US demands UN pull report accusing Israel of apartheid

17 Mar

Israel’s separation barrier dividing east Jerusalem (L) from the West Bank village of Anata (AFP Photo)

AFP report, USA, 17 March 2017

The United States on Wednesday demanded that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres withdraw a report by a UN body accusing Israel of imposing apartheid on the Palestinians.

Guterres distanced himself from the report by the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) but US Ambassador Nikki Haley said it should be scrapped altogether.

“The United States is outraged by the report,” said Haley in a statement.

“The United Nations secretariat was right to distance itself from this report, but it must go further and withdraw the report altogether.”

The study concluded that “available evidence established beyond a reasonable doubt that Israel is guilty of policies and practices that constitute the crime of apartheid.”

Based in Beirut, ESCWA is comprised of 18 Arab countries, according to its website, which lists the state of Palestine as a full member, and works to strengthen cooperation and promote development.

UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said “the report as it stands does not reflect the views of the secretary-general” and was done without consultations with the UN secretariat.

One of the authors is Richard Falk, a former special UN rapporteur on Palestinian human rights.

“That such anti-Israel propaganda would come from a body whose membership nearly universally does not recognize Israel is unsurprising,” said Haley.

She described Falk as “a man who has repeatedly made biased and deeply offensive comments about Israel and espoused ridiculous conspiracy theories”.

Haley has accused the United Nations of being biased against Israel and has vowed as President Donald Trump‘s envoy to staunchly defend Israel at the world body.

Israel’s ambassador Danny Danon condemned the report, describing it as an “attempt to smear and falsely label the only true democracy in the Middle East by creating a false analogy.”

Danon said to label Israel as an apartheid regime was “despicable” and “a blatant lie.”

The report found that Palestinians were subjected to a “strategic fragmentation” that allowed Israel to impose “racial domination” with different sets of laws by geographic regions.

The analysis showed “beyond a reasonable doubt” that “Israel is guilty of imposing an apartheid regime on the Palestinian people, which amounts to the commission of a crime against humanity.”

The furor came ahead of a Security Council meeting next week to hear the first report from the United Nations on implementing a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building.

 

Remembering Rachel Corrie

17 Mar

‘I feel like I’m witnessing the systematic destruction of a people’s ability to survive. It’s horrifying.’

Palestine Network News, Gaza, 16 March 2017

14 years ago today, an Israeli military bulldozer killed activist Rachel Corrie in Gaza

Today marks the anniversary of the Israeli killing of Rachel Corrie in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, 14 years ago.

On March 16, 2003, Rachel was killed by an Israel Occupation Force (IOF) armoured bulldozer in Rafah during the second Palestinian intifada.

Rachel had come to Gaza to try and establish a sister city project between her hometown Olympia, Washington and Rafah, Gaza. She was a peace activist connected to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), who tried to prevent the demolition of Palestinian houses which were being carried out by the Israeli army.

After a three hour long confrontation between ISM activists and the Israeli army’s demolition forces, she was killed, less than two months after arriving in Gaza.

Israel claims that the driver of the bulldozer could not see Rachel because of the limited field of view from within the bulldozer. [Rachel was wearing a hi-visibility jacket and using a loudhailer].

Humans rights groups claim that the driver had seen her and deliberately continued driving, disregarding her fellow activists who were shouting and waving their arms, which resulted in Rachel’s death.

The Israeli army’s investigation of the incident concluded that the death was an accident because the driver of the bulldozer had limited visibility and therefore couldn’t see Rachel. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations criticized the military investigation, claiming that it was not transparent, credible or thorough enough.

The moment before US peace activist Rachel Corrie (inset) was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer. Rachel had joined a protest action attempting to prevent the demolition of Palestinian homes in Rafa, Gaza in 2003

Police detain prominent Israeli-US activist Jeff Halper

14 Mar

Jeff Halper from his Facebook page.

By Yotam Berger, Haaretz (Israeli daily newspaper), 13 March 2017

Police detained Israeli-American left-wing activist Jeff Halper last Wednesday at the Ma’aleh Adumim settlement (West Bank), for suspected incitement, saying they acted on a complaint he had “materials related to BDS” in his possession (BDS: Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions).

Halper, picked up after leading a tour of foreigners to the E1 site across the road from the settlement, was transported by police van to a nearby station then released without being placed under arrest.

Police officers photographed the posters and maps he was holding before freeing him. Halper denies handing out any material related to BDS during the tour, or even discussing the boycott movement.

Handing out such materials would not have been in violation of the law, even a 2011 anti-boycott law according to which a person or an organization calling for the boycott of Israel, including the settlements, can be sued by the boycott’s targets without them having to prove that they sustained any damage.

Continue reading

‘Dear Thom’ – a Palestinian message to Radiohead

14 Mar

 

VIDEO: Watch one Palestinian’s powerful call on Radiohead to cancel their Tel Aviv gig

By Ali AbunimahThe Electronic Intifada, 13 March 2017

This powerful video by journalist Ali Al-Arian has a clear message for Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke: don’t normalize apartheid. Cancel your planned show in Tel Aviv.

“I remember at a concert in Paris, when I watched you perform ‘Everything in its right place’ with a Tibetan flag over your piano,” Al-Arian, a longtime fan, tells Yorke. “As a descendant of a stateless people, this act of solidarity spoke volumes to me.”

Al-Arian adds: “But almost instantly, another thought appeared to me: to support Tibet is to add your name to a cause that’s already fashionable. But would I ever see you do the same with a Palestinian flag? Would you ever support a people so oppressed that even mentioning their oppression could lead to being falsely labeled an anti-Semite, to being outcast?”

Radiohead, once known for antiwar and progressive stances, is facing growing calls from Palestinians and human rights defenders not to lend its name and reputation to help Israel burnish its regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid.

How will Yorke answer Al-Arian’s question: “Thom, which side of history will you be on?”

 

Israel boycott is part of global anti-racist struggle

13 Mar

“The BDS [Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions] movement does not tolerate any act or discourse which adopts or promotes, among others, anti-Black racism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia or homophobia.” (Guillaume Paumier, CC-BY)

By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 9 March 2017

Palestinians are reaffirming that the movement to boycott Israel is part of the global struggle against racism and all forms of bigotry, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia.

“The global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for freedom, justice and equality of the Palestinian people is an inclusive, nonviolent human rights movement that rejects all forms of racism and racial discrimination,” the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) said on Tuesday.

“We reject Zionism, as it constitutes the racist and discriminatory ideological pillar of Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid that has deprived the Palestinian people of its fundamental human rights since 1948,” the BNC, the civil society coalition that leads the BDS movement, states.

“Since its inception in 2005, the global, Palestinian-led BDS movement has been anchored in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It is an inclusive human rights movement that categorically rejects all forms of racism and discrimination,” Rafeef Ziadah, (pictured left) a member of the BNC secretariat, told The Electronic Intifada. “This key anti-racism statement reiterates this long-held principle at a time when the racist and xenophobic far-right is rising in Washington, DC, Tel Aviv and many places in between.”

  “Proactive solidarity”

“On the centenary of the patently racist and colonial Balfour Declaration – which offered Palestine to Jewish-European settlers, disregarding its indigenous Arab population – it is crucial to highlight the timeless values of inclusion and opposition to all forms of racism,” Ziadah added.

The BNC’s statement places the Palestinian cause in the broader context of anti-colonial struggle: “We strongly condemn apartheid, genocide, slavery, colonial exploitation and ethnic cleansing, which are crimes against humanity that are founded on racism and racial supremacy, and we call for the right of their victims, including descendants, to full reparation.”

The BNC affirms that “the BDS movement does not tolerate any act or discourse which adopts or promotes, among others, anti-Black racism, anti-Arab racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia or homophobia.”

“The principles of the BDS movement call for proactive solidarity with oppressed communities worldwide and with all the victims of racist acts and rhetoric, as ours is a common cause,” the BNC adds.

There are growing expressions of this commonality. In 2015, more than 1,000 Black artists, intellectuals and organizations recognized “the racism that characterizes Israel’s treatment of Palestinians” and called for “unified action against anti-Blackness, white supremacy and Zionism.”

Israel lobby groups have strongly condemned Black support for Palestinian rights and have sought to disrupt such solidarity.

While anti-racism has long been affirmed by Palestinian activists, Israel and its surrogates have made a concerted effort to smear the Palestine solidarity movement as motivated by prejudice.

This logic treats Israeli supremacy and its denial of Palestinian rights on ethno-religious grounds as if they form part of a legitimate Israeli-Jewish identity that is bound to be cherished and respected, instead of resisted and replaced with a system that affords equal rights and protections to all.

Crackdown on free speech

A key tactic has been to try to enshrine in legislation and institutional policies around the world a discredited definition of anti-Semitism that treats criticism of Israel and its state ideology Zionism as forms of anti-Jewish bigotry.

In recent months, US lawmakers have sought to adopt this definition as part of the so-called Anti-Semitism Awareness bill.

Even the lead author of the controversial definition, Kenneth Stern, is warning lawmakers that its adoption would be an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.

Secular and religiously observant Jewish communities have also long rejected Israel’s propaganda conflating Jewish belief and identity on the one hand, with Zionism and support for Israel, on the other.

Israel and its lobby groups nonetheless claim that by opposing Israeli abuses the BDS movement is anti-Semitic. Israel has used this smear to push for draconian restrictions on free speech.

But a broad pushback by supporters of Palestinian rights is scoring successes.

Last year, the European Union joined several of its member governments in recognizing the right of its citizens to boycott Israel.

“The EU stands firm in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of association in line with the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which is applicable on EU member states’ territory, including with regard to BDS,” Federica Mogherini, the 28-member bloc’s foreign policy chief told the European Parliament in September.

“As Israel’s regime of occupation, settler-colonialism and apartheid sheds the farcical pretense of ‘democracy’ and adopts more and more racist and exclusionary laws, the BDS movement is further highlighting its inclusiveness and rejection of all forms of racism,” the BNC’s Ziadah said. “Our struggle for freedom, justice and equality is organically connected to global struggles for racial, social, economic, gender, climate and other forms of justice.”

Rafeef Ziadah, renowned performance poet and BDS activist, will present an evening of her moving poems in Christchurch on Friday 7 April, Wellington on Sat 8 April and in Auckland on Sunday 9 April. See earlier posts  and Facebook for details.

Samah Sabawi: ‘When Rafeef Ziadah came to Melbourne…’

10 Mar

Samah Sabawi, Palestinian-Australian renowned playwright, author and commentator recently spoke with Kia Ora Gaza about the up-coming NZ tour by Palestinian performance poet Rafeef Ziadah:

When Rafeef Ziadah came to Melbourne, I hesitated a little about making time to attend her concert, mainly because I am a huge fan and as such I have memorized all her poetry and thought there would be nothing new for me to see or experience in her live performance that I didn’t already see and experience watching her clips online.

Boy was I wrong!

Seeing Rafeef’ live is truly profound and moving beyond anyone’s imagination.

Her powerful stage presence is fueled by the resilience and beauty of the stories she tells.

Each word she utters is conjured from a deep place in her heart, unfiltered, genuine and captivating.

A truly magnificent experience that is not to be missed.

If she is ever performing in your city, make the time to go.

Rafeef Ziadah will present her moving poems with musician Phil Monsour at the above Auckland event 6pm on Sunday 9 April (seats $30 waged, $20 unwaged), and also at the Knox Church hall, 28 Bealey Ave, Christchurch Central 7pm on Friday 7 April (free entry – koha welcome).

Rafeef Ziadah presents ‘Shades of Anger’

9 Mar

 

‘SHADES OF ANGER’ from Rafeef’s second album We Teach Life, a collection of spoken word with original music compositions, which she brings to the stage in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin, with guitarist Phil Monsour.

You can see Rafeef and Phil in concert at the Dorothy Winstone Centre, Auckland Girls Grammar School, 6pm on Sunday 9 April (Seats $30. Unwaged: $20), or the Christchurch event 7pm on Friday 7 April at the Knox Church, 28 Bealey Ave, Chch Central (Free entry – koha welcome). You can buy Rafeef’s album here – http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/rafeefziadah2

 

 

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