Israel must stop violating Palestinian human rights: UN

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang

The United Nations has called on Israel to halt a series of serious violations of the Palestinian people’s human rights cited by a 2009 fact-finding mission, a UN report says.

Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, detailing the violations of international rights, as well as humanitarian laws in Palestinian territories during the 22-day Gaza war in 2008 and 2009.

“It has been nearly three years since this council endorsed the fact-finding mission’s recommendations. Yet, not one person has been indicted for any of the incidents documented,” she said commenting on progress made according to the Goldstone report recommendations.

Speaking on behalf of UN rights chief Navi Pillay, Kang said that there was a “need to more earnestly pursue accountability for the serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law that were documented by the fact-finding mission.”

According to the report, Israel’s Operation Cast Lead offensive killed some 1,400 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in the Gaza Strip, and 13 Israelis.

It also questioned the detention of nearly 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, with many being held without trial.

“Respecting human rights and international humanitarian law obligations means that perpetrators of violations are brought to justice,” she added.

Kang further slammed Israeli settlers who attack Palestinians on their property, saying that they should also be brought to justice.

She also criticized the sentencing of an Israeli soldier for only 45 days in prison after he killed two unarmed Palestinian women waving a white flag during the Gaza conflict.

The UN report also highlighted a great economic crisis in Palestinian territories.

Back in March, Israel suspended all working ties with the UN Human Rights Council, announcing it would not cooperate with the council in an investigation of the contruction of Jewish settlements in Palestinian land.

The Israeli military frequently attacks the Gaza Strip, saying the actions are being conducted for defensive purposes. However, disproportionate force is always used, in violation of international law, and civilians are often killed or injured.

In addition to airstrikes and ground attacks, the Tel Aviv regime also denies about 1.7 million people in Gaza their basic rights, including the freedom of movement and the right to decent living, work, health and education.

( / 24.09.2012)

Debunking the racism behind a two-state solution

Israel’s separation wall in Bethlehem.
Much has been said and written about the Oslo Accords and the Geneva initiative. The signatories claim that these much debated documents in principle opened up new possibilities for ‘cooperation’ between what has for so long seemed to be irreconcilable positions.

Yasser Abed Rabbo and Yossi Beilin, the signatories of the Geneva Initiative, for example, believe that “the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the establishment of two-states.” And, in what sounds like a warning, the latter adds that the window for a two-state solution will not be available indefinitely and Israel will be forced to deal with the “demographic threat” imposed on it by the Palestinians in historic Palestine.

This article, on the contrary, maintains that the two-state solution under present conditions denies the possibility of real coexistence based on equality. This is because both the Geneva document and the Oslo accords accept the Zionist consensus and, for the first time in the history of the conflict, seek to legitimize Israel as a Jewish state in historic Palestine.

In both of these documents, therefore, Israel would appear to have been confirmed as the “state of all the Jews” and never “the state of all of its citizens”. The logic of separation implicit in these documents implies some fundamental contradictions and begs certain serious questions.

The Accord and the Initiative have legitimated apartheid. Both documents include a language that is, euphemistically, reminiscent of the series of laws known collectively as the Group Areas Act which forced the relocation of millions of non-white South Africans into racially-specific ghettos. It was created to split racial groups up into different residential areas.

Like in Apartheid South Africa, where the most developed areas were reserved for the white people, and 84 percent of the available land was granted to the same racial group, who made up only 15 percent of the total population, in Palestine even the 22 percent of the historic land on which an ‘independent state’ is supposed to be declared is, according to the Oslo accords, “disputed”.

In the South African case, the 16 percent of remaining land was then occupied by 80 percent of the population. But contrary to the Palestinian case, that was never given legitimacy by the leadership of the indigenous population.

How can you call for the implementation of Security Council resolutions asserting the right of return of the 4.5 million Palestinian refugees to their lands in Israel, and at the same time maintain the exclusively Jewish nature of the state? To be fair, this contradiction also appears in the literature of the Palestinian Resistance Movement. Both Hamas and the PLO also fail to answer this question. Moreover, how does this solution solve the problem of racism and cultural oppression of the marginalized Palestinian citizens of Israel?

Furthermore, is the establishment of an independent state as the solution to the Palestinian problem even possible?

No Israeli position supports full statehood

The argument of Beilin and Abed Rabbo, and even that of the leadership of the PA, is that only negotiations can solve the problem. For ten years negotiations have not moved the Israeli position at all; the Camp David negotiations reached the impasse predicted by both the Palestinian left and the ant-Zionist Israeli left. Ehud Barak’s red lines in 1999, are now very well-known, and Netanyahu’s platform leads to nothing more than a canton for native Palestinians.

Of course Avigdor Lieberman’s advocacy of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine has won him more seats in the Knesset. Add to this the fact that the establishment of a Palestinian state is not mentioned in any of the clauses of the Oslo agreement, thus leaving the matter to be determined by the balance of power in the region. This balance tilts in favor of Israel, which rejects the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state, in spite of its recognition of the PLO.

No Israeli party, neither Labor nor Likud, is ready to accept a Palestinian state as the expression of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination as defined by international law.

The Labor Party is prepared to negotiate with the Palestinians in order to give them an advanced form of self-rule that will be called a state, and through which the Palestinians will be enabled to possess certain selected features of ‘independence,’ such as a Palestinian flag, a national anthem, and a police force. Nothing more. This was Barak’s ‘generous’ offer in Camp David.

The Likud Party, on the other hand, is not prepared to give the Palestinians even these semblances of self-rule. Their vision of the future is rather that the Palestinians should be allowed to run their own affairs under strict and binding Israeli control.

Turning the blame

And lately, in a bizarre, ironic twist, Palestinians have been blamed for killing the two-state solution. Right-wing Israeli historian Benny Morris has given up on finding a solution to “the conflict… mainly due to the Palestinians’ consistent rejection of a solution of two states for two peoples.”

This is not unlike saying that blacks of South Africa are to blame for killing the Bantusan system. And they should be punished. “In the end, both sides of the Palestinian movement, the fundamentalists led by Hamas and the secular bloc led by Fatah, are interested in Muslim rule over all of Palestine, with no Jewish state and no partition.” And Palestinian leadership, according to Morris, “has no desire or intention of reaching a solution of two states for two peoples.”

The two- state solution is dead because “the Palestinian leadership and people will not be satisfied with 20 percent of the territory of Palestine. A state composed of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem will not satisfy them,” Morris says.

And when asked about the right of return, Morris claims that it “essentially requires the destruction of the Jewish state… the Palestinian discourse and the Palestinian objectives have not changed, and their actions, i.e. terror…”. It is Palestinians that are to blame because “[the] demonization is not equal on the two sides. In the Israeli education system, in general, there is no demonization of the Arab, [whereas,] there, the Jews are completely demonized. The Palestinian authorities are busy deeply implanting the demonization. The Palestinian people think we can be made extinct. We don’t think that about the Palestinians.”

The problem for Morris is that “[aside] from revenge, the Palestinians have absolute faith in the justice of their side, which derives in part from religious faith. What God commands, and what his interpreters on Earth say that God commands, is the definite truth. While the Jews are much more skeptical about this sort of interpretation, the Palestinians feel that justice is on their side and that God doesn’t want the Holy Land to be shared with another people….”. Edward Said and Frantz Fanon must be turning in their graves.

But facts on the ground tell another story. Settlement activity in the West Bank continues, as does the confiscation of land and the opening of zigzag roads to service the settlements. Notably, the number of Jewish settlers has risen from 193,000, when the Oslo Accords were signed, to 600,000. No Israeli government has ever been willing to commit itself to the complete evacuation of settlers from the West Bank.

Yet this is a basic pre-condition for the creation of an ‘independent Palestinian state’ impossible in light of Israel’s commitment to the settlers. In order to guarantee the security of the settlements and ensure their future development, Israel is bound to control the greater part of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. Furthermore, in any future contingency it is certain that Israel will invoke its security needs to justify tightening its control over the Jordan Valley, thus, again, rendering the project of an independent Palestinian state impossible.

Jerusalem has suffered and is still suffering from the continuation of settlement activity, the building and expansion of Jewish neighborhoods, the confiscation of Jerusalem IDs, ethnic cleansing, and the policy of ‘facts on the ground’ which leave no room for future Palestinian control over the city.

In addition, Palestinian refugees living outside the West Bank and the Gaza Strip are experiencing increasing difficulties especially in places like Lebanon and Syria, and are waiting for the day to return to Palestine and to be compensated for their confiscated property. This is a right guaranteed by UN resolution 194.

Meanwhile the Palestinian community in Israel is prevented from coexisting on an equal footing with Israeli Jews. Israel’s state policy against its Palestinian citizens amounts to Apartheid as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, and ratified by United Nations General Assembly resolution 3068 (XXVIII) of 30 November 1973. Needless to say, the PA does not represent either of those two large segments of the Palestinian people.

One state

Defending a two-state solution is, therefore, an insult to the memory of those who fought for equality and justice not only in Palestine, but also in the American South and South Africa.

Thus we come to the inevitable conclusion that a sovereign, independent Palestinian state is, for the reasons mentioned above, unattainable. The question, therefore, is whether there is an alternative solution?

One alternative increasingly to be found in the writings and pronouncements of certain Palestinian intellectuals and activists is the idea of a secular-democratic state in Mandate Palestine in which all citizens are treated equally regardless of their religion, race or sex.

A secular, democratic state is one inhabited by its citizens and governed on the basis of equality and parity both between the individuals as citizens and between groups which have cultural identities. Inherent in such an arrangement is the condition that the groups living there are enabled to coexist and to develop on an equal basis.

This is summed up in Nelson Mandela’s last words at the end of his four hour statement to the court at the Rivonia Trial: “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”

This system is proposed here as a long-term solution that will need much nurturing, following the political demise of the project of an ‘independent Palestinian state’ as a result of the Oslo Accords, the siege of the Gaza Strip, and the occupation of the West Bank. The establishment of four Bantusans in South Africa was considered by the International Community to constitute a racist solution that could not and should not be entertained.

In order to bring that inhumane solution to an end, the Apartheid regime was boycotted academically, culturally, diplomatically and economically until it succumbed and crumbled into pieces. Nothing remains of the old ethnically cleansed South Africa or the impoverished Bantusans it had created; not the red carpets, nor the national anthems, or the security apparatuses.

This is what racist solutions come to; a corner in the dustbin of history — a museum for the gaze of new generations.

(Haidar Eid / / 24.09.2012)

Morocco to sell stake in Banque Populaire

Morocco’s government, battling to contain a high budget deficit, has agreed to sell a 10 percent stake in Banque Populaire, its second divestment in the lender in a little over a year.

The Finance Ministry said the sale to Banque Populaire’s regional branches would reduce to 6.34 percent the state’s interest in one of the country’s top three lenders, the official MAP news agency reported.

The government raised 5.3 billion dirhams ($617 million) from the sale of 20 percent of the bank in May 2011, a time when a spending spree to contain street protests burdened its finances.

Populaire’s regional branches will hold 47 percent stake in BCP after the transaction, which the ministry said was signed on Friday. It did not disclose the value of the deal.

Shares in the bank closed down 0.09 percent on Monday at 202 dirhams, down by about 1.5 percent from their level when the government sold the 20 percent stake last year.

The sale, according to the ministry, aims to boost BCP’s development and to allow its regional branches to play a bigger role in the country’s plan to devolve powers to its regions.

“BCP seeks to become a leading regional mutual bank,” said a bank executive who has been close to the deal. “The state’s divestment aims to help BCP in its race with local private rivals to expand in Africa, and the timing comes in handy for a government that has budgetary holes to plug.”

The government has promised to cap the budget deficit this year at 5 percent of gross domestic product, after hitting its highest level since the 1990s last year.

Banque Populaire has been in need of cash to fund an expansion plan, which in June marked its biggest progress to date with the purchase of a 50 percent stake in Ivory Coast lender Group Banque Atlantique active in Ivory Coast, Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo.

BCP already has affiliates in Guinea and the Central African Republic, but its immediate rivals AttijariWafa Bank and BMCE Bank have deeper presences in the continent.

Last month, BCP said it has agreed to sell 5 percent of its capital to the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation for 1.74 billion dirhams, or 201 dirhams a share.

The IFC transaction was BCP’s second deal with a foreign partner since April when French cooperative bank BPCE agreed to buy 5 percent stake, also at 201 dirhams.

($1 = 8.5945 Moroccan dirhams)

( / 24.09.2012)

Palestinian leaders dismiss Barak’s proposal for partial withdrawal

BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — Palestinian leaders on Monday dismissed a proposal by Israel’s defense minister suggesting a partial withdrawal from the occupied West Bank.

Ehud Barak told the newspaper Israel Hayom that in the absence of peace talks, smaller illegal settlements in the West Bank should be evacuated, with the major settlement blocs remaining under Israeli control.

Barak’s proposal was swiftly shot down by Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor, who said the army will remain in the West Bank until a peace agreement is reached.

PLO executive committee member Wasel Abu Yousef said Barak had regurgitated an old plan proposed by former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and that the proposal would be rejected by the Palestinian people and their leaders.

“It seems as if they’re talking about a temporary state based on small separated areas whose valleys are controlled by Israel … they are avoiding talking about Jerusalem and the wall which is confiscating Palestinian lands and giving legitimacy to settlements,” Abu Yousef told Ma’an.

The timing of the plan shows Israel is trying to avoid accountability for shutting off all other political horizons and to damage the PLO’s efforts to upgrade Palestine’s status at the UN, Abu Yousef said.

The Israeli government realizes that the Palestinian bid to be accepted as a non-member state by the UN General Assembly is serious, and that the PLO has the full support of the non-aligned movement and Arab, European and African states, he added.

Secretary-General of the Palestinian People’s Party Bassam al-Salhi said Barak’s proposal was a continuation of Israel’s expansionist project, started in 1948, which aimed to destroy the possibility of a Palestinian state.

Palestinians insist on an end to Israel’s withdrawal from all land occupied in 1967, al-Salhi told Ma’an.

“This plan doesn’t change the reality of the Israeli occupation, which is trying to enhance its power and improve its image in the world and burden Palestinians with more issues,” he added.

( / 24.09.12)

#GazaUnderAttack | Sept 24, 2012 | IOF attack east of central Gaza

GAZA, (PIC)– The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) at an early hour on Monday morning carried out, amid intensive gunfire, a small-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip specifically east of Al-Bureij and Al-Maghazi refugee camps.

Local sources told a reporter for the Palestinian information center (PIC) that 10 IOF military vehicles including bulldozers advanced about 300 meters into the eastern area of the refugee camps and started to level the land.

They added the eastern parts of central Gaza saw wide Israeli military activities during which the IOF opened machine gun fire at the two refugee camps without any reported injuries so far.

( / 24.09.2012)

Podcast: The “revolution inside Israeli prisons” continues, says hunger striker Mahmoud Sarsak


Mahmoud Sarsak was released from Israeli prison in July, following more than 90 days of hunger strike.

“I am calling on the local and international community … to move beyond solidarity, to have real actions that can make change.”
– Mahmoud Sarsak, Palestinian football star and former hunger striker, in an exclusive interview with The Electronic Intifada

This week on The Electronic Intifada podcast:


Rush transcript – Mahmoud Sarsak and Shahd Abusalama, EI Podcast, 21 September 2012

The Electronic Intifada: So can you talk about where you are right now, and your thoughts on the ongoing hunger strikes that are still happening in Israeli prisons?

Shahd Abusalama: I’m sitting now with Mahmoud Sarsak, the released prisoner who was released on the 10th of July this year, after hunger striking for 94 days, and he freed himself with his empty stomach and his determination to fight injustice. And now he’s free and enjoying our beach trip with the Samouni family. The Samouni family had such a terribly tragic story during the three-week Israeli attacks on Gaza in January 2009.

Israel forced 100 members of the family into a house and dropped missiles on them and left them between dead and injured … and at that time, 29 of their beloved people were dead, and many of the kids we have here are orphans. We’re trying to support them morally and make them feel better with having some fun on the beach, that’s why we did this beach trip and Mahmoud was very happy to join us here, and he played today on the beach with them in a football match. It was so much fun to watch them.

Now he’s sitting here and he’s so happy to be released, but at the same time his happiness is incomplete because there is a wave of hunger strikers inside Israeli prisons, who are continuing their revolution inside Israeli prisons against administrative detention, which is a very unjust system that allows Israel to hold detainees with no trial and no charge.

EI: Shahd, if you could ask Mahmoud for us about his feelings about what Samer al-Barq is going through right now, Samer has been on hunger strike for more than 120 days, it’s unclear if and when he’s going to be released, there are talks as we mentioned about his being forcibly transferred to Egypt out of Palestine, but can you ask Mahmoud about how the body reacts to being on hunger strike for so long, based on his experience of being on hunger strike for 94 days?

Mahmoud Sarsak (translated by Shahd Abusalama): I am here and my happiness is incomplete because of the hunger strikers who are still on strike. Their health conditions are very grave. All the hunger strikers in general are hunger striking because it’s their only way to make their voice heard and defend themselves and call for their rights that are being daily violated by the Israeli prison service.

There are conflicting news about the release of Samer al-Barq or the ending of his hunger strike, but most of the news are saying that he’s still on hunger strike for more than 120 days. He’s in a grave condition. We’re calling on the international community to work and make campaigns to push Israel to meet their demands — because their demands are legal and their causes are just.

They’re fighting for justice and freedom and dignity. They don’t love to starve themselves but they are dignified and they want to restore their rights back by any possible way. And most of the hunger strikers are suffering a process of slow death. They’re in the slaughterhouse of Ramleh Prison Hospital. There is no media coverage about their situation. We’re calling the world to stand by their side and to call for their freedom because they’re held without any reason, without charge or trial. There is no justice.

EI: How does it feel to be out, to play on the beach with children — especially these children who have been through so much trauma, the Samouni family. How do you spend your time, and what are your priorities right now?

MS: I am very happy to be here, I can’t describe my happiness to be free, to be sitting now on Gaza Strip, and to see the beauty of the beach with the Samouni kids. The family who lost tens of their loved ones, and most of them are orphans. I am here to give moral support to the family and to let them hear that they’re not alone. I’m calling the community, locally and internationally, to support the families of martyrs, of the injured, and of the detainees, and stand by their side and make them feel that they’re not alone. We don’t want only solidarity, we want them to move beyond solidarity, to have real actions that can make change for the Palestinian cause.

This initiative of the beach trip was done by some international activists and some Palestinian activists, and I encourage such initiatives and I wish for more. I think it is important to support these kids and to make them feel that they’re not alone.

No one here in Gaza is living a dignified life because of the ongoing occupation and the ongoing blockade on Gaza for the 6th year. However we’re trying to live and to use the simplest ways to have real happiness and feel really happy, and these kids, the orphans of the Samouni family, have no fault from the destiny they have. That’s why we should support each other and make them feel that they didn’t lose anything, and there is real solidarity, sincere solidarity with them despite everything — despite their loss.

( / 24.09.2012)

Syria mediator tells UN he has ‘a few ideas’ but no plan

Syrian refugees are seen as UN-Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi (not pictured) visits their camp in a Turkish border town.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) — The international mediator on Syria said on Monday he has “a few ideas” but not a full plan on how to end the country’s 18-month conflict, which he described as “extremely bad and getting worse.”

Lakhdar Brahimi offered that assessment after his first briefing to the UN Security Council since replacing Kofi Annan as the UN-Arab League mediator on Sept. 1. In his first month on the job, Brahimi met with Syrian President Bashar Assad in Damascus and visited refugee camps in Turkey and Jordan.

“I do not have a full plan for the moment, but I have a few ideas,” the veteran Algerian diplomat said. “I have agreed with the council I will come back here as soon as possible with more ideas on how we move forward.”

“The situation in Syria is extremely bad and getting worse. It is a threat to the region and a threat to peace and security in the world,” he told reporters. “There is a stalemate … but I think we will find an opening in the not too distant future.”

Brahimi declined to elaborate.

The United Nations says nearly 20,000 people have been killed in the conflict. More than 250,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, with more than 100,000 of those leaving in August alone.

Council diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, described Brahimi’s assessment of the conflict as downbeat, saying that despite government claims it was committed to reform, Damascus was instead seeking to portray the uprising as a foreign conspiracy and return to how things used to be.

“You cannot go back to the Syria of the past,” Brahimi said. “Reform is not enough anymore, what is needed is change.”

One diplomat said that while Brahimi did not reveal much to the council about his plans, he was “solid” in laying the bulk of the blame for the conflict with Assad’s government.

Strong support

While decrying the violence, diplomats offered no new ideas for how to solve it.

“The situation in Syria is grave. We need to do everything we can to end the violence and the killing of so many innocent people,” German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle told reporters. Germany is president of the council for September.

As Syria spirals deeper into civil war, the Security Council has been paralyzed as Russia and China have blocked three Western-backed resolutions that criticized Assad and threatened sanctions.

Annan blamed the Security Council impasse for hampering his six-month bid to broker peace and leading to his decision to step down. Diplomats have tried to play down expectations for Brahimi’s mission and the former Algerian foreign minister has described the task of brokering peace as “nearly impossible.”

In a statement on Monday, the 15-member Security Council expressed grave concern about the situation in Syria and offered its full and strong support to Brahimi.

Diplomats said Brahimi made a plea to the Security Council for strong unified support, saying there could be no progress without it: “You all say you support me individually, why don’t you support me collectively? It shouldn’t be very difficult.”

Westerwelle said former UN Secretary-General Annan’s six-point plan for peace in Syria was still relevant.

The plan, which failed to take hold, calls for an end to violence, a Syrian-led political process, access for aid, the release of arbitrarily detained people, freedom of movement for journalists and the freedom to protest peacefully.

Brahimi said it was one of the “elements in my toolbox.”

( / 24.09.2012)

Call to academics, students and artists around the world: Join the World Social Forum Free Palestine to build Solidarity with the Palestinian People!

From November 28 to December 1, 2012 the World Social Forum Free Palestine will be held in Porto Alegre (Brazil). This is a historic event that brings together solidarity, human rights and social justice movements and organizations from across the globe to develop and debate ideas, share experiences, network, and plan strategies and campaigns to advance solidarity with the struggle for Palestinian liberation. (For more information and the full call for the WSF Free Palestine, see: and )

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel calls on academics, students and artists around the world to mobilize in support of the WSF Free Palestine. By expanding and strengthening academic and cultural boycott campaigns and strategies amongst a broader audience across the globe, we wish to build a new generation of Palestine solidarity.

We ask you to join the effort by organizing delegations to the event and developing ideas for discussions and strategies. This can include organizing academic and cultural boycott campaigns, discussing the role of the academy with regards to Palestine, enhancing anti-colonial studies, promoting right to education campaigns, and developing other areas drawing on your own experiences to share and build upon with the global solidarity community.

The potential scope of the WSF Free Palestine is tremendous: together we can build relations and coordination mechanisms among Palestinian and international academics, artists and student movements (including academic and cultural boycott campaigns, campus divestments, and twinnings of universities). We can promote participation in specific global action days around BDS activities (including the Israeli Apartheid Week, and days of solidarity with the Palestinian people), and in international forums related to Palestine (including major academic conferences). And we can organize forums/conferences that promote anti-colonial studies and fight against the normalization of Israeli studies within the international academy.

Please join PACBI in the WSF Free Palestine and contact us at academics@wsfpalestine.netso that you can be part of the mobilizing process!

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel was launched in Ramallah in April 2004 by a group of Palestinian academics and intellectuals to join the growing international boycott movement. The Campaign built on the Palestinian call for a comprehensive economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israelissued in August 2002 and a statement made by Palestinian academics and intellectuals in the occupied territories and in the Diaspora calling for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions in October 2003.

Over the past eight years, and inspired by the integral role that Israeli academic institutions play in developing the knowledge and technology behind Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid, and planning and justifying Israel’s worst crimes, academic boycott campaigns have spread to campuses across the world:

– Setting a worldwide precedent for the academic boycott of Israel, the University of Johannesburg severed ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University in 2011, following a campaign backed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and over 400 South African academics.

– Campaigns against EU-funded collaboration with private Israeli companies and Israeli universities have sprung up at campuses across Europe in response to a call from Palestinian academics and civil society.

– Academic unions in the UK and Canada have voted to support various academic boycott campaign initiatives. There are also active academic boycott campaigns in India, the US, South Africa, Ireland, Chile, Brazil, Pakistan, and in many European countries.

Israel is rapidly losing support around the world and has recently been voted again as one of the most negatively viewed countries in the world. Israel’s attempts to whitewash its system of colonization, occupation and apartheid using culture is increasingly thwarted by a highly visible cultural boycott:

– Scores of artists — especially musicians and filmmakers — and writers have refused to perform in Israel or cancelled scheduled performances following pressure from the BDS movement including Bono, Snoop Dogg, Jean Luc Godard, Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron, Carlos Santana, Devendra Banhart, Faithless, the Pixies, Cassandra Wilson, Cat Power, Zakir Hussain.

– Many artists and other cultural figures now speak publicly of their support for BDS: Roger Waters, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein, John Berger, Judith Butler, Etienne Balibar, Ken Loach, Arundhati Roy, Angela Davis, Sarah Schulman, among others.

– Israeli artists who accept funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are required to sign a contract committing them to be part of Israel’s cultural public relations offensive. Protests and campaigns against state-backed performances — such as those by the Batsheva dance company, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Habima theater, and the Jerusalem Quartet — are now commonplace in Europe and North America, forcing some cultural venues to defend or retract their decision to host representatives of Israel and persuading others not to invite state-backed Israeli artists at all.

The level of success of the WSF Free Palestine is dependent on having representation from as many academics, students and cultural workers as possible to reflect the diverse nature of the Palestine solidarity movement and to be able to share the vast and diverse knowledge and experience it has accumulated. We therefore call upon you to join us in Porto Alegre, Brazil, to spread the word regarding WSF amongst colleagues, and to help organize a delegation or meeting. Let’s work together to bring freedom, justice and equality to Palestine.

( / 24.09.2012)

Saudi king inaugurates largest expansion of Prophet’s Mosque in Medina

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah prays in the holy Saudi city of Medina on Monday. (Al Arabiya)

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah prays in the holy Saudi city of Medina on Monday.

Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah arrived in the holy Saudi city of Medina on Monday to “lay the foundation stone for the expansion of the Prophet’s mosque,” one of Islam’s three oldest mosques in the world.

The 88-year-old monarch had ordered a major expansion of the Prophet’s Mosque earlier this year.

The first phase of the project plans to accommodate more than 800,000 worshippers, according to an official Saudi statement in June, adding that the second and third phases will accommodate a further 800,000 worshippers.

Islamic tourism continues to grow rapidly in the kingdom, with tourism accounting for about 3.1 percent of the kingdom’s gross domestic product and for about 7.2 percent in the kingdom’s non-oil sector last year, according to a report by the Saudi Commission.

Saudi Arabia had also announced earlier this year its ongoing SR80 billion ($21.33 billion) expansion of Makkah’s Grand Mosque will eventually allow the Islamic holy site to accommodate 1.5 million worshippers.

( / 24.09.2012)

#Flotilla | New Irish ship seeks to break Israeli supplies blockade on Gaza

79 Irish parliamentarians sign statement in support of Gaza ship

Sv Estelle, new Irish boat on its way to Gaza

Sv Estelle, new Irish boat on its way to Gaza
79 Irish parliamentarians have signed a statement condemning Israel’s ongoing blockade of the Gaza strip and supporting a large humanitarian sailing ship, the SV Estelle, that is now on its way from Europe to the port of Gaza.

Northern Irish Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness has also signed his name to the statement that expresses unambiguous support for the non-violent Gaza flotilla movement.

Those who have signed their support to Gaza span both Northern and the Republic of Ireland, as well as an array of political parties. TDs, MEPs, senators, MLAs and MPs have signed, as well as many independents.

The list includes members of the Labour Party (such as Nessa Childers MEP and Ciaran Lynch TD), Sinn Fein (such as Conor Murphy MP and Gerry Adams TD), Fianna Fail (such as Senators Darragh O’Brien and Jim Walsh), SDLP (such as Mark Durkan MP and Conall McDevitt MLA), Fine Gael (James Bannon TD) and United Left Alliance (such as Paul Murphy MEP and Joan Collins TD).

The ship, Estelle, aims to break through Israel’s illegal maritime blockade. A tall ship built in the 1920s, the Estelle sailed from Sweden several weeks ago, before stopping twice along the coast of Spain. It is now in Corsica and will head for Italy soon, before sailing directly for the port of Gaza.

It is expected to reach Gaza in early to mid October. On board the aid ship are reconstruction materials and other humanitarian goods that are banned or heavily restricted by Israel.

An Irish ship, the MV Saoirse, attempted to reach Gaza in November 2011, but 60 miles from its destination was surrounded in international waters by up to 20 Israeli naval vessels and forcibly seized. Fourteen Irish citizens were on board the Saoirse at the time.

Fintan Lane, a spokesperson for Gaza Action Ireland, said: “Gaza Action Ireland would like to sincerely thank all the politicians who signed this letter. It is an important statement in that political figures from across the island of Ireland have united to say that enough is enough and the blockade of Gaza must end now.

“It is also a recognition that, unfortunately, little has changed since Gaza became a huge international issue – the Israeli blockade has been condemned by many governments, and deemed illegal by the UN, but nothing concrete has been done to end the suffering. Men, women and children continue to subsist in the largest open-air prison in the world.”

Fintan continued, “This statement is an expression of human empathy with the people of Gaza and a declaration to Israel that the Palestinian people will not be forgotten. Palestinians and Israelis are equally entitled to have their political and human rights respected. What Israel is doing to Gaza is indefensible and must end now.”

The politicians’ signatures were collected by Gaza Action Ireland, which was formed in July 2012 as a successor to the Irish Ship to Gaza organization, which was behind the MV Saoirse, the Irish ship that participated in Freedom Flotilla 2 in June 2011, and later in the Freedom Waves to Gaza flotilla in November last year.

( / 24.09.2012)