The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Signs of intelligent life found in Canada

By Thomas Walkom National Affairs Columnist

Canada’s politicians are wary of criticizing Israel. So is much of Canada’s media. As a fringe group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid found when they were banned from using their name in Toronto’s annual Gay Pride parade, the established order has little patience for those deemed overly critical of the Jewish state.

That’s why My Name is Rachel Corrie, a play about an American pro-Palestinian activist killed by Israeli troops, was cancelled in Toronto three years ago (another theatre troupe eventually staged it).

That’s also why the Toronto District School Board is currently investigating whether the children’s book The Shepherd’s Granddaughter is too hard on Israel.

So it should come as no surprise that official and semi-official Canadian reaction to Israel’s high-seas attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy Monday has been so muted.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he regretted the fact that at least nine civilians on the aid convoy were killed, but hoped to get more information.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said much the same thing, adding only that Israel’s responses to perceived threats to its security should be “measured.”

The media, which usually like nothing better than black-and-white stories, have been unusually convoluted.

We have no compunction about branding North Korea a rogue state for attacking a South Korean naval vessel in international waters. But Israel’s unprovoked attack on civilian ships in international waters — well, that’s a different sort of thing.

Indeed, some of the coverage has suggested that wily peace activists lured Israeli commandos into boarding their vessels in the middle of the night just so they could attack the armed soldiers with sticks.

But my sense is that while politicians and media remain fearful of criticizing Israel the public is starting to move on.

On university campuses, the Palestinian campaign to equate Israel’s settlement policy with that of apartheid-era South Africa is gaining ground — in spite of efforts by federal and provincial politicians to stamp it out.

Similarly, more and more Canadians are refusing to accept the either/or orthodoxy of the Middle East (you are either with Israel or the suicide bombers of Hamas) and are saying that, regardless of whom they happen to elect, the people of Gaza should not be abandoned.

That, presumably, is why 53-year-old former marine engineer Kevin Neish of Victoria and Guelph grandmother Mary Hughes Thompson joined the Gaza aid convoy.

Indeed, the tone from the optimistic, if naïve, emails that Neish wrote home before Monday’s attack is resolutely Canadian.

“Since the Israeli military always try to seize the media first to destroy evidence, my job is to non-violently get in the way of the Israeli commandos in a narrow passageway for about 30 seconds so the journalists can upload their reports,” he wrote. “It should be interesting to say the least. I guess all my young years spent playing rugby and football are going to come in handy: i.e. being able take a hard hit and keep standing and not lose my temper. . .

“I don’t think the Israelis are going to attack us, as the bad press coming from this would be enormous.”

None of this is to suggest that the plight of Palestinians has become top of mind in Canada. That would be an exaggeration. But my sense is that within the public the residual goodwill for Israel is wearing thin.

Holocaust guilt, which in the past has been skilfully used to mute criticisms of Israel, no longer has the same effect. Nor do ritual charges of anti-Semitism. The politicians tiptoe around Israel. The public is coming to understand that it is just another country.

Thomas Walkom’s column appears Wednesday and Saturday.


An unusual Israeli; an unusual person

Dr. Nurit Peled-Elhanan is the mother of Smadar Elhanan, 13 years old
when killed by a suicide bomber in Jerusalem in September 1997. Below
is Nurit’s speech made on International Women’s Day in Strasbourg.

Thank you for inviting me to this today. It is always an honour and a
pleasure to be here, among you (at the European Parliament).

However, I must admit I believe you should have invited a Palestinian
woman at my stead, because the women who suffer most from violence in
my county are the Palestinian women. And I would like to dedicate my
speech to Miriam R`aban and her husband Kamal, from Bet Lahiya in the
Gaza strip, whose five small children were killed by Israeli soldiers
while picking strawberries at the family`s strawberry field. No one
will ever stand trial for this murder.

When I asked the people who invited me here why didn’t they invite a
Palestinian woman, the answer was that it would make the discussion
too localized.

I don’t know what is non-localized violence. Racism and discrimination
may be theoretical concepts and universal phenomena but their impact
is always local, and real. Pain is local, humiliation, sexual abuse,
torture and death, are all very local, and so are the scars.

It is true, unfortunately, that the local violence inflicted on
Palestinian women by the government of Israel and the Israeli army,
has expanded around the globe, In fact, state violence and army
violence, individual and collective violence, are the lot of Muslim
women today, not only in Palestine but wherever the enlightened
western world is setting its big imperialistic foot. It is violence
which is hardly ever addressed and which is halfheartedly condoned by
most people in Europe and in the USA .

This is because the so-called free world is afraid of the Muslim womb.

Great France of “la liberte égalite et la fraternite” is scared of
little girls with head scarves. Great Jewish Israel is afraid of the
Muslim womb which its ministers call a demographic threat.

Almighty America and Great Britain are infecting their respective
citizens with blind fear of the Muslims, who are depicted as vile,
primitive and blood-thirsty, apart from their being non-democratic,
chauvinistic and mass producers of future terrorists. This in spite of
the fact that the people who are destroying the world today are not
Muslim. One of them is a devout Christian, one is Anglican and one is
a non-devout Jew.

I have never experienced the suffering Palestinian women undergo every
day, every hour, I don’t know the kind of violence that turns a
woman’s life into constant hell. This daily physical and mental
torture of women who are deprived of their basic human rights and
needs of privacy and dignity, women whose homes are broken into at any
moment of day and night, who are ordered at a gun-point to strip naked
in front of strangers and their own children, whose houses are
demolished , who are deprived of their livelihood and of any normal
family life. This is not part of my personal ordeal.

But I am a victim of violence against women insofar as violence
against children is actually violence against mothers. Palestinian,
Iraqi, Afghan women are my sisters because we are all at the grip of
the same unscrupulous criminals who call themselves leaders of the
free enlightened world and in the name of this freedom and
enlightenment rob us of our children.

Furthermore, Israeli, American, Italian and British mothers have been
for the most part violently blinded and brainwashed to such a degree
that they cannot realize their only sisters, their only allies in the
world are the Muslim Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghani mothers, whose
children are killed by our children or who blow themselves to pieces
with our sons and daughters. They are all mind-infected by the same
viruses engendered by politicians. And the viruses , though they may
have various illustrious names–such as Democracy, Patriotism, God,
Homeland–are all the same. They are all part of false and fake
ideologies that are meant to enrich the rich and to empower the powerful.

We are all the victims of mental, psychological and cultural violence
that turn us to one homogenic group of bereaved or potentially
bereaved mothers. Western mothers who are taught to believe their
uterus is a national asset just like they are taught to believe that
the Muslim uterus is an international threat. They are educated not to
cry out: `I gave him birth, I breast fed him, he is mine, and I will
not let him be the one whose life is cheaper than oil, whose future is
less worth than a piece of land.`

All of us are terrorized by mind-infecting education to believe all we
can do is either pray for our sons to come back home or be proud of
their dead bodies.

And all of us were brought up to bear all this silently, to contain
our fear and frustration, to take Prozac for anxiety, but never hail
Mama Courage in public. Never be real Jewish or Italian or Irish mothers.

I am a victim of state violence. My natural and civil rights as a
mother have been violated and are violated because I have to fear the
day my son would reach his 18th birthday and be taken away from me to
be the game tool of criminals such as Sharon, Bush, Blair and their
clan of blood-thirsty, oil-thirsty, land thirsty generals..

Living in the world I live in, in the state I live in, in the regime I
live in, I don’t dare to offer Muslim women any ideas how to change
their lives. I don’t want them to take off their scarves, or educate
their children differently, and I will not urge them to constitute
Democracies in the image of Western democracies that despise them and
their kind. I just want to ask them humbly to be my sisters, to
express my admiration for their perseverance and for their courage to
carry on, to have children and to maintain a dignified family life in
spite of the impossible conditions my world in putting them in. I want
to tell them we are all bonded by the same pain, we all the victims of
the same sort of violence even though they suffer much more, for they
are the ones who are mistreated by my government and its army,
sponsored by my taxes.

Islam in itself, like Judaism in itself and Christianity in itself, is
not a threat to me or to anyone. American imperialism is, European
indifference and co-operation is and Israeli racism and its cruel
regime of occupation is. It is racism, educational propaganda and
inculcated xenophobia that convince Israeli soldiers to order
Palestinian women at gun-point, to strip in front of their children
for security reasons, it is the deepest disrespect for the other that
allow American soldiers to rape Iraqi women, that give license to
Israeli jailers to keep young women in inhuman conditions, without
necessary hygienic aids, without electricity in the winter, without
clean water or clean mattresses and to separate them from their
breast-fed babies and toddlers. To bar their way to hospitals, to
block their way to education, to confiscate their lands, to uproot
their trees and prevent them from cultivating their fields.

I cannot completely understand Palestinian women or their suffering. I
don’t know how I would have survived such humiliation, such disrespect
from the whole world. All I know is that the voice of mothers has been
suffocated for too long in this war-stricken planet. Mothers` cry is
not heard because mothers are not invited to international forums such
as this one. This I know and it is very little. But it is enough for
me to remember these women are my sisters, and that they deserve that
I should cry for them, and fight for them. And when they lose their
children in strawberry fields or on filthy roads by the checkpoints,
when their children are shot on their way to school by Israeli
children who were educated to believe that love and compassion are
race and religion dependent, the only thing I can do is stand by them
and their betrayed babies, and ask what Anna Akhmatova–another mother
who lived in a regime of violence against women and children–asked:

Why does that streak o blood, rip the petal of your cheek?


Israel Foreign Ministry now translating in real time


Rare footage of Bibi and Barak after 1972 commando raid:


Dershowitz is at 1:52


Must Watch!

Kenneth O’Keefe talks about the attack on the MV Mavi Marmara that was trying to run the blockade on Gaza.

Video Interview

Posted June 25, 2010


In a development that has scientists puzzled, the corpse of a deceased UN Secretary-General was resurrected

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday voiced concern that an Israeli plan to raze 22 Arab homes to make way for an archaeological park in annexed east Jerusalem is “unhelpful” and against international law.

Ban “is deeply concerned about the decision by the Jerusalem Municipality to advance planning for house demolitions and further settlement activity in the area of Silwan in East Jerusalem,” the secretary general’s spokesman Martin Nesirky said in a statement.

“The planned moves are contrary to international law, and to the wishes of Palestinian residents,” the statement said.

Ban “reminds the Israeli Government of its responsibility to ensure provocative steps are not taken which would heighten tensions in the city. The current moves are unhelpful, coming at a time when the goal must be to build trust to support political negotiations,” the statement added.

The park, which is planned for a crumbling Arab neighborhood just outside the walls of the Old City, was approved by Jerusalem city council on Monday in a move that drew criticism both at home and abroad.

The plan was put before the city’s planning and building committee on Monday, which approved Gan Hamelech, the Hebrew name for an area outside the Old City known as Al-Bustan to its mostly Arab residents.

Under the plan, 22 homes would be razed, while another 66 would be legalized. The 88 homes all had been slated for demolition because they were built without Israeli permits.

The issue is all the more sensitive as most of the international community does not recognize Israel’s annexation of east Jerusalem since June 1967.


87 Senators Indicted for Running Congressional Prostitution Ring

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Eighty-seven of the US Senate’s 100 members have voiced support for Israel’s right to self-defense in the face of threats from Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran, the Senate said Wednesday.

The lawmakers wrote in a letter to President Barack Obama that they “fully support Israel?s right to self-defense.

“In response to thousands of rocket attacks on Israel from Hamas terrorists in Gaza, Israel took steps to prevent items which could be used to support these attacks from reaching Gaza,” they said, referring to Israel’s four-year naval blockade of the Palestinian territory.

Israel last week announced it was easing its siege to allow all strictly “civilian” goods into Gaza, after a crisis exploded when Israeli forces killed nine activists during a May 31 raid on a flotilla of aid ships attempting to run the blockade.

The lawmakers, from both sides of the political aisle, also stressed that “it is our national interest to support Israel at a moment when Israel faces multiple threats from Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the current regime in Iran.”

The lawmakers brought particular attention to the Turkish Muslim charity involved with organizing the aid flotilla, and urged Obama to consider branding the IHH — the acronym for the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation — as a terrorist organization, as Israel did earlier this month.

They also commended Obama for the action he took “to prevent the adoption of an unfair United Nations Security Council resolution (about the deadly raid) which would have represented a rush to judgment by the international community.”

A UN Security Council statement condemned the attack, but fell short of a call for an independent investigation, with the United States backing an Israeli probe.


UNRWA on the Blockade

* All crossings must be open to allow reconstruction -U.N.

* U.N. agency says Israeli easing not enough to rebuild

By Marwa Awad

CAIRO, June 21 (Reuters) – Nothing short of the full lifting of Israel’s blockade on Gaza would allow the territory to be rebuilt, the U.N. agency responsible for Palestinian refugees said on Monday, a day after Israel said it would ease its siege.

Israel, which sealed off the coastal territory to prevent its Hamas foes from arming, is under international pressure to lift the blockade after its forces killed nine people in an assault on an aid flotilla on May 31.

Under the blockade’s previous rules, any item that was not explicitly permitted was banned. Israel says it will now allow items to enter Gaza unless they are on a list of banned items, including weapons and materials that can be used to make them.

However, critics say the new rules could still make it difficult to import building materials to rehabilitate the territory, damaged by war in 2008-09.

“We need to have the blockade fully lifted,” said spokesman Christopher Gunness of UNRWA, the United Nations relief agency that looks after Palestinian refugees. He spoke to Reuters on the sidelines of a conference in Cairo.

“The Israeli strategy is to make the international community talk about a bag of cement here, a project there. We need full unfettered access through all the crossings.”

International donors at a conference in Egypt pledged $2.8 billion to rebuild Gaza after the war, but the blockade has hampered the inflow of building supplies.

Gunness said he was not confident that the new Israeli system would resolve the difficulties UNRWA has faced determining what can get through the blockade.

“The list of restricted goods is a moving target. We are never told this is banned and that is banned,” he said. “Israel’s blockade became a blockade against the U.N.”

Gunness said Israel must open the Karni cargo terminal north of Gaza, which is large enough to allow industrial-scale cargoes of cement, building materials and aid. Instead, trucks are routed to a narrower crossing. (Editing by Peter Graff)


Shameful injustice

The university’s proposed one-year suspension of the Muslim Student Union could have a chilling effect on free speech.

Omar Kurdi

Students across the country are monitoring events at UC Irvine as pro- Israel groups try to reestablish their deterrence capacity on American campuses. After a 4-month-long investigation, UC Irvine’s administration last week announced an unprecedented recommendation to suspend for one year the Muslim Student Union (MSU), a registered campus organization, for its alleged involvement in disrupting a Feb. 8 speech by Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the U.S. Eleven students were arrested and may face criminal charges as well as disciplinary action by the university. A June 17 Times editorial called the recommendation “an apt punishment for what was clearly an inappropriate protest”; on the contrary, the administration’s draconian response will unquestionably have a chilling effect on student activism at UC Irvine and across the country.

The decision comes after several months of intense pressure by a number of off-campus Zionist organizations. In February, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) called upon Jewish donors to withhold donations from UC Irvine and urged Jewish students not to enroll there. Their absence would be tragic. No student wants a Judenrein campus, but we also don’t want one in which Muslim student life is suffocated. The ZOA’s threat was intended solely to strong-arm university administrators into harsh action. And it appears to have worked.

Hillel President Wayne Firestone pronounced that “strong disciplinary procedures by the university … [are] in order here.” Shalom Elcott of the Jewish Federation of Orange County publicized his expectation of a “very specific response from the University of California leadership” and that he “is working intensely with multiple channels of leadership on a local, national and international level” so that “justice may be served.” After a visit from leading Jewish leaders, including Gerald Solomon of the Samueli Foundation, a key donor to the UC system, UC President Mark Yudof, a self-proclaimed Zionist, declared his outrage at the students’ protest of Ambassador Oren, that the students should be prosecuted and that the MSU should be disciplined.

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Although the decision is being appealed by the MSU, it represents the alarming lengths to which defenders of Israeli policies will go to stifle criticism. Three weeks ago the world watched in horror as Israeli commandos raided a flotilla of aid ships trying to break Israel’s illegal siege of Gaza. Nine humanitarian workers were killed. In the days that followed Israel mounted a public relations assault aimed at quelling the international outrage. Israel was chided by the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Foreign Press Assn. in Israel for releasing highly edited and reality-distorting footage it had stolen from journalists and flotilla passengers. News outlets were warned to “treat the material with appropriate caution.” Rather than demanding a full and independent investigation, several members of Congress have asked the Obama administration to ban flotilla participants from entering the United States (where presumably they’d be able to speak to Americans about what happened on the ships).

The university’s decision seems similarly designed to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel. Condemning an entire organization of more than 250 members that represents Muslim student life on campus to a yearlong hiatus and banning the leadership from assuming future positions conjures up images reminiscent of a military coup d’état and the subsequent banning of the deposed party’s top brass from politics.

The MSU organizes more than 300 events annually for its members and for the larger campus community. Most events aim to enhance members’ spiritual lives through study circles, interfaith discussions and charity work. Recently the Cross Cultural Center at UC Irvine honored the MSU with the Social Justice Award for its dedication to advocacy for the less fortunate. Banning the organization will not only affect the students associated with the disruption, but all Muslims on campus and the entire student body.

Moreover, the administration’s decision comes in the context of an ongoing effort by pro-Israel groups to effectively thwart growing criticism of Israel on American campuses. All over the country, students, many of whom are Jews, are organizing for Palestinian rights and an end to Israeli aggression. Zionist groups, woefully afraid of this phenomenon, are spending millions of dollars to stem this tide.

The students were fully within their rights to protest the presence of the spin doctor for Israel’s January 2009 rampage in Gaza, what Amnesty International called “22 days of death and destruction,” and what former South African judge Richard Goldstone concluded in a report for the United Nations was a war crime and possibly a crime against humanity. Even President Obama was briefly disrupted by anti-abortion activists during his May 2009 commencement address at Notre Dame University, yet no one was arrested or punished for associating with the offenders.

History will surely absolve the 11 UC Irvine students and condemn those who legitimize war criminals. Today as I write, hundreds of activists across the country and world are preparing for another flotilla to break the illegal siege on Gaza. Similarly, Muslim and non-Muslim students at UC Irvine and nationwide will not be intimidated by McCarthy-era tactics. They will continue to fight for justice and speak truth to power no matter the price they may have to pay.

Omar Kurdi is an alumnus of UC Irvine, where he earned degrees in history and international studies and was an active member of the Muslim Student Union. He hosts the Morning Show on One Legacy Radio.

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