Archive

Archive for the ‘Education and Politics’ Category

Cornel West speaks for Palestinians


By Marivel Guzman

 

Cornel West photo credit CornelWest.com

SACRAMENTO, Calif.– Sept. 29, 2016.  Cornel West at Press Conference at Sacramento State University.

I was aware of  West’s role in advising the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign, particularly on the Palestine Issue. For over 40 years, West has been a vocal advocate and supporter of the Palestinian people in their struggle against the Zionist occupation of their nation; Knowing West’s position on this important issue-of-the-day, I was intrigued by his deep concern about the plight of the Palestinian people and the need for people in this country to gain an objective and historical understanding of the roots of the current plight of Palestinians.

In my familiarity with West’s books, he has almost maintained a very progressive stance by tying their oppression to foreign occupation of their country. Therefore, I was eager to hear more about his views when I attended his lecture and press conference at Sacramento State University.

Knowing that the mainstream media would not only shy away, but ignore the conflict in the Middle East, particularly in regards to the Palestinian issue, I made it a point to ask  West about his role in advising the Sander’s campaign regarding the rights of Palestinians that live under Israel’s occupation. His response made it clear that he remained firm in his conviction that the people of this country must understand and support the Palestinian struggle to regain statehood.

When I asked why the Democratic Party after the primaries refused to acknowledge the Palestinian issue, his reply was unequivocally clear,

“If they didn’t address it, they were just wrong, this was cowardly and too indifferent, too unwilling to engage the level of suffering and misery and injustice of precious Palestinians brothers and sisters.”

West went on to explain that the position of the Democratic Party has been “tied too long to American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee.” He went on to explain that “AIPAC is not representative of Jewish-Americans, it represents a slice of centrist and conservative Jewish-Americans.” He then went on to explain that the AIPAC is “very powerful, like the NRA, and any other powerful lobby that is shaping U.S. policy … and for too long the kind of policies that the AIPAC promotes has not recognized the humanity (of the Palestinians) and the evil of Israeli occupation …. I am against foreign domination, I think what we are about is that every human being has some security from domination.”

The topic went on to highlight Assembly Bill 2844 which Governor Brown recently signed into law opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

There is a broad campaign both nationally and internationally to boycott, divest and impose sanctions upon companies that financially benefit from the Israeli seizure of Palestinian lands and resources.

This campaign included a boycott of those products from the occupied territories. The intent of Governor Brown bill is to protect the Israel by silencing and suppressing the groundswell support of an ever-growing number of people in this country and worldwide of the Palestinian people. Therefore, I asked West for his opinion of Assembly Bill 2844 and whether he thought groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union would challenge it on the basis of a denial of free speech. He felt that there would be legal challenges to this bill because he considers himself a libertarian when it comes to freedom of speech.

He went on to state that “there’s no doubt that there are many brothers and sisters in the BDS movement who are being targeted and demonized because they have a critique of not just Israeli occupation, they have a critique of the Israeli state that is perceived by very powerful elite at the top as being anti-Semitic …” “It is very difficult to have that conversation in the United States and so those of us who are part of the BDS we get demonized, we get viewed as if we are anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic and we just have to make it clear that we have to rob that kind of shallow characterization of the substance, we have to be very explicit about that fact that we take principled stance against anti-Jewish hatred and anti-Jewish prejudice and anti-Jewish sensibilities and still have fundamental commitment to the self-determination of Palestinians…”

I was very heartened by West’s formulation of the Middle East conflict and his wholehearted opposition to bigotry of any type. It was evident that he has pondered the issue long and hard or in his words for “30 to 40 years.” I found that his comments about President Obama’s neoliberal identity that leads him to support the State of Israeli to be on-target. He bravely criticized President Obama for his support and allowing himself to be captive to the right-wing elements in Israel. This included the passage of the $38 billion bill to the State of Israel. West concludes that the Middle East conflict is a very complex issue that demands “that we have enough people who are willing to tell the truth the best way they know it.”

Celebrities for Palestine; Cultural Activism with Ben Rivers


by Marivel Guzman

A talk by Ben Rivers on Playback Theatre and Popular Struggle in Occupied Palestine. Photo: Bhagya Prakash. K

A talk by Ben Rivers on Playback Theatre and Popular Struggle in Occupied Palestine. Photo: Bhagya Prakash. K

Since December 2011, The Freedom Theatre’s Freedom Bus has engaged thousands of Palestinians and people from abroad in cultural actions that address Israel’s practice of settler colonialism, military occupation and structural apartheid. The Freedom Bus partners with village cooperatives, popular struggle committees and grassroots organizations to hold multi-day “solidarity stays” and “freedom rides” in villages, towns, refugee camps and Bedouin communities throughout the occupied West Bank. These events involve community visits, interactive seminars, guided walks, Hakawati (traditional storytelling), building construction, and protective presence activity.

A central feature of Freedom Bus events is the use of Playback Theatre. Through this method, a troupe of Palestinian actors and musicians invite stories from the audience and subsequently transform each account into a piece of improvised theatre. By sharing stories about the realities of life under colonization and apartheid, community members aim to mobilize audience members in the broader struggle for freedom and equality in historic Palestine.

Irene Fernández Ramos writes for her Storytelling, Agency and Community-building through Playback Theatre in Palestine What is Playback Theatre?
Playback Theatre is a form of non-scripted, interactive community-based theatre created in the 1970s in the United States by Jonathan Fox. A Playback Theatre event usually lasts around seventy-five minutes and it is constructed from the stories of members of the audience who are invited by a conductor to share short or long stories, or ideas, with the rest of the audience. The new storyteller steps forward and sits on the edge of the stage, where he or she is seen by the performers and by the audience. With the help of the conductor’s questions, this new ‘storyteller’ narrates his or her experience allowing the performers to understand the personal feelings lying behind the story and to translate them into improvised theatrical language. Read more on her essay here 

Endorsers of the Freedom Bus include personalities such Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Alice Walker, Angela Davis, Judith Butler, Maya Angelou, Noam Chomsky, Omar Barghouti and Peter Brook. (Click for the full list of endorsers).
The Freedom Bus is also endorsed by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), Code Pink in between other organizations.

Freedom Bus The heart and art of playbackUsing stories, photographs and video, Ben Rivers speaks about the Freedom Bus initiative and its role within the popular struggle movement.

Palestinian Solidarity Committee in India and 1 Shanthiroad last February organised a talk (Video) by Ben Rivers, a British-Australian drama therapist and co-founder of The Freedom Bus Initiative with The Freedom Theatre in Palestine, on playback theatre and popular struggle in Occupied Palestine. In the talk Ben focused on the cultural activities of the Freedom Bus Initiative, including ‘solidarity stays’ in which the team resides in a village for some days, acting as a protective cover or re-building homes . “We also work very closely with grassroots, popular struggle groups and organisations. We organize political actions together.” Excerpt from the Hindu.com

In his talk, Ben narrated some of his experiences working with the communities in occupied Palestine.

“In the South of the West Bank, in a region known as South Hebron Hills, we were on the outskirts of a village called Atwani, where a very small community lives. A lot of their land was stolen by people of a settlement nearby who were hostile. Palestinians who are grazing their sheep on the hills are regularly attacked by them. Palestinian children used to be stoned by the settlers as they walked to to school.”

Celebrities for Palestine use their royalty status to seek justice; Queen Rania


Queen Rania of Jordan Coronation

by Marivel Guzman

 

Queen Rania, a Palestinian by birth, is an international celebrity and has been often noted for her commitment to charity work geared toward women’s education, but also Rania had dedicated her precious time to seek justice for Palestinians. As a first lady, consort to the King of Jordan, she probably can not speak broadly without diplomatic repercussions for her country, but she does it in her role of social activist and she does very well.  Her vocal support for Palestine has been latent in the news since she married king Abdullah of Jordan.

As a Jordanian, Queen Rania whose family is of Palestinian origin, she is concerned with the plight of Palestinians, On 2011, Queen Rania led a pro-Palestinian demonstration in Jordan’s capital, Amman. She urged the international community to end the massacres being committed in the occupied territories.

In Jordan, where nearly a third of the population is composed of Palestinian refugees, the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank is “a hurt we feel each day,” Queen Rania Al Abdullah told a packed audience at Yale on Sept. 22, 2009.  (Video attached)

“Larry King Live” on April 16, Queen Rania seemed to almost usurp Jordanian foreign policy from her husband. When King asked her about Jordan’s position on Palestinian attacks against Israeli civilians, she replied:

“Jordan has been very, very clear in this regard. We stand against any aggression committed against any innocent civilians, irrespective of the perpetrator or the victim. We do not approve of any aggression. We made that very clear.” Then — almost as an afterthought — she added, “King Abdullah also made that very clear.”  said the Globalist

On 27 July UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Pierre Krähenbühl met at UNRWA Headquarters in Amman with Jordan’s Queen Rania Al Abdullah to discuss the severe crisis and to express the Agency’s gratitude for the support of the Kingdom of Jordan.
During the meeting, which included several members of the UNRWA team, Her Majesty said that the attacks on helpless civilians on UNRWA premises and other humanitarian spaces in Gaza “demonstrate the blatant disregard for human life in this conflict. What more proof does the world need that there is no safe place in Gaza? No safe place for tens of thousands of desperate and defenseless civilians seeking refuge from the violence?”

Queen Rania addresses the audience during her visit to Yale University.
NY, USA/ September 22, 2009

 

 

Queen Rania makes an urgent plea on behalf of all the civilians living in Gaza for a “humanitarian ceasefire” and for the international community to do all it can to help alleviate the suffering.
Amman, Jordan/ January 5, 2009

 

 

 

Urgent Appeal: Palestinian Legislative Council Member Khalida Jarrar Expelled to Jericho

August 22, 2014 1 comment

 

Occupied Ramallah, 20 August 2014 –  The Israeli Military Governor in the West Bank has signed a military order expelling Palestinian Legislative Council Member and Addameer board member Khalida Jarrar to Jericho for a period of six months, with immediate effect.

 

 

 

At 1.30 A.M on 20 August 2014 approximately 50 Israeli occupying soldiers surrounded Jarrar’s home in Ramallah. An Israeli captain then proceeded to hand Jarrar an order which states that Jarrar must not leave the district of Jericho for the next six months and can only leave with the express permission of the Israeli military commander in the West Bank. Accompanying the order was a map outlining the boundaries of Jericho district. The order states, based on secret information, that Jarrar is a threat to the security of the area. She was given 24 hours to leave Ramallah. Jarrar refused to sign the order.

 

 

 

Jarrar was elected to the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) in January 2006 and has continued to serve as an elected representative ever since. She is also the Palestinian representative on the Council of Europe and is head of the Prisoners Committee of the PLC.

 

 

 

Jarrar has been a prominent human rights activist for many years. She previously served as the director of Addameer from 1993 to 2005 and remains a board member. She has also previously worked with UNRWA and has been active working with Palestinian women.

 

 

 

Since 1998 Jarrar has been banned from travelling outside of the occupied Palestinian territory, expect for one occasion in 2010 when she travelled to Jordan for medical treatment. Jarrar is married with two children. She has a received her B.A and Masters in human right and democracy from Bir Zeit university.

 

 

 

The order is based on Israeli Military Order 1651 Article 297 (2009) and is based on the accusation that Jarrar is “dangerous to the general security of the area.” As is standard with Military Orders and the decisions of Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon, GOC Central Command, the order does not explain or clarify the danger that Jarrar poses.

 

 

 

Jarrar lives in Ramallah, which according to the Oslo Agreements between the Palestinian Liberation Organization and the occupation, is considered “Area A” and under complete Palestinian control. By allowing Israeli occupying forces to enter Ramallah means that in effect the so-called ‘security co-ordination’ between Palestinian Authority security forces and Israeli occupying forces allowed for the expulsion of an elected representative of the Palestinian people, an elected representative who has continuously called for an end to such ‘coordination’.

 

 

 

The order to expel Jarrar to Jericho violates Article (42) of Geneva Convention IV which is applied to the occupied Palestinian territory, and states “The internment or placing in assigned residence of protected persons may be ordered only if the security of the Detaining Power makes it absolutely necessary.”[1]

 

 

 

The decision of the Maj. General also violates Article (49), which prohibits forced collective or individual transfer of protected persons, or banning from them from the occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power, under any circumstance.

 

 

 

This is not the first instance the Occupation has forcibly transferred Palestinian Legislative Council members who have been democratically elected. In 2010, three PLC members, Mohammad Abu Teer, Ahmad ‘Atoun and Mohammad Totah, as well as Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Khalid Abu Arafeh were deported from their homes in Jerusalem to Ramallah. Shortly after, all four were arrested by the Occupation and placed under administrative detention, which is detention without charge or trial.

 

 

 

 

 

Take Action

 

 

 

Here is how you can help Khalida Jarrar:

 

*Write to the Israeli government, military and legal authorities and demand the military order expelling her to Jericho is revoked immediately.

 

 

 

· Brigadier General Danny Efroni
Military Judge Advocate General
6 David Elazar Street
Harkiya, Tel Aviv
Israel
Fax: +972 3 608 0366+972 3 569 4526
Email: arbel@mail.idf.ilavimn@idf.gov.il

 

 

 

· Maj. Gen. Nitzan Alon
OC Central Command Nehemia Base, Central Command
Neveh Yaacov, Jerusalam
Fax: +972 2 530 5741

 

 

 

· Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Moshe Ya’alon
Ministry of Defense
37 Kaplan Street, Hakirya
Tel Aviv 61909, Israel
Fax: +972 3 691 6940 / 696 2757

 

 

 

· Col. Doron Ben Barak
Legal Advisor of Judea and Samaria PO Box 5
Beth El 90631
Fax: +972 2 9977326

 

 

 

 

 

 *Write to your own elected representatives urging them to pressure Israel to revoke the military order.

 

 


[1] The internment or placing in assigned residence of protected persons may be ordered only if the security of the Detaining Power makes it absolutely necessary.
If any person, acting through the representatives of the Protecting Power, voluntarily demands internment and if his situation renders this step necessary, he shall be interned by the Power in whose hands he may be.

An open letter to the people of Gaza


An open letter for the people in Gaza

This letter is published under the Freedom of Information Act: “Notwithstanding the provisions of sections 106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of copyright.”

Paola Manduca aEmail AddressIain Chalmers bDerek Summerfield cMads Gilbert dSwee Ang eon behalf of 24 signatories

We are doctors and scientists, who spend our lives developing means to care and protect health and lives. We are also informed people; we teach the ethics of our professions, together with the knowledge and practice of it. We all have worked in and known the situation of Gaza for years.

On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel.

We ask our colleagues, old and young professionals, to denounce this Israeli aggression. We challenge the perversity of a propaganda that justifies the creation of an emergency to masquerade a massacre, a so-called “defensive aggression”. In reality it is a ruthless assault of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity. We wish to report the facts as we see them and their implications on the lives of the people.

We are appalled by the military onslaught on civilians in Gaza under the guise of punishing terrorists. This is the third large scale military assault on Gaza since 2008. Each time the death toll is borne mainly by innocent people in Gaza, especially women and children under the unacceptable pretext of Israel eradicating political parties and resistance to the occupation and siege they impose.

This action also terrifies those who are not directly hit, and wounds the soul, mind, and resilience of the young generation. Our condemnation and disgust are further compounded by the denial and prohibition for Gaza to receive external help and supplies to alleviate the dire circumstances.

The blockade on Gaza has tightened further since last year and this has worsened the toll on Gaza’s population. In Gaza, people suffer from hunger, thirst, pollution, shortage of medicines, electricity, and any means to get an income, not only by being bombed and shelled. Power crisis, gasoline shortage, water and food scarcity, sewage outflow and ever decreasing resources are disasters caused directly and indirectly by the siege.1

People in Gaza are resisting this aggression because they want a better and normal life and, even while crying in sorrow, pain, and terror, they reject a temporary truce that does not provide a real chance for a better future. A voice under the attacks in Gaza is that of Um Al Ramlawi who speaks for all in Gaza: “They are killing us all anyway—either a slow death by the siege, or a fast one by military attacks. We have nothing left to lose—we must fight for our rights, or die trying.”2

Gaza has been blockaded by sea and land since 2006. Any individual of Gaza, including fishermen venturing beyond 3 nautical miles of the coast of Gaza, face being shot by the Israeli Navy. No one from Gaza can leave from the only two checkpoints, Erez or Rafah, without special permission from the Israelis and the Egyptians, which is hard to come by for many, if not impossible. People in Gaza are unable to go abroad to study, work, visit families, or do business. Wounded and sick people cannot leave easily to get specialized treatment outside Gaza. Entries of food and medicines into Gaza have been restricted and many essential items for survival are prohibited.3 Before the present assault, medical stock items in Gaza were already at an all time low because of the blockade.3 They have run out now. Likewise, Gaza is unable to export its produce. Agriculture has been severely impaired by the imposition of a buffer zone, and agricultural products cannot be exported due to the blockade. 80% of Gaza’s population is dependent on food rations from the UN.

Much of Gaza’s buildings and infrastructure had been destroyed during Operation Cast Lead, 2008—09, and building materials have been blockaded so that schools, homes, and institutions cannot be properly rebuilt. Factories destroyed by bombardment have rarely been rebuilt adding unemployment to destitution.

Despite the difficult conditions, the people of Gaza and their political leaders have recently moved to resolve their conflicts “without arms and harm” through the process of reconciliation between factions, their leadership renouncing titles and positions, so that a unity government can be formed abolishing the divisive factional politics operating since 2007. This reconciliation, although accepted by many in the international community, was rejected by Israel. The present Israeli attacks stop this chance of political unity between Gaza and the West Bank and single out a part of the Palestinian society by destroying the lives of people of Gaza. Under the pretext of eliminating terrorism, Israel is trying to destroy the growing Palestinian unity. Among other lies, it is stated that civilians in Gaza are hostages of Hamas whereas the truth is that the Gaza Strip is sealed by the Israelis and Egyptians.

Gaza has been bombed continuously for the past 14 days followed now by invasion on land by tanks and thousands of Israeli troops. More than 60 000 civilians from Northern Gaza were ordered to leave their homes. These internally displaced people have nowhere to go since Central and Southern Gaza are also subjected to heavy artillery bombardment. The whole of Gaza is under attack. The only shelters in Gaza are the schools of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), uncertain shelters already targeted during Cast Lead, killing many.

According to Gaza Ministry of Health and UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA),1 as of July 21, 149 of the 558 killed in Gaza and 1100 of the 3504 wounded are children. Those buried under the rubble are not counted yet. As we write, the BBC reports of the bombing of another hospital, hitting the intensive care unit and operating theatres, with deaths of patients and staff. There are now fears for the main hospital Al-Shifa. Moreover, most people are psychologically traumatized in Gaza. Anyone older than 6 years has already lived through their third military assault by Israel.

The massacre in Gaza spares no one, and includes the disabled and sick in hospitals, children playing on the beach or on the roof top, with a large majority of non-combatants. Hospitals, clinics, ambulances, mosques, schools, and press buildings have all been attacked, with thousands of private homes bombed, clearly directing fire to target whole families killing them within their homes, depriving families of their homes by chasing them out a few minutes before destruction. An entire area was destroyed on July 20, leaving thousands of displaced people homeless, beside wounding hundreds and killing at least 70—this is way beyond the purpose of finding tunnels. None of these are military objectives. These attacks aim to terrorize, wound the soul and the body of the people, and make their life impossible in the future, as well as also demolishing their homes and prohibiting the means to rebuild.

Weaponry known to cause long-term damages on health of the whole population are used; particularly non fragmentation weaponry and hard-head bombs.45 We witnessed targeted weaponry used indiscriminately and on children and we constantly see that so-called intelligent weapons fail to be precise, unless they are deliberately used to destroy innocent lives.

We denounce the myth propagated by Israel that the aggression is done caring about saving civilian lives and children’s well-being.

Israel’s behavior has insulted our humanity, intelligence, and dignity as well as our professional ethics and efforts. Even those of us who want to go and help are unable to reach Gaza due to the blockade.

This “defensive aggression” of unlimited duration, extent, and intensity must be stopped.

Additionally, should the use of gas be further confirmed, this is unequivocally a war crime for which, before anything else, high sanctions will have to be taken immediately on Israel with cessation of any trade and collaborative agreements with Europe.

As we write, other massacres and threats to the medical personnel in emergency services and denial of entry for international humanitarian convoys are reported.6 We as scientists and doctors cannot keep silent while this crime against humanity continues. We urge readers not to be silent too. Gaza trapped under siege, is being killed by one of the world’s largest and most sophisticated modern military machines. The land is poisoned by weapon debris, with consequences for future generations. If those of us capable of speaking up fail to do so and take a stand against this war crime, we are also complicit in the destruction of the lives and homes of 1·8 million people in Gaza.

We register with dismay that only 5% of our Israeli academic colleagues signed an appeal to their government to stop the military operation against Gaza. We are tempted to conclude that with the exception of this 5%, the rest of the Israeli academics are complicit in the massacre and destruction of Gaza. We also see the complicity of our countries in Europe and North America in this massacre and the impotence once again of the international institutions and organizations to stop this massacre.

Click to toggle image size
Full-size image (24K) Associated Press
We declare no competing interests.

Supplementary Material

Supplementary appendix
Open file
PDF (63K)
 

References

1 United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)Occupied Palestinian Territory: Gaza emergency situation report (as of 21 July 2014, 1500 hrs)http://www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_sitrep_22_07_2014.pdf(accessed July 22, 2014).
3 Gilbert MBrief report to UNRWA: The Gaza Health Sector as of June 2014.http://www.unrwa.org/sites/default/files/final_report_-_gaza_health_sector_june-july_2014_-_mads_gilbert_2.pdf(accessed July 22, 2014).
4 Naim AAl Dalies HEl Balawi M, et alBirth defects in Gaza: prevalence, types, familiarity and correlation with environmental factorsInt J Environ Res Public Health 201291732-1747PubMed
5 Manduca PNaim ASignoriello SSpecific association of teratogen and toxicant metals in hair of newborns with congenital birth defects or developmentally premature birth in a cohort of couples with documented parental exposure to military attacks: observational study at Al Shifa Hospital, Gaza, PalestineInt J Environ Res Public Health 2014115208-5223PubMed
6 Ma’an News Agency4 killed, over 50 injured as Israel targets al-Aqsa hospital.http://www.maannews.net/eng/ViewDetails.aspx?ID=715087(accessed July 22, 2014).
a New Weapons Research Group and University of Genoa, Genoa, Italy
b James Lind Library, Oxford, UK
c Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College, London, UK
d Clinic of Emergency Medicine, University Hospital of North Norway, Tromso, Norway
e Barts and the Royal London Hospital, London, UK

Plugging Our Ears Does Not Serve Israel


by Oded Na’aman

An Israeli soldier poses with Palestinian detainees in an undated photo taken by an Israeli soldier and made available by the campaign group Breaking the Silence.

An Israeli soldier poses with Palestinian detainees in an undated photo taken by an Israeli soldier and made available by the campaign group Breaking the Silence.

I was born in Israel. I served in the Army. Israel is the only home I know. You would think my speaking to students at Hillel would be welcomed. Yet my presentation to students at Washington University’s Hillel in St. Louis last month sparked a storm of controversy.

I had been invited by J Street U and was graciously hosted by Hillel at their beautiful new building. As a member of Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli combat veterans that collects and publishes the testimonies of soldiers who served in the occupied territories, I was on campus to discuss the practices and principles of Israel’s military rule.

In the days leading to my visit, many in the Jewish community called for the event’s cancellation, claiming our sole goal was to “bash Israel.” Jacqueline Ulin Levey, executive director of St. Louis Hillel at Washington University, backed the event. She did, however, impose certain restrictions, asking that I not show any photographs or mention any testimonies besides my own. Hillel also flew in an Israel Fellow from Yale University to “balance” my talk by debriefing the students before and after.

Despite the constraints, the talk went well, with a long question and answer session. After the event, Lawrence Wittels, the chair of the school’s Hillel board, congratulated me.

But in the days following, the assault on Hillel and J Street U escalated. Eric Fingerhut, President and CEO of Hillel International, subsequently wrote to members of the Hillel community defending the organization’s decision. “While we join with the majority of the community in deeply resenting the actions of the former IDF soldiers in Breaking the Silence, who come to college campuses in America to disparage the IDF,” Fingerhut wrote, “it is, regrettably, part of the broad tent of dialogue regarding Israel.” By housing the event within Hillel, he argued, the staff could control and mitigate an unfortunate debate.

I applaud Hillel’s work facilitating a broad dialogue within the American Jewish community. But Fingerhut and those whom his letter addressed, seem to be more concerned with their own feelings toward Israel — their “tent” — than with Israel. Mention of the actions of the IDF, the values to which Israel is committed, and concern for the well being of Israel’s residents, whether Israeli or Palestinian, are noticeably absent from Fingerhut’s letter.

I don’t doubt Fingerhut’s genuine concern for Israel. I am sure those who called for the event’s cancellation are also sincerely dedicated to my country.  But their concern does not protect Zionism. Rather, it threatens it. If Zionism is the dream of Jews to overcome a state of mere survival and forge our own destiny, then claiming that the occupation is necessary, that Israel “has no other choice,” is the betrayal of Zionism. Israel’s rule of force over a civilian population threatens our democratic integrity, moral character, and international standing –  in short, it threatens that future.

Israel is a strong and thriving country. We can take responsibility for our actions, hold our institutions and military accountable, acknowledge our mistakes, and correct them. We can forge our own future, but only by ending the occupation.

Naturally, our claims are met with doubt. But we encourage critical debate based on evidence. We have testimony from over 950 soldiers about their service, many of them on film. Incidents we exposed have been confirmed by the Israeli media and we have been invited to speak at the United States Air Force Academy. Carmi Gillon, former head of the Shin Bet, has praised our work.

The testimonies portray a system of control and expropriation of land that is founded on the use of military force. Arbitrary violence is of the essence of military rule, which cannot rely on democratic legitimacy.

Instead of an actual dialogue about our reality and future, they are content to have a conversation about the conversation about Israel. Rather than respond to what they hear, they argue over whether they should plug their ears. This may serve some staff and some donors of Hillel International, but it doesn’t serve Israel. It takes some chutzpah to claim that by silencing our voices you are protecting our own country from us.

Oded Na’aman served in the IDF between November 2000 and October 2003. Since 2005 he has been a member of Breaking the Silence, a group of Israeli veterans that collects soldiers’ testimonies from the West Bank. Oded is currently pursuing his PhD in Philosophy at Harvard University.

Dear Jon Voight: A letter about Gaza

August 18, 2014 1 comment

Does Jon Voight have his facts on Israel and Palestine right?

Original published in Aljazeera English: 13 Aug 2014 11:35

Gil Hochberg
Gil Hochberg is a professor of Comparative Literature at UCLA. She is the author of “In Spite of Partition: Jews, Arabs, and the Limits of Separatist Imagination” (Princeton University Press, 2007) and is presently finishing a project studying the Visual Politics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mark LeVine

Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University. His new book is One Land, Two States: Israel and Palestine as Parallel States, co-edited with Ambassador Mathias Mossberg.
Jon Voight with Israel flag in the background

Jon Voight with Israel flag in the background

 

As the carnage in Gaza reached a crescendo in the beginning of August, Jon Voight, one of Hollywood’s most vocal conservatives, penned a harsh attack on fellow actors Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz in response to a letter they signed condemning the latest Israeli bombing of Gaza in which he accused them of “inciting anti-Semitism all over the world”. Many activists dismiss Voight’s letter as the rantings of an unthinking actor who long ago lost touch with political reality – a poor relation of conservative icon Charlton Heston. But Voight’s vitriol, and the narratives behind them, have for decades been quite effective in silencing criticism of Israel in Hollywood or among entertainers more broadly.

Indeed, they provide the intellectual cover for even more extreme attacks by celebrities like Joan Rivers, who in an “epic rant” worthy of an Israeli Knesset member, declared that Palestinians in Gaza “deserved to be dead”. This level of hatred mirrors the increasingly genocidal discourse against Palestinians within Israeli political and culture.

Yet it also gives cover for a growing blacklist by “top industry executives” against actors like Cruz and Bardem who dare criticize Israel publicly and without the level of deference that has long defined Hollywood’s treatment of the Jewish state.

Like most Hollywood scripts, the narratives on which the views of Voight, Rivers and other Hollywood Israel supporters are based are far removed from the historical and contemporary realities they purport to describe. Yet their power remains secure precisely because they are the same narratives used by the seemingly reasonable mainstream media and political actors – from the New York Times to President Obama – whenever the conflict is discussed.

Historical myths

There are three fundamental “myths”, to borrow a phrase from one of Israel’s founding revisionist historians, Simha Flapan, surrounding Israel’s birth and subsequent history that cohere the traditional narrative Voight is re-voicing. The first surround’s the state’s creation itself: “when in 1948 the Jewish people were offered by the UN a portion of the land originally set aside for them in 1921… The Arabs rejected the offer, and the Jews accepted, only to be attacked by five surrounding Arab countries committed to driving them into the sea… The Arabs tried it again in 1967, and again in 1973.”

The remains of an ambulance hit during the shelling of Shajaira

The remains of an ambulance hit during the shelling of Shajaira

 

Voight’s account is familiar but it is a distortion of the actual history, one that echoes the official Israeli narrative to the letter. In reality, after three decades of increasing intercommunal conflict marked by periodic bursts of violence and growing Jewish immigration, the UN voted to partition Palestine in 1947.

Already by December 1947 a civil had erupted, in which both Zionist and Arab forces engaged in regular attacks and even terrorism, with coordinated Zionist attacks on Palestinian villages aimed at Judaising strategic parts of the country picking up speed by the beginning of spring 1948.

By May 15, the date of Israel’s establishment, tens of thousands of Palestinians had already been forced into exile. As Oxford University professors Avi Shlaim and Eugene Rogan demonstrated in their book The War for Palestine, Rewriting the History of 1948, Arab leaders either sent mostly untrained and badly armed forces whose primary goals were to prevent rather than support the creation of a Palestinian state. Jordan had even secretly agreed to a division of most of the territory (except Jerusalem) with the Zionist leadership.

The second myth surrounds the Six Day War. Voigt’s description of 1967 as the “Arab trying again” is familiar yet similarly inaccurate. There were certainly many threats emanating from Arab capitals in the late spring of 1967, but ultimately it was Israel that launched a “sneak attack”, one in which US and Israeli intelligence agencies correctly assumed would wipe out the combined forces of the surrounding states in roughly five days.

Whatever its motivations, 1967 became a war of conquest and expansion. Israel could have maintained a military occupation indefinitely, if security was its main concern. Instead, it began a process of settlement, which in Jerusalem and the West Bank has intensified without pause to the present day. Gaza, which Voight and other Israel supporters argues was “give[n] the Palestinians… as a peace gesture”. Gaza was never a gift Israel could “give” to Palestinians. It was not only occupied under international law but legally inseparable from the West Bank. What Israel has done was withdraw and then impose a siege while intensifying once again its settlements in and control over the West Bank, both of which violate international law.

The third myth surrounds the Oslo peace process. The traditional narrative, repeated here, is that “Israel has always labored for a peaceful relation with its Arab neighbors.” In reality, Israel violated every agreement with and about Palestinians, beginning with its pledge in the Camp David Accords to enable “full autonomy to the inhabitants” as soon as possible (as we know, instead of robust autonomy Palestinians received half a million settlers and lost control over the vast majority of their land). Israel’s record of abiding by the Oslo-era agreements is no better, and in fact doomed them from the start.
INTERACTIVE: Gaza Under Attack

The fourth myth surrounds Hamas. Voight claims that “the Palestinians elected Hamas, a terrorist organization, and they immediately began firing thousands of rockets into Israel.” Even the arch-conservative New York Post recognized that Hamas was elected not because of its terrorism but out of disgust with an utterly coopted, corrupt and brutal Palestinian Authority. More to Voight’s point, Hamas did not begin firing missiles into Israel until after it attempted to remove the newly elected leadership by force in a US and PA-supported coup. No significant rocket fire occurred until two years after Hamas was elected, during which time Israel continued its siege on Gaza and ever-tightening stranglehold on the West Bank.

Finally, Voight claims that his fellow actors “have forgotten how this war started”. But contrary to his assertion, as reported in great detail in the Israeli media, the Israeli government began a series of attacks on Hamas and other Palestinian activists, arresting, shooting and even killing many in response to its unity deal with the Palestinian Authority. This was the context for the kidnap and murder of three settler youth which was not a cause of but rather a link in a much larger chain of events that led to the present disaster.

Have Israel’s actions risen to the level of genocide, as the letter Mr Bardem and others signed alleges? Given the history of genocide against the Jews – the term was invented to describe the Holocaust – it is tragic that such a characterization can even be considered. But it must be faced, because Israel’s actions, which have long been characterized as “politicide” or “spaciocide” by Israeli and Palestinian scholars, as well as the political and public rhetoric against Palestinians, have become so intense that the genocide accusation can no longer be dismissed out of hand.

It is undeniable that Israelis have suffered in the latest Gaza war, but it’s equally certain that the suffering Israel has inflicted upon Palestinians is exponentially greater, and the responsibility for that suffering lies not just with Israel, but with the United States which has, in the words of Jon Stewart, acted as its “drug dealer” while pretending to be a caring friend. If Israel’s most vocal partisans like Jon Voight really care so much about Israel, they should take the time to understand this historical and political reality. Otherwise, their passion and concern for Israel will only lead it closer to the very reckoning they desperately hope it will avoid.

Gil Hochberg is a professor of Comparative Literature at UCLA. She is the author of "In Spite
of Partition: Jews, Arabs, and the Limits of Separatist Imagination" (Princeton University
Press, 2007) and is presently finishing a project studying the Visual Politics of the Israeli-
Palestinian conflict.
Mark LeVine is a professor of Middle Eastern History at University of California, Irvine, and
a Distinguished Visiting Professor at Lund University. His new book is One Land, Two States:
Israel and Palestine as Parallel States, co-edited with Ambassador Mathias Mossberg.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

%d bloggers like this: