Monday, 18 January 2016

Navigating Palestine: Christmas donations

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

30 olive trees

So far, since asking for donations for Palestine this Christmas, we've raised donations for 30 olive trees. A massive thankyou for everyone who has donated so far! Certificates have been emailed to all donors.

However, there's still a lot more to be done. We will be planting in the days after Christmas, as part of To Be There's Christmas tour program, as well as in February and March. The field we are working on after Christmas can be planted with 60 to 100 trees, so there's still plenty of room for more donations.

image courtesy of The Palestinian Olive

With the news of more attacks on Palestinian farmers in the West Bank, and the continuing death toll from extrajudicial killings by Israeli shooters, both military and civilians, our solidarity is more important than ever. Please donate! Get in touch via email if you are interested.

Palestine: Intensified boycott campaign responds to Israel's intensified repression

Originally published by Green Left Weekly, December 4.

Israel has detained at least 1200 children since October 1.

As the latest upsurge in mass Palestinian resistance to Israel's occupation entered its third month, the world marked the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People on November 29.

The date marks the UN's recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state in 2012, as well as the adoption of the original UN partition plan in 1947, that divided Palestine into two states.

Governments and international bodies around the world took the opportunity to express solidarity with the Palestinian people. Yet there are no signs that the self-styled “international community” — in reality, the Western imperialist countries and their allies — are making the radical shift away from supporting Israel's crimes that true solidarity would entail.

The day before, the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO) issued a damning statement announcing the number of Palestinians arrested by the occupying forces since October 1 had reached 2400 — half of them children under 18.

The death toll from the recent violence is 104 Palestinians, 21 Israelis, one American and one Eritrean, Al Jazeera reported on November 30.

The death of Palestinians have been obfuscated by Israel's propaganda machine, with victims slandered as "stone throwers" or "knife attackers".

Extrajudicial killings
An example of this was the murder of Ashraqat Taha Ahmad Qatanani, 16 years old, at Huwarra checkpoint on November 22. She was run over by a prominent Israeli settler, Gershon Mesika, whose car ran off the road after striking Qatanani.

He alleged, without any evidence, she was about to attempt a stabbing of Israelis waiting at the checkpoint's bus stop. “I didn't think twice: I stepped on the gas,” he told Arutz Sheva that day. Arutz Sheva dubbed Mesika a "hero civilian" who "thwarted a stabbing".

After Mesika ran her down, nearby soldiers shot the wounded teenager, who died at the scene.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who visited the US in November, took the opportunity to press Barack Obama's government to recognise the illegal settlements built on Palestinian land in the West Bank, Haaretz reported on November 24.

Internet access
Meanwhile, the Israeli government has finally allowed for West Bank Palestinians to access 3G mobile internet infrastructure, with an agreement signed by Israel's Army Coordinator Yoav Mordachai and Palestine's Minister for Civil Affairs Hussein al-Sheikh on November 19.

Mamoun Mattar, a Palestinian IT and broadcasting expert, told Al Jazeera on November 29: “I am not sure it is that advantageous now to go to 3G while all surrounding countries are using 4G and are preparing for 5G.”

He said Israel had only allowed the concession as they had already upgraded their network to 4G, leaving the frequencies vacant. However, communication will still be restricted — and Gazan Palestinians won't be granted access to 3G at all.

BDS backlash
The strongest international responses to the latest wave of oppression have been through the movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Some important BDS campaigns have come to fruition.

The American Anthropological Association overwhelmingly voted to support boycotting Israeli academic institutions on November 20, joining a number of United States academic bodies which have supported the academic boycott in recent years.

Campaign group Anthropologists for the Boycott of Israeli Academic Institutions declared the victory “a historic day for the Association, affirming the finest anti-colonial, anti-racist traditions within the discipline of anthropology.”

And while it falls far short of full BDS against Israel, the European Union's decision to mandate all Israeli settlement goods be clearly labelled on November 11 poses a real threat to Israel's attempts to annex the West Bank by stealth through ever-expanding settlements.

Hysteria over BDS
The decision has resulted in hysteria in Israel, with Netanyahu responding that the decision “brings back dark memories”, alluding to the boycott of Jewish businesses during the 1930s. Other Israeli government ministers repeated the clich├ęd denunciations of “disguised anti-Semitism”.

Netanyahu even announced on November 29, International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People, that Israel would unilaterally suspend the European Union from peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

Hysteria over BDS has even led Israel's parliament, the Knesset, to pass the initial reading of a law that would “bar anyone who publicly calls to boycott Israel or part of Israel from entering the country.” Lawmaker MK Yinon Magal said, “Anyone who wants to boycott is welcome to do so from Syria.”

The Israeli hysteria over BDS, or even partial measures like the EU's settlement labelling decisions, is an indication that international solidarity with Palestine can be effective.

Israeli military companies have recently begun to feel the impact, with their exports last year falling to just 53% of their 2012 peak, prompting Israel's four biggest arms dealers to write a letter warning Netanyahu of a “major crisis”.

But the Australian subsidiary Israeli arms dealer Elbit, which was targeted by BDS protesters in 2014, hopes to kick-start their faltering exports with a new joint bid with Australian manufacturer Elphinstone Group to build 225 Sentinel II vehicles for the Australian Defence Forces (ADF).

This should be the focus of protests.

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Occupied Palestine: How Israeli occupation trashes the environment

Originally published by Green Left Weekly, November 23

Ownership of the land of Palestine is hotly contested, so it is little surprise that the Earth itself is often the first casualty of Israel's occupation.

Israel uses a variety of tactics to try and drive Palestinians from their traditional lands and claim the spoils. This can mean direct violence against people, which includes settlers destroying the olive groves that Palestinian farmers have maintained for thousands of years.

But Israel also uses a scorched earth approach: contaminating arable land with garbage, draining aquifers of water and denying Palestinians the ability to develop sustainably.

The apartheid practices of the state of Israel restrict day-to-day access to water for Palestinians. A 2013 report by Palestinian human rights organisation Al-Haq shows that water consumption by Israelis is around three to four times higher than that of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

Palestinian water consumption in the West Bank averages 73 litres per person per day, well below the World Health Organisation minimum of 100 litres, while Israelis use 300 litres on average. Israeli settlers consume even more — averaging 373 litres for personal use — while agricultural settlements in the Jordan Valley draw a whopping 1312 litres per capita.

“The level of unrestricted access to water enjoyed by those residing in Israel and Israeli settlers demonstrates that resources are plentiful and that the lack of sufficient water for Palestinians is a direct result of Israel's discriminatory policies in water management,” the report states.

The way Israel achieves this plentiful supply of water is through over-extraction from the Jordan River and the aquifers that lie underneath Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and the Sinai. Al-Haq reports that 38 Israeli wells are located in the West Bank, and Palestinians are denied access to waters of the Jordan River, despite it forming the eastern boundary of the West Bank under international law.

Friends of the Earth Middle East, a joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian organisation, reports that, “Diversion of 96% of its fresh water, in addition to discharge of large quantities of untreated sewage, threatens to irreversibly damage the River Valley.”

Sewage dumping is not just a problem for the Jordan River Valley. Israeli settlements routinely release their waste water so as to contaminate Palestinian agricultural land, while landfill is often routinely dumped by Israeli companies on Palestinian land.

“Israel has been dumping waste, including hazardous and toxic waste, into the West Bank for years as a cheaper and easier alternative to processing it properly in Israel at appropriate hazardous waste management sites,” Palestinian Environmental Authority (PEA) deputy director Jamil Mtoor told Inter Press Service in 2009.

Attempts by Palestinians to establish any kind of waste recycling are routinely frustrated by Israel. Restrictions on construction outside of the densely populated Zones A & B of the West Bank — under full or partial control of the Palestinian Authority, respectively — are almost total.

Industries which are able to recycle waste have even been actively targeted by Israel. In 2005, Israel banned sulphuric acid from entering the West Bank due to “security concerns”. This has meant a recycling plant used by the tanning industry in Hebron for removal of chromium has been unable to function and Palestinian tanneries have been at risk of closure since, Middle East Monitor reported in February.

Agricultural resistance
There are a variety of ways in which Palestinians resist Israel's environmental degradation of their country. Permaculture offers a way to bring together issues of environmental degradation, food security and maintaining traditional culture.

“Permaculture as a technique is not a new thing for us as Palestinians,” Palestinian farmer Murad al-Khufash told Green Left Weekly. “Before the occupation, before the new technologies, chemical fertilisers, pesticides, etc, we used to live in the permacultural way. As a word it is new, but the lifestyle is old.”

Permaculture is an agricultural philosophy based on three principles: care for the Earth — allowing all life forms in the ecosystem to flourish; care for people — farming to provide for people's needs; and, taking a fair share — reinvesting the surplus back into the ecosystem, rather than the agribusiness logic of extracting as much value from the soil as possible.

Al-Khufash owns a permaculture farm in the village of Marda, nestled beneath the Israeli settlement of Ariel. Israeli human rights organisation B'tselem reported in 2010 that "prolonged neglect of treatment of Ariel's waste water" had already resulted in damage to the surrounding environment.

"We want to show people you can resist the occupation by having your own security, your own food," al-Khufash told GLW. "One day I'll have everything set up in the farm: milk, eggs, meats, vegetables, electricity, water — you don't need anything from outside. With the checkpoints closing the streets and cities isolated from each other, it's not easy to get from place to place, so that is a kind of resistance."

Monday, 30 November 2015

Occupied Palestine: Israeli provocations escalate violence

Originally published by Green Left Weekly on November 16.

Israel has introduced dramatic new restrictions on Palestinians living in the city of Hebron in response to recent violence and mass resistance in the occupied West Bank.

Residents of the Tel Rumeida suburb of Hebron's old quarter have been interrogated and registered by Israeli soldiers. Residents must undergo rigorous searches every time they wish to leave or enter their homes, while outside residents have been refused entry altogether, Mondoweiss reported on November 11.

The restrictions, which have been in place since October 29, were described by a resident as being, “Just like in prison. They try to make you a number, you're not a person”.

The Tel Rumeida suburb is the flashpoint for tensions between Palestinians and illegal Israeli settlers and military. It is the location of the settlement of Ramat Yeshai, first established in 1984. The area is known for “price tag attacks” (where any attack on settlers is responded to by indiscriminate violence against Palestinians), and graffiti slogans such as “gas the Arabs”.

Unsurprisingly, the Israeli military defends the settlers in their campaign of terror against residents of Hebron's old city. The New York Times reported on October 30 that the new “precautionary measures” were taken by the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) “in order to contain potential attacks in the future and maintain the safety and well being of Israelis”.

Israeli human rights group B'tselem has dubbed the restrictions of movement “a collective punishment”. It said Israeli and international peace monitors have also been barred from entering the area, allowing for further rights violations to go undocumented.

Movement has also been restricted between the entire old quarter of Hebron and the neighbouring suburbs and villages, with key roads being bulldozed shut.

Although they have been justified as “containing potential attacks”, the restrictions are a clear provocation by the Israeli military. The closure of the old quarter also lays the groundwork for further land grabs by settlers in the hotly-contested city.

In another provocation by the occupation forces earlier in October, Israeli soldiers shut down Aida Camp, in Bethlehem, and delivered residents a chilling warning that they would “gas you all until you die”.

The incident occurred late in the night on October 29. It was captured on video by Yazan Ikhlayel, 17, from the local youth centre, and quickly went viral on social media.

The Border Police soldiers, addressing the camp via megaphones on their jeeps, identified themselves as the “Occupation Army” and warned they would kill “the children, the youth, the old people” if they did not stop throwing stones.

“The most important thing I want people to see when they watch this video is to realise what the Israeli 'democracy' really is,” Ikhlayel told Middle East Eye on October 30.

“They have said it for us now, they are an occupation — they said 'we are the occupation army'. It is proof, this is an apartheid country, it is not democratic at all.”

These threats, like the restrictions of movement in Hebron, are a clear example of disproportionate and collective punishment. They are also a provocation that could only be aimed at escalated violence.

The Times of Israel reported the officer responsible for the operation was suspended the day after the incident.

In yet another deliberate provocation, this one directed at both Palestinians and the US government, the Jerusalem municipality signed off on 891 new settlement blocks in the Gilo settlement, the Palestine News Network reported on November 11.

The settlement of Gilo was built on land expropriated from the East Jerusalem suburb of Beit Safafa and the Bethlehem suburb of Beit Jala. The announcement followed the approval of 2200 apartments in Ma'ale Michmas settlement east of Ramallah on November 10.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended the announcements during his tour of the US, insultingly dismissing the size of the built up settlement areas as “just a few percent.”

Yet, as the shutdown of Hebron shows, the goal of settlements is to make life as difficult for neighbouring Palestinians as possible. The ultimate goal is to force Palestinians to give up and leave — a new, large scale ethnic cleansing.

Palestinians have responded with their own call for an escalation — calling for a global intensification of the boycott, divest and sanction (BDS) campaign targetting Israel.

Uniting efforts behind the hashtag #SolidarityWaveBDS, the Palestinian BDS national committee called for activists to take “international solidarity with the Palestinian popular resistance to the next level”.

The push has already borne some fruit, with the European Commission issuing a new guideline on November 11 that all products from Israeli settlements must be labelled as such.

If we want to stop the daily provocations and injustices of the Israeli occupation, then solidarity activists in Australia and around the world should redouble our efforts for BDS against Israel.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Terminator Line

The terminator line is the line on a planetary surface where daylight begins and ends. I thought it was a suitable enough way to reimagine this blog: I've seen my fair share of sunrises and sunsets moving across the landscape below from red eye flights in my recent months of budget travelling and freelance writing. For that matter, I've seen plenty of them from buses, trains or taxis here on solid land; I've looked out the window after the call to prayer wakeup to catch the dawn, and I've sat with a Stella and watched the sun set behind new horizons.

The title is a little bit philosophical, too. The start of something new always means the end of what came before it.

Thawra Eyewitness spoke to me in 2011, and for me it still encapsulates the heady excitement of being in the Arab world in that year of overthrown dictators and masses in motion. But here and now in 2015, things are different. For me, I'm no longer a full-time activist; I've given up my roles in the Socialist Alliance, and I'm less an eyewitness and more a writer. And for the Arab world, the revolution is over... bukrah.