Al-Jazeera America has the story:
At a West Bank University, in a class on the writings of Michel Foucault, one student said that every time she goes through checkpoints, she presents her identity card to the soldiers upside down. She makes use of the little space she can to make the sovereign decision not to be the automaton that the soldier, and the system, expect her to be.
Perhaps it’s an unusual example, but she is a reminder that the Israeli control of the Palestinian people always prompts reactions and creates a constant state of awareness and alertness. Even obedience is a response. Obedience and attempts to disrupt Israeli activity, as the entity that revokes their freedom and independence, are always on the minds of the Palestinian people.
The ethos of mass opposition remains a frame of reference for those who are not active, or are no longer active.
A culture of resistance is not just an empty slogan in Palestinian society; it’s assumed, and apologies must be made when one does not stick to it. Currently, it seems there are more people apologizing than resisting.
The most prominent apologizers are senior PLO and Palestinian authority bureaucrats as well as the urban middle class. In the villages, and the refugee camps, no one needs to apologize: their very existence is constant resistance.
But both the activists and the apologizers can take comfort in the fact that like in the past, at some point, a moment will come where “people can’t take it anymore,” and join in.
But what is that point? People who think in terms of struggle, and people who want to take advantage of the situation to make a name or a career for themselves, are in a race against time. At some point, the bubble of normality under occupation will burst – that’s a basic assumption that we hear all the time.
The question is whether the bubble will burst before enough of a foundation has been laid to deal with a new conflict, in the form of a grassroots uprising, against the Israeli occupation, Even the PA people feel the way of negotiation, which has been followed for 20 months, is bankrupt.
The American tendency today to artificially engineer an agreement reminds one of its insistence on holding the Camp David summit in 2000. The newspaper al-Ayyam hinted on Friday that the proposed American framework agreement does not designate East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state; it also ignores the refugees. The American effort to force an agreement (or punish the Palestinians for refusing it) could be the breaking point. That would be bad for advocates of unarmed resistance.
In recent years, various popular-resistance committees were formed, and they are trying to improve coordination among themselves. After years of isolated responses to the separation barrier in various villages and Hebron, the committees decided that the time has come to take the initiative. Blocking major roads, erecting tent encampments like Bab a-Shams and volunteering in villages, are only some of the initiatives that can be seen as preparation for more comprehensive efforts.
The boycott movement continues to spark imaginations. Its establishment in the West Bank roughly ten years ago forced the Palestinian Authority to declare a boycott on products manufactured in the West Bank. Enforcement of the boycott was spotty but now, informal organizations are considering boycotting goods from the other side of the Green Line as well.
“Boycotting 10% of Israeli goods is likely to increase Palestinian production by 10% and create tens of thousands of jobs,” said one activist. “When we call for boycott, we think not only of nationalist concerns, but also for the personal benefit of many unemployed people.”
Activists are in touch with other thinkers too: Palestinians elsewhere in the world and Palestinians with Israeli citizenship are also part of the unarmed resistance. One demand that arose out of the blue in the past – to dismantle the PA – is gradually ceding to thoughts about morphing the PA from a “contractor” of the Israeli occupation into a resistance authority. That would begin, says the activist, with canceling cooperation on security, as – “the police and top officials are also under occupation.”
Also, human rights organizations are pushing to take advantage of the opportunities created when Palestine was defined a non-member observer state by the UN. Popular resistance, as discussed by the activists, would include all of these things.
One activist points out that Palestinian society is very young: roughly 50% are under 18, and 75% under 35. Activists are placing their hopes on the youth, not the older generations.
Green Left Weekly asked me to name my best book of 2013. Easy choice:
The corporate media are filled daily with stories of “terrorists” being killed, captured and droned in the far corners of the globe. Since 9/11, the Bush and Obama administrations have pursued a ruthless policy of global assassination and counter-insurgency in the name of democracy. It’s been a costly and deadly sham and leading American investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill reveals in this detailed book, along with a stunning documentary of the same name, why these actions are making the US and the West a far more dangerous place. We are facing terrorism because we are committing terrorism. Scahill uncovers some of the darkest aspects of the “war on terror’ by speaking to the civilians, victims, contractors and undercover agents in Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen and beyond. America has the most sophisticated technology in the world but excessive and illegal policies are creating a walled ghetto that provides illusory security.
Here’s my weekly Guardian column (from last week):
There’s nothing like an internal critic taking on the most powerful force in his religion.
Roy Bourgeois is an American Catholic priest. He’s the founder of School of the Americas Watch, a group dedicated to closing the US Army School of the Americas – a military training centre for Latin American officers from nations with horrible human rights records. After Pope Francis recently damned capitalism as a “new tyranny”, Bourgeois told Democracy Now! that he welcomed the strong comments, but urged the Catholic head to go much harder:
“Pope Francis must simply come out … and say, we are all created of equal worth and dignity. We do not have this inclusiveness in the Roman Catholic Church. Therein lies the problem … I highly recommend that our viewers go to the catechism of the Catholic church which talks about the church’s official doctrines and teachings. Some of them, especially dealing with women and homosexuality, I would refuse to read on the air. It is so offensive, it’s so cruel … The Pope must get serious and start talking about inclusiveness in the Catholic church.”
In the same vein, George Monbiot recently damned Pope Francis for whispering some progressive thoughts and throwing bones to liberals desperate to imagine the Catholic hierarchy as open to reform, while still celebrating the worst forms of colonialism and fanaticism. Don’t expect to be welcomed into the highest echelons of Rome if you’re female, openly gay, married or polyamorous. For these reasons alone, the church must be treated with the contempt such views deserve.
But the argument must not end there.
A dangerous trend has developed in the last decade with the advent of the “new atheism” movement – it often states that people in business, politics and entertainment should avoid discussing religion, and how faith affects their lives. According to its proponents, belief is pathetic and tired, anti-intellectual and predictable. Anybody who follows the Quran, Bible, Torah or other holy book should “grow up” and stop following the teachings of old, bearded men from a time when women were little more than ornaments and baby makers.
How terribly wrong and bigoted such advocates are.
I write this as an atheist, anti-Zionist Jew who worries about the conservative religious views of my prime minister Tony Abbott – journalist Geoff Kitney once accurately described him as a leader who presents “brand Australia” as “neo-conservative nationalism with a populist twist”. Abbott’s intervention against abortion drug RU486 and traditional (and often sexist) politics must be repelled and challenged. Australia in the 21st century should strive for gender, sex, religious and pay equality.
All these concerns are valid: religious views must not influence governmental decisions about abortion, reproductive health or gender parity. But too often aggressive atheists, perhaps rhetorically competing with the most militant religious fanatics, argue that religion is a disease that needs a cure. Taking comfort or lessons from religion is a perfectly legitimate way to live life. Private atheism is as harmless as quietly praying in a church, synagogue or mosque. New atheists are always quick to forget that some of the finest advocates for human rights and justice are religious believers.
US atheist philosopher Sam Harris – lover of US imperialism in the Muslim world and Israel – recently praised the Pakistani girl Malala Yousafzai as “the best thing to come out of the Muslim world in a thousand years.” He went on:
“She is an extraordinarily brave and eloquent girl who is doing what millions of Muslim men and women are too terrified to do—stand up to the misogyny of traditional Islam.”
In his rush to demonise hundreds of millions of Muslims around the world, Harris clearly hadn’t read the words of Malala herself, praising traditional Islam:
“The Taliban think we are not Muslims, but we are. We believe in God more than they do, and we trust him to protect us … I’m still following my own culture, Pashtun culture … Islam says that it is not only each child’s right to get education, rather it is their duty and responsibility.’
Harris and his many followers in the new atheist movement are desperate to eradicate religion from public life – though it’s worth noting the vast bulk of their hatred is directed at Islam and not Christianity, Judaism or Hinduism. Unfortunately, it ignores the fundamental tenet of personal, religious belief: on its own faith isn’t oppressive. It’s the organised nature of law and teachings that can overwhelm and demean. The fact that Malala clearly wanted a devout Muslim life is an inconvenience conveniently ignored by Harris – it goes to the heart of the unthinking, visceral disdain shown towards religious adherents.
We too often poke fun at political leaders who espouse certain religious views only to have a change of heart – like former Australian prime minister Kevin Rudd, who reversed his position on gay marriage and arrived at the conclusion that it was un-Christian to discriminate against gay couples. This shows there is place for debate and U-turns in religion – and surely this is something to be welcomed.
The ideal secular nation is one where people of all faiths, or none, believe that everybody is encouraged to not feel ashamed of public displays of faith. The richness of humanity, after all, lies in the desire to avoid sterility and uniformity.
An atheist utopia sounds like a nightmare on earth.
South African President Nelson Mandela, in his address for International Solidarity Day with the Palestinian People on December 4, 1997, said: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.” And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said after Mandela’s death: “Nelson Mandela was among the greatest figures of our time … a man of vision and … a moral leader of the highest order.”
The sharp-eyed surely noticed the picture in the background when Netanyahu delivered his statement: an Israeli flag and the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. There he was, eulogizing the “moral leader” against the background of the occupied city, whose Palestinian residents are oppressed and dispossessed. It’s a city where a separation regime prevails – an example of Israeli apartheid, even if it’s not the worst example. The sharp-eared must have noticed how false his flowery words sounded.
President Shimon Peres also offered high praise for the “leader of immense stature,” and his words were no less hypocritical. The man who was involved up to his neck in the disgraceful cooperation between Israel and apartheid South Africa, who hosted its prime ministers with pomp and circumstance while Mandela languished in prison, is suddenly admiring the man who symbolized the struggle with that regime.
Neither Peres nor Netanyahu have any right to eulogize Mandela; both are responsible, more than any other statesmen in the free world, for undermining his legacy and establishing the (nonidentical) twin of the regime he battled. They’re eulogizing him? Mandela will turn in his grave and history will laugh bitterly.
Israeli public opinion tolerates everything, even intolerable, two-faced eulogies. But Israeli cooperation with the apartheid regime, and the continuation of its legacy in the occupied territories, cry out beyond the gloomy skies of a grieving South Africa.
The world’s mourning should inspire some pointed questions here as well. Why was Israel virtually the only country that collaborated with that evil regime? Why are so many good people convinced that Israel is an apartheid state? While it may not pay to dwell on past shame – even Mandela forgave Israel – questions about the present should disturb us greatly.
In April I visited the new South Africa that Mandela had forged as a guest of its Foreign Ministry. The visit was etched deeply in my heart, as comparisons to the Israeli occupation regime cried out from every stone, and with them also hope for change.
For example, there was the Supreme Court in Johannesburg, built on the ruins of the prison where blacks were thrown when they dared enter forbidden areas to find work. And in Soweto I visited Mandela’s home, where you can still see the bullet holes of a failed attempt at a “targeted killing.”
The comparisons echoed, as did the lessons. Roelf Meyer – a defense minister, constitution minister and deputy minister of law and order during apartheid, and later chief negotiator with the African National Congress – told me: “If we had started a few years earlier, we could have prevented a lot of bloodshed and gotten a better deal.” After beating his breast over many sins, Meyer is now part of the new regime, like many whites.
An unjust state becomes a just state; discrimination and dispossession are replaced by equality and democracy. The scowling faces tell of South Africa’s backwardness and rising crime, which are serious problems. But they don’t reduce the enormity of the historic achievement and its lesson for Israel: When a country turns from unjust to just, everything else is dwarfed in comparison.
Mandela proved that the dream is realistic, that what seemed like a fantasy only 20 years ago is achievable, and without much bloodshed. He showed that enemies of the past can live together in one country and even have equality; that a new chapter can be opened against all odds.
Mandela said he was not liberated as long as the Palestinians were not free. Those in Israel who seek to eulogize him can’t continue to ignore this.
This latest article in the New York Times highlights the ongoing suffering in Syria:
Fifty miles off the southeastern coast of Sicily, the refugee boat first appeared as a gray spot on the horizon, rising up or dipping away with the churn of the Mediterranean. Then, as an Italian Coast Guard rescue ship drew closer, the small boat came fully into view, as did the dim figure of a man, standing on the bow, waving a white blanket.
A child wore a SpongeBob life jacket. Smugglers had left them alone with a satellite phone and an emergency number in Italy: Save us, they pleaded to the Italians before the phone went dead. We are lost.
Capt. Roberto Mangione shouted for everyone to stay calm as he positioned his Coast Guard ship alongside the listing trawler. The Syrians, pale and beleaguered, started clapping. They had been at sea for six days, drinking fetid water, enduring a terrifying storm. One man combed his hair, as if preparing to greet his new life. A woman named Abeer, dazed and exhausted, thought: salvation, at last.
“I had nothing left in Syria,” she explained after stepping onto the rescue boat. She had fled with her husband and three teenage children. “We came with nothing but ourselves to Europe.”
The Syrian exodus has become one of the gravest global refugee crises of recent decades. More than two million people have fled Syria’s civil war, most resettling in neighboring Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon. But since this summer, refugees have also started pouring into Europe in what became for many weeks a humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean. Over five months, Italy’s Coast Guard rescued thousands of Syrians, even as hundreds of other migrants, including many Syrians, died in two major shipwrecks in October.