures, he honestly feels that striking back is not an option? Now, I have to believe that Barghouti intends on "terrorism", ie Qassams being fired willy-nilly. But having highlighted the plight of the common Palestinian, he must feel empathy for the need to retaliate. If not then he is very silly at his request that Palestinians desist from resisting their occupier; isn't that the real evil here, the occupation, and not their victims?

We all want to stress how "balanced" we are by condemning arbitrary Qassam fire and suicide bombers: that really should not be stressed, or the need for it is certainly superfluous. Of course we dismiss such actions. But what about other actions that only really is a consequence of the occupier's policy that dehumanise the Palestinians? Freedland foolishly writes in parenthesis that Israel's attacks were "in retaliation". Apparently the Palestinians here are the aggressors. You could have fooled me but Freedland wants to contextualise that Israel is only "retaliating" from terrorist attacks. Aren't Palestinians allowed the same form of "retaliation"? Gideon Levy remarked that every Qassam fire was preceded by a Palestinian casualty in the Gaza Strip. Sounds like retaliation against the occupier, which they have every legal basis to do so, unlike Kosovo's declaration of independence.

"could compare their struggle to the Martin Luther King movement for civil rights, walking and marching for their freedom... the power of mass non-violence would be undeniable."

It's great that we can advocate such strong positions when they do not threaten his existence. It's safe for Freedland to map out what Palestinians should do without bearing the brunt of punishment at the hands of Israel. I know Freedland has the best of intentions but what is lacking is the fire that emphasises that Israel has no problem in trampling any form on non-violent protests. Think the first intifada; think of the revolts of past years; think of the second intifada and why it became so bloody; what about the protests at Bi'lin? What of Rachel Corrie? What of those prisoners whom Barghouti spoke of? Are they all prisoners became they were terrorists? Or did any of them advocate a non-violent struggle against their coloniser?

This debate reminds of Ray HaCohen's piece three years ago.

"There are thousands of Palestinian Gandhis out there, then: whole villages that demonstrate daily and peacefully against the robbery of their land and livelihood. Alas, their voices are unheard – because of the Israeli undercover soldiers who throw stones from within these peaceful demonstrations, and because of commentators and movie stars who then wonder, "Where is the Palestinian Gandhi?"

There are plenty of non-violent demonstrations: you have just have to be vigilent and search for them. They do not report certain things about the conflict: Palestinian civil disobedience is not what the world wants to read or hear. And what happens when they do protest?

"We've now got a clear confirmation of what Palestinian and Israeli peace activists have been saying all along: the Israeli army would not tolerate a Gandhi-style resistance."

Apparently Freedland is unaware of these demonstrations. I guess it's hard to see the reality from where he sits and types on his laptop. True, the Palestinians are left with little to stem the tide that is happening against them. The situation is grim, but by no means is non-violence the only way to stop Israel. It seems the way Freedland thinks that people will support Palestinians is if they altogether just lay down and get bulldozed while the international community sits on their hands and applauds Kosovar Albanians for doing the unthinkable, all the while Abbas negotiates with Olmert as the East Jerusalem is getting further and further from the final status talks. Har Homa gets bigger, and more Palestinian land is stolen right from their noses. Brilliant strategy there.

With the Kosovo secession, the KLA displayed what has been a cold strategem: that violence and terror do work. Yes, you have to have the proper imperial backer on your side, and if you have that, then you have all the cards. There have been few examples that do not follow this pattern: South Africa being one of them, and Northern Ireland. There are plenty of others, but South Africa is the one that comes closer to mind.

Nelson Mandela, the first black South African president, was a murderer. What would have happened if he were liquidated? Would the African National Congress succeeded without him? He did spend time in jail and was branded a "terrorist". Would he be alive today to see the fall of apartheid if he advocated non-violence? Would the Afrikaaners not have destroyed him if he wasn't so militant? Other examples are the IRA, the FLN and the FARC. What would Northern Ireland, Algeria and Colombia be if it weren't for these organisations advocating a strong resistance that meant arms and weapons against their coloniser and oppressor? Would these movements cease to exist if they were crushed like the Israelis imprison Palestinians by advocating non-violence and being passive to every member casualty?

Let's face it, the Palestinians do need some sort of deterrant. Right now they are a punching bag for Israelis, two-fold considering their Lebanon failure and Iran being emboldened by Iraq's strife and Washington's depleted military resources. The spectre of Martin Luther King and Gandhi is a strong one, and their message is never lost: but we're not dealing with a segregated America nor a past imperial giant in Britain, with an Indian nation that had a bigger majority than the Palestinians have. Plus we're still on the cusp of a public relations battle that has Palestinians on the wrong end of the stick, ie they are not "unique". While it's great to have a plan for the Palestinians to endure their grief with non-violent protests, it's not a realistic approach considering Freedland does not even know that such a movement has been existing for many, many years. And considering that a fellow American, who embodied the ideal of non-violent resistance was bulldozed to her death, her status is still being denied of heroism and in some circles viewed as a "terrorist sympathiser". What kind of a lesson is that to advocate non-violent demonstration when a prime example of it is demonised?

No, I am certainly not advocating a resort to terrorism. The acts of the KLA are reprehensible, and most of this is purely satirical. But Freedland wants to dictate how Palestinian should react to gain legitimacy, when the actual fact is that they already have legitimate concerns to gain support for their own independence. It is merely a given that the practice of terrorism, the launching of Qassams, and the mass calls for boycott are all the consequences of the occupation.

There is no realism involved when he states that "the power of mass non-violence would be undeniable". It is undeniable, but so is Israeli aggression against the Palestinians. They imprison some 10, 000 of them, many subjected to torture. And they are meant to take it lying down in the vain hope that the West will awaken to their suffering. What's forty years of occupation, two generations? When is it going to change, any time this year? Is there any hope for a change? Do they even talk about Palestine in the primacy elections? Do the candidates differ on the Israel Factor?

All that's missing is the "uniqueness".

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Settlements are illegal

With all the hubbub about the latest "terrorist" slain in Lebanon, a good piece from Ha'aretz revealed what we have been stating all along, that the settlements are in violation of international law.

"More than one-third of West Bank settlements were built on private Palestinian land that was temporarily seized by military order for "security purposes," according to a report by the Civil Administration that is being published here for the first time.

The settlements in question, which include Ariel, Kiryat Arba and Efrat, have tens of thousands of residents, and many have existed for decades. A security source termed this a "difficult statistic" that is liable to cause trouble for Israel both in Washington and its own courts."

So there we have the damning evidence, and that "more than one-third" which are home to "tens of thousands of residents" were built on Palestinian land, for the purposes of settlements. According to the article, seizure of land not for "military needs" are illegal, and that "at least 19 of the 44 settlements on the Civil Administration's list were established after 1979", when the Begin regime "decided that all new settlements or expansions of existing ones would be built only on state land", violates even Israeli law.

The settlements that fall within this boundary are numerous:

"Ariel, Efrat and Kiryat Arba - three of the largest West Bank settlements - the list includes major "ideological" settlements such as Ofra, Beit El, Psagot, Kedumim, Karnei Shomron, Elon Moreh and Shiloh; Jordan Valley settlements such as Gitit and Mechora; and even "quality of life" settlements such as Kfar Ruth, near Modi'in."

Also interesting is the fact that this information has been suppressed for so long because it might "damage the state's security and foreign relations." It even makes them more culpable towards these illegal actions, coined better by Attorney Michael Sfard saying it

"proves that systematic land theft for the purpose of establishing settlements was carried out via a fictitious and completely illegal use of the term 'military necessity.' The concealment of this information for all these years shows that the authorities also knew they were committing illegal acts."

The impact of settlements is one that should not be minimised by our media. Despite all the articles that congratulates the targeted assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, whom I had not heard of until his death that is quickly spiraling into a spin vs spin-better fluctuation, this policy to redraw the map of the West Bank into Israel's favour is one that should be at the forefront of every conference, every debate and every lecture speech. Not only has it been found of being in violation of Israel's own law of the land, the Geneva Convention is also strict on matters of land seizure.

"Article 49 of the fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from establishing settlements occupied by its nationals. And it prohibits population transfer that alters the character of the occupied land. Israel ignored the Convention and established more than 200 Jewish only settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem protected by the Israeli military. The media does not explain that most of Palestinian violence against the Israelis is triggered by the provocative presence of these settlements. Occupying power is not permitted to alter patterns of beneficial use of resources in the occupied land, but Israel has diverted most of the water from aquifers under the West Bank for use in Israel and the Jewish only settlements."

But what is most frustrating is the deafening silence we still get from the West over the settlements question; Harper does not talk about it, Bush only feigns on it every now and again, Rice is totally submissive, and Livni and Olmert prefer to deal with Gaza rather than stop what is going on in the West Bank. No mistakes about it: Gaza is important, but not in the pretext that Livni is speaking of, ie sending in the troops.

What of the settlements? What of the settlers? Right now, even more settlers are raiding the West Bank. Here's another report on the situation on the ground:

"Nine Israeli families who staked out homesteads in a valley deep in the West Bank, promised Friday to bring more settlers to the disputed area the Palestinians want for a future state, despite Israel's promises to the United States to stop settlement expansion...

The wildcat action at Maskiot, in the northern West Bank, was funded in part by a private U.S. group and is just one of recent Israeli actions to anger Palestinians as peace negotiators try to reach a final treaty."

Very gripping stuff when my neighbour south of me funds more and more settlements that destroys any hope for a Palestinian state, or is that hope really truly gone? Makes you wonder why Leviev is still being protested against since he is also prime funder for more settlements also.

What also catches my attention is this nugget of truth:

"Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported Friday that the government had issued permits for construction of 307 Jewish homes in the contentious east Jerusalem neighborhood, of Har Homa, drawing fresh fire from one of the Palestinians' top peace negotiators.''

Yes. Olmert's goverment issued the permits for further construction; he's the guy who said that if there is no Palestinian state then they are left with an apartheid battle that will be the end of Israel. Correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't this make him some kind of sadist, that if he truly believed in what he said then he wants Israel to see its destruction? Or is it just more blanket statements that aim to appease and then just go ahead with the dismemberment of a viable Palestinian state?

What's it going to take for the advisors to notice all of this? Something tells me that it's going to be a very long wait until most Israelis turn into a questioner of Israel's failed policy and that, to quote Idith Zertal

"ominous presence of a most horrific historical event, how it has shaped a whole society, shaped a collective psyche, and served as a warrant for such [abuses]....Traumas are bad advisers...

The present is always creating a problem for us, for Israelis and Jews." (By which she included American Jews, too.) And the present is the time in which we must actually make our lives. The only way to peace for Jews is to "take responsibility for the present and the near future."

Even today we're still swimming in the plethora of Holocaust memories: the blank cheques of all blank cheques that helps cripple Palestinians and any who dare oppose Israel's bulldozing of Palestinian land. Testiments to how life is in the West Bank are available for all to see, and it's not the pretty picture that Israelis would like to tell you that Palestinians are much better off with the occupation than without it. We need no statistics on the injured, the dead and the disparity. We've seen it all before. And yet it still does not pierce the bubble that the world seems to be floating on.

We're still stuck on the same old routine here. Isn't there meant to be a candidate race going on? I don't even see the world Iraq, let alone hear about the Palestinians. In fact, most are more attuned to Obama's politics and background rather than talk about curbing Israel's landgrab in the West Bank.

When will people stand up for justice for the Palestinians? Here we have the evidence, but where's the anger and outrage? We all can't be paralysed by some notion of sympathy for the Israelis, can we? Let's take a stand and demand that Palestinians deserve a decent living. That means better water, freer borders and free from harassment and checkpoints and roadblocks and ID cards and house demolitions and targeted assassinations and olive tree uprooting and better sewage control and rights to aid and food and access to the water and...

Don't let them be silent on the cause. We can't condemn them to this struggle for a lifetime.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Palestinians should matter to everyone

Maybe it is because of an absence of two weeks that has seen me sick with a flu that left me rathe inoperable to anything remotely close to being effectual towards the conflict, or perhaps it is just the malaise that one feels when they reach a certain age and they are encountered by life riddles because they are subpar in comparison to their childhood dream, but lately I have felt lackadaisical on the whole subject and the effort that it requires of myself that justifies its presence on my life. Because of this (as well as other complications such as a cold that doesn't want to go away), I was missing from last week's demonstration at the Israeli consulate to demand the siege of Gaza end. Always not one to shy away from accountability, I do feel a little ashamed that I was unable to attend such a matter that I have felt so strongly about. I wanted to show my solidarity but was not present, even after I said that I would go.

After the no-show, as well as bitter winter, the draining feeling did not go away. Milling through the archives, sifting over and over of articles throughout the two weeks, attempting to find a topic that I could find something to write about; and it's not as if there isn't anything short of incidences that happens. In the end, I came around to the same dead end. I had nothing of total interest that provoked any real thought into the matter. Sure, we can all write about the Gaza strangulation; but better journalists with better knowledge and contacts do so already. Mind you, of course Gaza should be written about, but that doesn't mean that it would always be read, and if so, not by people who matter. What good is hearing another UN official talk about its "grim and miserable" situation? Is another EU official going to change the situation when he speaks of a Palestinian state and calls to "remove the blockade on Gaza because there must be movement for goods and people"? Could another diplomat talk of the bitter reality in Gaza and hope to make Israel relent its frustration?

There. I had had enough and toyed with the idea of slipping back into the numbness of simplicity that consisted of work, family, car troubles, awful television, and a Knicks team that doesn't win. After all, wouldn't the situation be the same even if I didn't write on this blog? It was the same before I read politics; things only gradually became worse for the Palestinians. What if I decided to just stop the studying in scholar, stop the research on alternative media and blogs, and cease devoting so much time to a conflict that has no real bearing on how my life turns out? Would it matter to those nuts who comment on Ha'aretz or the people marching in Bi'lin against the wall?

A few thoughts to myself and then I remembered an article I read by Bill Fletcher. A past president of TransAfrica Forum and the editor of The Black Commentator, he titled his piece "Palestine Matters". And it reinforced my assumptions that what I do really does matter, that what I read has an impact however small and insignificant it may seem to me. While there are many passages that I want to quote, here's one that struck the chord to an estranged activist feeling the pinch of debility:

"With each atrocity against the Palestinian people comes another battle cry from one or another part of the planet, not only against Israel, but against their unconditional backers in Washington, DC. And those battle cries should raise our concern."

Of course I read and hear the tired old cliches that having a stake in the issue will make the world a safer place. Yes, there are many valid points that support this notion; Osama talks of the occupation by foreigners on holy enshrines in the Muslim world; the many grievances that US policy afflicts on the Middle East, especially the poor, which only is more agitative when juxtaposed with the talk of "democracy" and "freedom"; the looting of resources that falls into the pockets of Western fatcats at the expense of the Third World poor, which then spirals into environmental concerns; and the one-sided "balance" that has Israel crushing the Palestinians all full view of their Arab brothers. All of this could be stopped if the Palestinians were given a viable state. Then again, we don't know that do we, as this world seems to work in vacuums: the issue of Palestine might be solved for a period, but there is still Iraq, South America, North Korea and Africa that is still falling under the rubric of US foreign policy and "free trade". Their grievances could tip over and create another struggle that has the truth miscontrued and another conflict that could last generations. And Osama could still be a thorn in our asses, yet a smaller one that might have him ineffectual. But what seems to be the most pressing security issue for most here is the one that is near their doorstep, not terrorism per se. The domestic always has more focus rather than the foreign.

Such doubts had me questioning whether it really was time to put it all to rest and be another robot like my fellow co-workers who just talk about the usual topics (cars, girls, sports). Then late Edward Said, who had written a post-article on Orientalism that appeared in The Palestine Chronicle really took me back to where the roots of the conflict began (that is revisiting Orientalism and The Question of Palestine), and reacquainted me with an intellectual that inspired me to really study further what consists of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I was reminded

"that every domain is linked to every other one, and that nothing that goes on in our world has ever been isolated and pure of any outside influence. We need to speak about issues of injustice and suffering within a context that is amply situated in history, culture, and socio-economic reality. Our role is to widen the field of discussion."

I believe if Edward were alive today he would still be just as explosive as he was back in the 70s and give no quarter to anyone who dared justify the actions in Gaza. He would have no mercy for Mahmoud Abbas who seems to be encouraging the rift between Fatah and Hamas, thus destroying what could have been a strong unified front against the occupier. Everyone knows that a fragmented Palestinian society can only paralyse their fight for self-determination, not enhance it. And having rereading Edward Said's most provoking work, it only made me realise moreso that the question of Palestine is something that does matter to everyone, more or less, anyone who prides themself as a human.

"The paramount thing is that the struggle for equality in Palestine/Israel should be directed toward a humane goal, that is, co-existence, and not further suppression and denial."

It echoes within me that it is not only for self-determination, identity and awareness that the Palestinians should be recognised and matter, but one of the most importance is of an egalitarian goal, that Palestinians and Israelis should "co-exist", that they are both of equal matter and both have equal rights as a human.

Now that isn't rocket science: it's all been instilled in all of us early on that we're all the same, we all bleed whether we're black, white, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, Asian, Native, etc. So why is it so difficult to realise that Palestinians are only asking for what is their human right and that is to be seen as equal to their counterparts, the Jews? We can all state that there are certain politics at hand here, and that it's not as simple as that; but why not? Was not the South Africa model built upon the foundation that the blacks had the same rights as the whites and had no right to be treated that way? How about the Irish? The abolishment of slavery and segregation? The civil rights movement? It's not a case-by-case basis where we lessen the impact of the struggle because "Jews were persecuted" by the Holocaust and therefore they are bound to have their "Jewish state" which is their sanctuary from anti-Semitism, an affliction that is a world-wide disease since Jews are so oppressed. Those statements are made even without any scrutiny considering that Jews sit as CEOs and major stockholders, and even sit at important seats at the UN and in Washington and are seen on movies screens as leading actors and actresses. Anti-Semitism really outcasted them, didn't they?

It's a given that there are numerous boundaries as to why the issue is what it is. A plaintive media over the suffering of Israel's population against the propaganda that the Palestinians face (as terrorists and extremists and Islamofascists) does its job in vilifying Palestinians to no limit, and we are satured with phony scholars and experts who claim to know what is best to do in the conflict. We have talk upon talk about what to do with the Qassams, and yet no discussion as to why the Palestinians have any grievance at all in firing those rockets. Right now, we're on the brink of an invasion into the Gaza Strip just to help the residents of Sderot, meanwhile the Hamas offer for (ANOTHER) ceasefire is again ignored. Why would they cynically put their own citizens at risk just for their own political advancement? Is it worth it to destroy the Palestinians and endanger more Sderot residents just to have another "victory" moment?

Sure, there was a suicide bomber. But why do they become suicide bombers? Are we so immune to their situation that we simply ignore why the Palestinians are angry in the first place? Why would someone voluntarily take their own life just to make a hapless point against their occupier? Or have we simply forgotten that they are occupied? Because after forty years, we tend to assume that it has been like this forever and that there was no occupation to be begin with. Isn't that the way the coloniser is working here? Here we are, in the affluence of technology and free media, and we're still backward on who we're condemning? It's not the Palestinians who are building new houses in East Jerusalem, is it? Didn't Ehud Olmert already state Israel was not upholding its end of the bargain as proscribed by the Annapolis conference? So why are we not stopping this? Why are we still talking of Qassams and an extremist Hamas? Does East Jerusalem have no bearing on why Palestinians get mad? Does no letup on the roadblocks and checkpoints contribute to their hatred of Israel? Some might not be able to remove Israel from Jewish, especially since they are adamant that they be recognised as a Jewish state. This only contributes further to the dormant anti-Semitism, hence only exacerbating what is already a touchy subject. I have not even mentioned the settlements and their overzealous supporters that claim that they own this piece of land.

And the more you read into the conflict, and the more the truth escapes, the more you feel the need to write about it, to condemn it, and to say "that this is not right and that Palestine matters". Because weren't we in a position like this before, where the truth was so askewed that people did not want to listen and just go on with their day-to-day lives? No one is going to accuse anyone of being a little Eichmann, but being silent when we know that things are so bad for the Palestinians is like a green light for the people in power to do what they want. Sure, when it affects us personally then we want to stand up for our rights. But what about the ones whose rights are impinged on already? Where's our altruism? We care about the environment, the poor on our streets (well, some of us do) and our starving children. Here's a case where their starvation is all part of the game and we don't want to think about it.

And who's to stay that it doesn't affect us personally? We pay for it out of our pockets too, you know.

This may all seem a little confusing, even to myself I have run on and on and have no real point. But I figure that why I do this is because I believe I have an obligation to fight for justice whether and whomever it effects. And the Palestinians are the ones who I find to be the most persecuted in today's world. We have all heard the discussions, the one-state versus the two-state, whether they are their own victims or whether the world sees them the wrong way. But what should not be lost is this is a struggle that we can all identify with, whether we are affected by it personally or not (meaning Jewish, Muslim or even a minority). The world is being cast as the elite vs the poor, and sadly the majority of us is on the wrong side of it. That means me too. And it's this policy of usurpation, colonisation, removal and control that Israel uses over the Palestinians that also has some form in our own lives too. The people in power take land, money, and attempt to control our movement as well as our thinking by kowtowing the media. It's a little more extreme in the Palestinian case, and hence why we should all be more vocal to their demand to be recognised and have a viable state.

Right now, the media has it painted the wrong way and most of us are buying into it. And the longer this happens the longer justice will be put off, and that means more of the violence that only destroys more of Palestinian livelihood. I definitely fall very short of Edward Said, but our "humanism" will be lost if we let Israel completely remove the Palestnians from memory and from reality. They occupy not only the land, but also the important circles that only further Palestinian destruction. Why else do we have three people left in the US election that are trying to outflank each other on who is more pro-Israel? Why else do they attempt to strifle conversation on the Israel Lobby and aim to derail the Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer book? Why else do they try to apologise for Israel's transgressions against Palestinians or attempt to say that Israel owns the entire land because of their pious idiocy? Did we not read about a time long ago called Manifest Destiny where another sort of pious moron attempt to eradicate another sort of Native from their homeland because they felt it was their God-given right to do so? Does Benny Morris' words that the Nakba had to happen for another civilisation to thrive mean nothing to anyone anymore at the height of human rights advocacy and Hollywood drama for blood diamonds (or settlement diamonds to be more accurate)? Weren't the same conclusions met that such actions were a travesty to humanity, even something closely horrific as a Holocaust but only against another target? Aren't we meant to speak out against such actions that destroy a population?

Sitting here and typing this, I always question why I write about Palestine, and I always come to the same conclusion: that it is the truth as I believe it to be, and it is my job to try to air it to anyone who is interested. Debate about the topic? Bring it on. It's all a challenge and this is no easy feat as I'm not the most read of scholars just yet; I still need a few more years under my belt to even come close. Marching against Israeli atrocities? You bet. Signing petitions? Show me where.

I do feel now that I am a part of this issue that I must partake in the Palestinian struggle. Of course it is not just narrowed to their fight, as there are local issues to battle, as well as other foreign conflicts that I feel strongly about. But none more than the Palestinians. I know it's just a minor detail but most like to say that it is in Israel's interest to have a viable Palestinian state; well we can stop doing everything just for Israel's interest. In fact, we can even state that it's Israel's interest to continue with things the way they are because the Palestinians are backed against (three) walls with no one giving two shits about them. And I cannot sit here and let life go by while they endure their strangulation, knowing what I know now.

I can try to continue to relate how the Palestinian fight is one that resembles the blacks of South Africa, segregation, and other Third World struggles against imperialism. And that's all true, in a sense too; but many other more indepth studies have been written on such subjects and I could not do it justice here in my tiny little space. But Palestine is a question that is deep within myself that needs to be answered again and again; it's as if it's my conscious and talking about it is what really defines the "humanism" inside of me, the moral vicissitudes that I experience, and the voice that says that I am on the right track no matter how many obstacles are erected in front of me. In the end, Palestine is what defines the human struggle for equality for me, and how it can be so decontextualised and misinterpreted to fit into someone else's benefit, even at the greatest expense of someone right there next to them.

Yes, the fight for equality, the battle for truth, and the war for justice: the paradigm is Palestine. Nowhere is the playing field more uneven, nowhere is the debates more polemic, and nowhere is it where the people who matter are more silent about it than Palestine. It's all here people: settlements, Security Council, ICJ, Israel Supreme Court, torture, targeted assassinationas, checkpoints, terrorists, corruption, dissidents, collaborators, satraps, enclaves, Bantustans, apartheid, security walls, olive trees, beaches, fishery, airspace, weapons, army, settlers, protestors; it's all here and the battle for truth is being waged.

And we're on the tilting point right now. More and more speak out, which leads to more strongarm tactics to curb the criticism. Zionism is on the wane. Obama is seen as the candidate for a new Jewish crowd that criticises Israel's policy against the Palestinians. And Walt and Mearsheimer's book is a bestseller, as well as Jimmy Carter's. There was a giant call for Israeli Apartheid Week which still hits major cities across the globe. All of this does not bode well for the Jewish State, especially since a UN official stated that a "two-state solution has passed".

This follows the break at Rafah just over two weeks ago. The hold Israel has is slipping. We could all be cogs in the machine that ultimately brings down a state that discrimmates and champions Jews over Arabs. We could all be a part of history and witness another falling wall and another Soviet-like breakdown of empire, or perhaps another apartheid regime destroyed in favour of equality for all and justice to the Palestinians.

I cannot say that what I do does make a difference to those in Gaza and the Palestinians in the West Bank and the diaspora. I also cannot even say that it makes a difference to anyone here at the moment besides the few who I know. But living in such narrow parameters in not the way it works when you write about politics because it could only belittle what the truth is, whatever you believe it be. And that is not why we write on such matters. I do it because I feel it is of great importance that the world has to know what is going on; whether I get read or not is an afterthought as I know I can only do what I can do to the best of my ability as I have no output on other people's lives. Yet, the truth has a chain effect without pontificating: the more people know it, the more they feel compelled to spread the word. I feel that compulsion.

Just a few days ago, we had the Australian Prime Minister apologise to the Aborigines, whom they treated so abasively in years past, much similar to how other settler states dishonours its indigeous people. Who knows, maybe some activists also had doubts as to whether they actually made a difference to the Aboriginal struggle two to three decades ago. So it may not happen today, tomorrow, or even in my lifetime. But eventually, the Palestinians will see their reward for all of their struggle. And in the end, that's why I write, and that is why I have a stake on Israel-Palestine.