Al-Jazeera English recently filmed a report on Jewish Israeli activist Ezra Nawi, currently facing jail for allegedly attacking Israeli soldiers (claims he vehemently denies):
Apple’s iPhone, useful in virtually any situation:
An eyewitness account from one of the [Sri Lankan government Tamil internment] camps is to be the centrepiece of an event we’re staging at the University of Sydney, titled, ‘Sri Lanka’s human rights emergency: how and why it is being hidden and what we can do about it’. That, and plans for an event at the Australian parliament in Canberra, have exposed us to another technique used in efforts to control the flow of information reaching the public, namely, flak. It’s familiar from the well-known ‘propaganda model’ conceived by Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman to explain why the content of news, in commercial media, often seems so convenient to the rich and powerful. Flak works by “conditioning the media to expect trouble” whenever they take on corporate interests, Chomsky and Herman say (2), acting as a deterrent to any such endeavour.
Meeting the well-established concerns over Sri Lanka’s egregious record on press freedom, and the difficulty of access for journalists, the event is co-sponsored by the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, based at the neighbouring University of Technology, Sydney. The ACIJ is researching the coverage in Australian media and, while results of the study won’t be released for a while, it’s expected to show that statements, interpretations and claims by the Sri Lankan government have predominated.
We do not, therefore, provide explicitly for representatives or supporters of the government to have their say: the events are, essentially, a way of bringing to wider attention important narratives of and testimonies from the conflict that have been – and continue to be – subjugated and suppressed.
A report from inside Gaza during the festival of Ramadan:
I heard it all the time in the occupied West Bank back in 2007, and I hear it here in besieged Gaza also: ‘we used to live with the Jews, side by side. We worked together, lived as neighbours.’
The theme of coexistence is bastardized by the Zionist media which likes to spin the ‘conflict’ in Palestine as an ‘age-old’ war between religions, instead of reporting the reality: the occupation of Palestinian land in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza under military occupation; the denial of Palestinian refugees right to return to their homeland; the imprisonment of over 10,000 Palestinian prisoners, many of whom are minors; the expansion of the illegal (all) Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank…
But anyway, here in Gaza, another thing to be bastardized by the Zionist media is the relationship between Christians and Muslims.
In my personal experience, I’ve had a Christmas party thrown for my friends and I by a Muslim family; I’ve been invited into many devout Muslim homes, though I don’t usually don a headscarf, and showered with gracious hospitality; and I’ve received iftaar invitations for every day of the month, many from perfect strangers who want simply to share the beauty of their religion, and their often sparse food, with me.
Aside from the sheer slander of the Zionist message of Palestinians being incapable of coexistence, the idea’s tangible ramifications are felt in closed borders and towering walls, cutting off land, separating families and neighbours, and devastating economies, be they in Qalqiliya, Azzoun, Nablus… or the Gaza Strip.
I took a taxi just minutes before iftaar, heading to Gaza’s Saha market region. The driver used to work in Israel, could earn $100 a day. Now, he said, he’s lucky if he earns 70 shekels (under $20). And from other labourers-turned-drivers I’ve spoken with, 70 shekels is at the high end of earnings.
He lives in Sheyjayee, east of Gaza City. Half of his house was destroyed in the Israeli war on Gaza last winter. He’s had to rent a place for the last months because his home was uninhabitable. $150 per month for the rent.
As expected, when I began getting out of his car-taxi, he insisted I join his family for iftaar that night, after all, we’d been speaking for at least 3 minutes by this point. He also tried to refuse my fare.
UPDATE: Palestinian blogger Hazem laments a Ramadan of the past.
Udi Aloni, an Israeli-American film maker, suggests a code of conduct for Israeli artists:
We, as Israeli artists opposed to the occupation, must act according to the following guidelines:
1. Declare everywhere that Israel is an apartheid state, violating international law as far as it concerns the Occupied Territories.
2. Demand the immediate lifting of the siege on Gaza.
3. Reject the bear hug offered by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, asking Israeli ambassadors not to attend officially the Homage to Tel Aviv events or any other cultural events.
4. Declare that the IDF is an immoral occupying army, playing a pivotal role in racism-based land grab.
5. Declare that the city of Tel-Aviv is not so hip but in fact a racist city, and declare that the gradual persistent expulsion the city is committing against Jaffa’s Arab residents must end now, or it shall remain a lasting sign of infamy.
6. Understand the objectives of the boycott campaign against the State of Israel (BDS), and conduct a dialogue with the initiators of the boycott campaign, in order to see how artistic freedom can be maintained while we are raising international awareness of the gross injustice in our country (by the way, we can allow ourselves to receive funding from the state, but just as the anti-Zionist Ultra-Orthodox Israelis do not change their beliefs because of such funding, neither should we).
7. Declare, as artists, our infidelity to the state until the complete ending of the occupation and the racist apartheid regime.
8. Promise to strive for just peace and equality between Jews and Palestinians, within either a two-state framework or a single bi-national, multi-cultural, multi-genderial framework, for the benefit of the Jew and the Palestinian and the foreigner living here side by side and one among the other in our common land.
The return from Hamas of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit is reportedly near (though many false stories have alleged this in the past).
Gideon Levy in Haaretz highlights the hypocrisy of those shouting the loudest for his release:
There is no need to waste more words on everyone’s desire to see Gilad Shalit return home. There is also no need to spare praise for the noble struggle his family has been waging. Shalit should have been released at any price, but the struggle for his release does not have to be conducted at any price. Last week the leaders of the campaign to free him faltered. The demonstration at the Megiddo prison that prevented visits by prisoners’ families was in poor taste. A few weeks earlier they also demonstrated at the Erez crossing on the Gaza border and blocked the passage of food and medicine to the besieged Strip.
That’s not how to do things. They should have called for visits for everyone: to Shalit and to the thousands of Palestinian prisoners. Under no circumstances should it have been the reverse. Israel cannot behave like Hamas. It is not only a matter of patently ineffective measures – the siege and prevention of visits will not bring Shalit’s release – but also immoral acts. People who want prisoner visits to be prevented are equating Israel and Hamas; they are saying cruelty must be met with cruelty – inhumane treatment for everyone. Even at such a difficult time, one would have expected a more moral message from the leaders of the campaign to release Shalit, including the Shalit family.
About 7,700 Palestinians are imprisoned in Israel, including about 450 without the benefit of a trial. Most of them are not murderers, although they are all automatically labeled as such here. The demonstrators at Megiddo would do well to realize this. Some of the prisoners are political detainees in the full sense of the word, from members of the Palestinian parliament imprisoned without trial, which is a scandal in and of itself, to those behind bars because of their “affiliation.” Innocent people are among them as well as political activists and nonviolent protesters.
Some prisoners received disproportionate sentences from the military justice system, treatment that in no way resembles a fair trial. At the Megiddo prison, at whose entrance the Shalit campaign’s leaders demonstrated, minors are also imprisoned, and not in a separate facility as required. They were sometimes sentenced to a year in prison for every stone they threw, even if they didn’t hit anyone and caused no damage. There are also wretched Palestinians who were caught staying in Israel illegally and were willing to risk everything for one day of work. Some also were falsely accused by soldiers or collaborators and were powerless to defend themselves in the military judicial system, which views every Palestinian as suspicious.
Some of the prisoners from Gaza have not had family visits or a single telephone call for at least three years. That’s not Hamas. That’s us. Not all prisoners from the West Bank are allowed visitors, and many of their families are “forbidden.” The Israeli propaganda machine, which portrays prison as if it were a rest home, is also deceptive. It should be remembered that most of the Palestinian prisoners decided to take the fate of their people into their hands to fight a criminal occupation, even if they sometimes used methods that were even more criminal. According to the Palestinians, they are serving their people precisely as Shalit, a soldier, served his.
This New York Times article inadvertently acknowledges the profound failures of the media class since 9/11 to uncover the key decisions made by the Bush administration and now Barack Obama; NGOs, lawyers and activists are now generally far more pro-active and curious than the average corporate journalist:
In the spring of 2003, long before Abu Ghraib or secret prisons became part of the American vocabulary, a pair of recently hired lawyers at the American Civil Liberties Union noticed a handful of news reports about allegations of abuse of prisoners in American custody.
The lawyers, Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh, wondered: Was there a broader pattern of abuse, and could a Freedom of Information Act request uncover it? Some of their colleagues, more experienced with the frustrations of such document demands, were skeptical. One made a tongue-in-cheek offer of $1 for every page they turned up.
Six years later, the detention document request and subsequent lawsuit are among the most successful in the history of public disclosure, with 130,000 pages of previously secret documents released to date and the prospect of more.
The case has produced revelation after revelation: battles between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the military over the treatment of detainees at the Guantánamo Bay prison camp; autopsy reports on prisoners who died in custody in Afghanistan and Iraq; the Justice Department’s long-secret memorandums justifying harsh interrogation methods; and day-by-day descriptions of what happened inside the Central Intelligence Agency’s overseas prisons.
Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
With the support of Amnesty International
Sri Lanka’s Human Rights Emergency
• How and why it is being hidden
• And what we can do about it
Monday 31 August 2009, 6.30 – 8.30 pm
Footbridge Lecture Theatre, University of Sydney
Entry by gold coin donation
Bruce Haigh Political commentator and author; former Australian diplomat and Deputy High Commissioner to Sri
Dr John Whitehall Paediatrician and Associate Professor in Public Health at James Cook University; volunteer
medical worker in Sri Lanka; finalist, Senior Australian of the Year, for raising relief funds for Tsunami victims.
Dr Sam Pari Tamil Human Rights Advocate; volunteer worker, post-war and post-tsunami regions of Sri Lanka.
We will also hear eyewitness accounts from government-run internment camps where 300,000
people are being held, away from the scrutiny of international humanitarian agencies and media.
Moderated by: Associate Professor Jake Lynch, Director, Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Sydney.
A Joint Initiative of CPACS and the Australian Centre for Independent Journalism, UTS, supported by Amnesty International.
For further information contact: Keryn Scott or Lyn Dickens, CPACS, 9351 7686 email@example.com
How to pressure Israel to change its behaviour? There are a myriad of ways but normalising relations with an apartheid state is not one of them. Outside pressure is the only way to bring change (a message I heard time and time again from countless Israeli Jews during my recent visit there). The occupation won’t simply end on its own.
Canadian film-maker John Greyson in March withdrew his film from the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival as a statement against the state’s cruelties.
Now, Greyson has again made a public move against the situation in Palestine. He has withdrawn his film from the Toronto International Film Festival. This is part of his letter explaining the move:
A letter from John Greyson to the Toronto International Film Festival:August 27, 2009
Piers Handling, Cameron Bailey, Noah Cowan
Toronto International Film Festival
Dear Piers, Cameron, Noah:
I’ve come to a very difficult decision — I’m withdrawing my film Covered from TIFF, in protest against your inaugural City-to-City Spotlight on Tel Aviv.
In the Canadian Jewish News, Israeli Consul General Amir Gissin described how this Spotlight is the culmination of his year-long Brand Israel campaign, which includes bus/radio/TV ads, the ROM’s notorious Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit, and “a major Israeli presence at next year1s Toronto International Film Festival, with numerous Israeli, Hollywood and Canadian entertainment luminaries on hand.” Gissen said Toronto was chosen as a test-city for Brand Israel by Israel’s Foreign Ministry, and thanked Astral, MIJO and Canwest for donating the million-dollar budget. (Astral is of course a long-time TIFF sponsor, and Canwest owners’ Asper Foundation donated $500,000 to TIFF). “We’ve got a real product to sell to Canadians… The lessons learned from Toronto will inform the worldwide launch of Brand Israel in the coming years, Gissin said.”
This past year has also seen: the devastating Gaza massacre of eight months ago, resulting in over 1000 civilian deaths; the election of a Prime Minister accused of war crimes; the aggressive extension of illegal Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands; the accelerated destruction of Palestinian homes and orchards; the viral growth of the totalitarian security wall, and the further enshrining of the check-point system. Such state policies have led diverse figures such as John Berger, Jimmy Carter, and Bishop Desmond Tutu to characterize this ‘brand’ as apartheid. Your TIFF program book may describe Tel Aviv as a “vibrant young city… of beaches, cafes and cultural ferment… that celebrates it’s diversity,” but it’s also been called “a kind of alter-Gaza, the smiling face of Israeli apartheid” (Naomi Klein) and “the only city in the west without Arab residents” (Tel Aviv filmmaker Udi Aloni).
To my mind, this isn’t the right year to celebrate Brand Israel, or to demonstrate an ostrich-like indifference to the realities (cinematic and otherwise) of the region, or to pointedly ignore the international economic boycott campaign against Israel. Launched by Palestinian NGO’s in 2005, and since joined by thousands inside and outside Israel, the campaign is seen as the last hope for forcing Israel to comply with international law. By ignoring this boycott, TIFF has emphatically taken sides — and in the process, forced every filmmaker and audience member who opposes the occupation to cross a type of picket line.
Let’s be clear: my protest isn’t against the films or filmmakers you’ve chosen. I’ve seen brilliant works of Israeli and Palestinian cinema at past TIFFs, and will again in coming years. My protest is against the Spotlight itself, and the smug business-as-usual aura it promotes of a “vibrant metropolis [and] dynamic young city… commemorating it’s centennial”, seemingly untroubled by other anniversaries, such as the 42nd anniversary of the occupation. Isn’t such an uncritical celebration of Tel Aviv right now akin to celebrating Montgomery buses in 1963, California grapes in 1969, Chilean wines in 1973, Nestles infant formula in 1984, or South African fruit in 1991?
Many deluded fools believe that if only Israel improved its PR the world would embrace its racist policies and ignore the occupation. Actually, Israel is increasingly loathed because its contempt for Arabs is clear for all to see.
Some British Jews this week are a little upset, poor dears:
The editor of The Jewish Chronicle has accused Israel’s Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, of not caring about British public opinion after he refused to give any interviews during his visit to London last week.
In a comment piece in the newspaper, Stephen Pollard – though essentially supportive of Mr Netanyahu – concludes of his office: “The truth of it is that for all they moan about coverage of the Middle East, they don’t actually care. They don’t care if Brits end up thinking they are warmongers. They don’t care if they are losing the PR war. And they don’t care if those of us who do care are left fuming at their wilful refusal to do anything to help us counter Israel’s appalling image.”
Mr Netanyahu’s three-day trip included meetings with the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and President Barack Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, George Mitchell, as well
as a visit to the Palestine Exploration Fund. But Mr Pollard’s view that the Israeli leader’s refusal to speak on the record to the British press, aside from a “blink-and-you-missed-it-stage-managed press conference” in Downing Street, was a wasted PR opportunity has received widespread support.
Rabbi Danny Rich, the chief executive of Liberal Judaism, the third-largest sector of the Jewish community in this country, said the failure to invite some senior members of the Jewish community – himself included – to meet Mr Netanyahu or his officials was “like shooting yourself in the foot” in the media war.