Tuesday, 3 April 2012


I write this from a freezing, dark hostel room in the centre of Gaza. This area is now in a twelve hour blackout, so there will be no hot water to shower with this morning and no internet. After three days here, I feel, dirty, tired and emotionally wrung out. Yet, I know that in 48 hours, when the time comes to leave, I won’t want to go. For Gaza’s incredible people have again overwhelmed a visitor with their warmth, their ability to offer friendship - no love - on a first meeting. Their absolute resilience and faith in a Divine plan.
Yesterday, driving around was a stark reminder of just how serious the fuel shortage is here. At regular intervals the roadside becomes jammed with many hundreds of battered, near death, vehicles, stalled. Men sit at the wheels or smoke leaning against them, faces grim. They are locked into an 8 hour wait for just 100 shekels of fuel. Not enough for a quarter of a tank in the larger cars. When the fuel at the pumps becomes perilously low, each driver may buy just 50 shekels. As a result, cars are becoming if not quite a rarity, then certainly for a city with a population the size of Gaza - a luxury. Roads that were once jammed with the honking life typical of all major Middle Eastern cities are silent. The silence is not a blessing either, dont think that for a moment. I remember when Diana died and cars were banned from the city centre for her funeral, what a beautiful day that was. Citizens could reclaim the streets and remember what it was to stroll in peaceful, bliss.
This is different. This silence is morbid and desperate. For alongside the near empty roads, are shops boarded up. And the pavements which you’d think would be jammed with people are empty too. There is simply no way to get to work - if you have it. Many shops simply close down due to the blackouts. This silence is the quiet of despair.

my bodyguard Mr Falafel (his nickname) and my friend Yassir, drive me to Beit Hanoun to visit a family living on the edge of one of Israel’s infamous and ever expanding buffer zones. On our way out of the main city, Yassir shouts.
‘Stop, Lauren let us get out and see this.’ It’s not clear what he wants me to see, As I get out there are men and boys milling everywhere, hundreds. There is shouting. Then I see them. A yellow, mountainscape of plastic containers piled four high in some places and stretching from one end of the road to the other. We follow the line of boys of men and are shocked to see the queue is the same length around the corner.
‘What is your name!?” Shout boys of all ages
‘How are you today?’
‘Where you come from?’ The foreign lady in the hijab provides a welcome distraction from their miserable duty and Yassir and I are quickly embroiled in a human maelstrom of faces and laughter. We squeeze away from the youngsters towards a father in his fifties who is near the front of the queue. I ask him what he needs.
‘Fuel for the generator. We have no light. No electricity. We can’t eat. The children are cold.’ He has six children. Only, That is a small family here.
Looking at the thousands of containers waiting to be filled. Each powering a generator that has become the only (ir) regular source of power for Gazan homes, I realise that each one represents a family of ten or more.
In a week, they say, even the fuel at these stations will run out. Then what?

It is dusk, Magrib prayer time, as we reach Beit Hanoun. An area that was, not too long ago, a place of farming. Of vast orchards stretching as far as the eye could see, where adults worked and children sheltered from the heat of the sun, playing the games that only children understand.
This evening the sun sets over what’s left; a sealed off scrubland of weeds and thorns.

We get out of the car.
“Israel sent bulldozers and destroyed everything, all the trees; old trees, old orchards. Gone.’ Such is the sight to my right. To my left across the pot holed ‘road’ is Gaza’s frontline with Israel. The enemy that it fears so much are families in roughshod apartment blocks. No frills here. No trips to Ikea for little home touches. Here ‘home’ is a cememt block low rise, half finished, slum. There are so many children here it’s hard to fathom for the first time visitor. Large families are the norm in Palestine and in Gaza a pride. Each window of the hundreds I pass can represent easily five children within. Beside each and every window are dozens of Israeli bullet holes or the larger impact damage from shells of all variety.  Hard to imagine the international reaction if a family suburb in Tel Aviv were attacked like Beit Hanoun is attacked by the IOF, over not just days, not even months - but years.
I remember once asking a very poor mother in Gaza why she had so many children.
‘We need atleast seven children to each family here’ she said
‘Why? Because atleast two will be killed by Israel. Two more, Israeli will take to prison for a long time or cripple with rockets. Two may (may) have a chance to get educated and they will leave Palestine and never return. Which leaves just one child to look after us in our old age...’

I, a stranger here in Beit Hanoun, walk down this road at dusk. Every window with a face in offters me ‘Salam.’ The doorway of the sole shop has a family sitting in it, I wave
‘Assalamu Alaykhum’ they shout at me - cheerily. Yes cheerily, I feel the lump in my throat that I carry inside me forming again.
“Peace’ they offer to the stranger in their midst, as they bathe me in smiles of instant friendship. Don’t be pathetic and start crying I tell myself, don’t you dare. But the mix of emotional generosity amongst such hardship is making my heart thump painfully.
On the corner two young guys come over and greet me as if I am a long lost cousin. There welcome is SO warm I wonder for a moment if we have met on a previous visit to Gaza.
“Okay’ says the tallest brother, after introducing himself.
‘Nice to meet you now you come to our home to spend the evening, First tea, then you stay with us. Yalla come!’
I laugh.
‘Why you laugh?’Asks the other boy in his late teens or early twenties.
‘We don’t joking - you come for tea now, really, fadal.’
These boys/men are brimming with life. Their eyes have energy and hope in them that is utterly at odds with the grim landscape they live in.
Heroes of Gaza. The next generation of hope. The ones who will not be broken.

We can’t take tea with them and are eventually allowed to leave only with sincere promises to return to their home as soon as possible.

We have come to visit, amongst this needy populace, a family in dire need.

Through a broken wooden gate, behind a crumbling stone wall, my friend Yassir, silent and  grim faced, points me into a cement building that has no right to be standing. It was once a PLO prison. Now it is ‘home’ to a family of one father, his two wives and their seventeen children. Before the second intifada the father used to work in Israel and he had enough money for his growing family. After the blockade, that stopped. So he worked as taxi driver. And that income was just enough to get by on for his growing family. Then the siege came. Food prices have shot up to parity with those in European nations whilst incomes here Third world low. His car began to have small problems which he couldn’t afford to repair, which led to worse ones which killed it. I pass its rotting carcass and enter a large unplastered room with a cement floor. There is no furniture, no pictures, no adornments of any kind. Besides two plastic chairs, the freezing space is utterly empty except for a small TV, on a crate in one corner. Children with hollow eyes, mill about, expressionless, wide eyed at the surprise visit of so many unknown faces.They look (and are) shell shocked.
One of the wives makes an attempt to smile but her lips have forgotten how. The husband in his shame at the poverty of his family mutters ‘salam’ and looks at the ground.
Their sixteen year old son has a limp, I ask what the matter is, has he hurt himself playing.
His trouser leg is pulled up and a large plaster ripped off revealing a fresh ten inch wound with stitches. His ankle is also bandaged. Two years earlier the boy (then 14) had been collecting rubble in the wasteland, once orchards, that Israel has now stolen as its ‘buffer zone.’ His job was to sell the rock for whatever he could, to scavenge then, in the hope of some money for the hungry family. An Israeli sniper at a long distant shot him in his leg, shattering the bone. He has finally after years had the pins put in his shin. It is likely he will limp for the rest of his life.
A smaller boy of around ten is brought over. His dirty tracksuit bottoms are bulled above the knee to reveal strange white patches. White phosphorous. The nepalm of the 21st century was blown across this area when Israel rained it, by the ton, onto one of the most densely populated cities in the world.
Another son of around seven, shoeless and silent clings to his fathers legs.
‘This boy’ he tells me
‘Has developed mental problems since the attack in 2009. The soldiers came many times into our home and wake the children up, shouting. Now he doesn’t talk and doesn’t act normally. Doctors can’t help him.’
Cooking is being done in the kitchen. An empty cement space with a fridge that is empty except for four cauliflours of questionable age. Due to the ‘cuts’ - twelve hour electricity blackouts - no family can chill or freeze food anymore. Fridges are just storage cupboards in Gaza. There is nothing else in the room except on the dirty floor, a single, ancient electric ring on which, now, a pan of chips is cooking. Chips that are enough for perhaps three children in the UK. Here the amount must feed a family of 20.
It is salah (prayer) time. The smaller of the wives takes me to another empty room. This one is called a bedroom because it has blankets in it. And she lays out a prayer mat for me. As I pray, I can see my own home, my own happy, educated, well fed, daughters. All the luxuries of London flood my sight and tears come. I want them to stop. But they won’t. With my head on the floor at the end of the pray I silently, angrily, sob. Besides me the mother makes her prayer. Behind me one of her daughters hold a torch on me as the room has no lights and no electricity anyway.. Its not the poverty that gets me its the evil of humanity that pours agony on almost two million Gazans, year in year out for 63 years. It is so much worse here than when I came four years ago, that words can barely describe the new cruelties Israel has designed to torture the people in this vast concentration camp.
‘Habeebiti’ says the mother beside me.
‘Please don’t cry.’ Her concern for me makes me sob even more. I can’t speak with the weight of my grief. Oh God, I think to myself. Dont let her be kind to me, please, I cant take it.
But she is. Ofcourse she is. She is Palestinian.
‘My dear why do you cry? Are you alright?’
‘I...I..hate this for you...’ Is all I manage.
She looks into my eyes. Mother to mother.
‘What? Don’t cry for us, it’s okay, you can stop now, shhh’.
Then she says the words that almost break me, words that make me feel so humble so I fear I may never stop crying. Tears that begin as frustration and sadness and become tears of love and respect.

‘We are so happy. We are Muslim, we know this is our test and we must be patient. We are happy, really sister, we are. Allah will reward us if we can just be patient’
These are the exact words I have heard in EVERY home I have entered in Gaza at this terrible time.

Thanks to Cheadle Masjid’s fund raising in the UK, 48 hours later, the children have shoes footballs, table tennis kits, new tracksuits for the boys and the father. The girls have a new abaya each. The mothers are given tapestry and sewing materials to teach the girls the beloved Palestinian artistry of sewing. The family has a hot meal during our visit and is provided with wood for cooking in the coming weeks.
Israel’s illegal witholding of essential supplies such as enough gas, oil and the components to maintain the utility works here means that Gaza is being pushed back to the time before electricity existed. When the power is cut, families must cook using gas from canisters. When the gas runs out - and right now, even the smallest gas ration means an eight to ten hour wait - families scavenge for twigs and light fires inside their apartments to try and cook what food they can afford to buy. It is becoming the norm for children to miss meals entirely. In this Beit Hanoun family, I ask the youngest boy of four, what his dream is, what he wants to be;
“ I want to eat’ he says.
Somehow. Somehow. This makes all the family laugh.

Next stop, Jaffa Street, Gaza city. The smart home of Mohammed Ajur, 25. He is a handsome young man with the sweet smile of faith (emaan) on his lips. He happily greets his friend who has brought me to meet him and myself and we are seated in the family salon. Mohammed was in his uncles home when a rocket hit during what Israel proudly calls operation Cast Lead. He woke up in hospital in Egypt having been in a coma for four days. His family were around him weeping.
‘What happened?’ he asked.
‘Habibi, you have lost both your legs’ he is told.
His eyes shine with light and he smiles (smiles!) at the memory.
‘What did you say?’ I ask. Although by his contentment I already know the answer.
‘I said “thanks be to God”’ he replies.
“I was so grateful to Allah for saving my eyes and my hands and giving me so many chances to continue my life in a good way. Many, many others in Gaza lost their sight and their hands from the attacks. Alhamdoulilah, I have those. Alhamdoulilah!’
Mohammed has since completed his university degree in sports education. He laughs at this
‘yes I know sports education right! But I can do anything and I will succeed in this life, with Gods blessing, inshaAllah. My life is only beginning. I am now looking for a wife. There is so much I have to do now and I will!’
He is the kind of man that makes you smile just being around him.
On the middle of the table between us is a stunning urn, in copper glaze with rose workings and Arabic lettering across it. I admire it.
‘I made it’ he says shyly.
He is also a talented artisan.
‘Do you like this jug?’ He asks me.
I do.
‘Take it’ he says.
I offer to pay but he refuses to sell it to me. It is a gift. Because I came to see him.

One final visit must be made this evening. To a man whose livelihood mattered so much to my dear friend Vittorio Arrigoni; a fisherman. This father of six is in his late forties and hasn’t fished for two months. He explains that under the Oslo accord it was agreed that Gaza fisherman could sail up to 25miles from their coastline in order to fish. But Israel never honored this agreement. At first their naval forces forced the fisherman back to just six miles from the coast, then in recent years, to just three miles from the shore. There are no fish in this depth any longer due to over fishing and pollution. So, this fisherman took his boat, within his rights, to six miles and began to fish. The Israelis - as is a daily occurence for fishermen - attacked. At gunpoint he was told to strip naked and jump into the freezing February water where he was made to say for some time. Then still naked and humiliated he was handcuffed and taken to Ashdod for questioning. In the meantime the navy shot his boat so full of holes it is too damaged to repair. The livelihoods of four brothers and their thirty plus dependants - destroyed.
Thanks to Cheadle Masjid for donating the money to keep these families fed for the next month. After that, what will happen to them? Who knows?
As I type these words Israeli fighter jets are buzzing overhead jangling my nerves. They can be flying just for that effect or to launch yet another deadly attack on Gaza. It is 6am. The time when children are having breakfast and getting ready for school. Besides the night, this is the hour most favoured by Israel to inflict emotional terrorism on the population here.

Driving through Gaza and seeing the queues of gas and petrol, I mentally titled my writing today as - Gaza’s suffering. But now the title has changed to ‘Gaza’s heroes’.

Friday, 30 March 2012

An emotional home coming to the Gaza Strip after three years and my reversion to Islam:

The delegation on the bus that draws into the Rafah Crossing full of the usual hopes and anxieties at reaching the Egyptian crossing into Gaza, were from Bradford and Derry. One of the group, comes originally from Palestine but his family, ethnically cleansed by the Zionists, spent years in Saudi Arabia, before the brother, Abdul Rouf AlHaddad moved to the UK. Abdul, as a holder of 'travel documents' since his birth in exile, was never able to return to the land of his fathers. Now, as a British passport holder of five years, he can return, as a British tourist. Not, according to the papers ceded to him by Her Majesty, as a Palestinian. But as one of her subjects. However, Palestinian in his blood and his heart, he certainly is. And tears form as passports are stamped at Rafah and our coach passes the legendary sign that tells all visitors to Gaza they are home - 'Welcome to Palestine.' For me, the homecoming, for that is how it feels, is poignant, not for my shared history of this land - for the love of the people here. And the great gift of faith that, by the will of God, their patience and generosity, kindled within me, during the month I was blockaded here in 2008. I have come to make documentaries on the experiences of Al Nakba survivors and to hear testimonies from former prisoners, captured and held by the Zionist regime. I have also come to say 'Thank you Gaza'.

In Rafah, we pass into the town of Masabh. Where, our delegation of some twenty students and politicians, are welcomed into the home of Walid Hassan Al Modallal. The temperature suddenly drops, its unseasonably cold today. We gather in the large, main living room for coffee that will keep me awake for a week, homegrown dates, and boxed take away schwarma - a feast! I can't wait to get out onto the streets to walk around. So, accompanied by a sweet 20 year old student Maphaz, we walk into the Magrib/dusk. Now, the generator sound - the only electricity in the area at this time, come into their own. The mounrful, throbbing drone, drowining out the birds bedtime chorus. The streets are dusty - as I remember. The boys out pushing eachother or kicking around stones instead of footballs, as cheeky. Yet something is amiss. I smell the air for that warm, sweet smell I remember. My nostrils have instead invited raw sewage as their guest. No electricity, no sewage management. The main road is El Hidaye street and it is nearly deserted. And I begin to realise what is missing from my memory of this place from before; loud laughter, shouts of enthusiasm as strangers pass by. A feeling that night is a continuation of the friendships of the day just gone. For now, at barely 7pm Rafah is preparing to sleep instead. What had I expected in a black out? I suppose I had imagined that families would, well, stock up on candles and sit around them bravely carrying on. Why should they? Without a hot evening meal (thus the take away) to prepare for family and guests, the noisy washing up of the women and the chatter, all the evening life is gone here. A few young men, cold and sullen, hands shoved deep in pockets walk past without a cheery 'Marhabar' heading back to cold, damp, dark rooms for a night of quiet, but not peaceful, thought.

Da-da-da-dadadaaada - I look at Maphaz with a 'What was that?' Question on my face.

''Israeli gunfire' she smiles 'They are telling us what they want to do to us tomorrow at the march.' She shrugs and walks on. So what. We will march anyway says her straight back.

Later our coach drives through Khan Younis en route to a hostel in Gaza city. On my previous visits here the evening has been abuzz for visitors and locals alike. Now the streets are virtually empty. Our route a long, silent, cavern of despair as area after area passes unseen in the electricity black out caused by the siege.

In Khan Younis there is noise - at last! Just the noise of car horns and the shouts of frustrated drivers. Some two perhaps three hundred cars are queuing for petrol at the only station open and still with fuel. The crisis here is severe. FAthers, taxi drivers, all workers, are desparate to have some petrol so they can work on Monday, just a few hours away. The men at the end of the queue may still here at fajr then have to go straight about their daily business with just an hour or so rest. The Israeli effort to break morale here is bearing fruit.

At the hostel in Gaza city I try to visit a friends house, Yassir and his wife have waited, as I have, three long years, for us to meet again. But Hamas police, ever conscious of infiltrators threat to the well being of visitors here, do not let me leave. We try to get permission for a bit. But then with Palestinian shrugs of 'Allah wills it so' - not be confused with - we don't care, for that's not the case - I head to my room.

Time for sleep but first the night time prayer - Isha. I make my ablutions, cleaning, mouth, face, forearms, head, ears and feet. But as the tap water hits my tongues I spit it out 'Egghhhhh!' The salty taste is a surprise even when you expect it. 90 per cent of the water in GAza now falls well below World Health organisation standards on safety. This contributes to the terrible rotten teeth of children which I have already seen tonight and the stunting of growth perhaps also evident in the small size of youngsters here for their ages.

The hostel has light when we arrive. As I put the prayer mat (well bath towel) away on a shelf, the lights go off plunging us all into profound darkness.

'okay' I say to myself having only a vague idea where the bed is that I must now find. They come on again. Go off again. On and off three more times. Then whatever power source they were running off, gives up the ghost and darkness reigns. Good night Gaza. It's still good to be home.

4am; Just come across this news alert that is worth sharing as in just a few hours the Land Day and Global March to Jerusalem is due to take place

FOX NEWS 30 MARCH 2012' Israel on Thursday stepped up preparations a day before a series of planned Arab protests, deploying thousands of troops and police across the country and along its borders in anticipation of possible violence.

On Friday, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are marking Land Day, an annual protest against what they say are discriminatory Israeli land policies. Supporters in neighboring Arab countries planned marches near the Israeli borders in a solidarity event they call a "Global March to Jerusalem."

While organizers said the events would be nonviolent, Israel's army and police were girding for trouble after similar protests last year turned deadly.'

Note the phrase 'turned deadly'. The only reason they 'turned deadly' was because Israel opened fire on the entirely unarmed Palestinian protestors.

'At least 15 people were killed in clashes with Israeli soldiers when they tried to cross the Syrian and Lebanese borders with Israel in a May protest marking Palestinian sorrow over Israel's creation in 1948.' Note the word 'clashes'. Used to give the false impression that two equally armed sides met and decided to fight. What happened, to just make this quite clear again is - Israel opened fire on unarmed Palestinians.

'A month later, Israeli troops killed 23 demonstrators who crossed into the no-man's land between Israel and Syria in a demonstration against Israeli control of the Golan Heights, which it captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.

Israeli Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch, who oversees the national police force, said officers would be spread out in potentially explosive areas Friday but would not enter Arab villages unless needed.' Note the phrase - 'potentially explosive areas'. Used to remind Fox's idiotic audience about Muslims being 'explosive' and 'The Hamas' having explosives. And, that Palestinians bring death on themselves with their 'explosive' tempers.

"The guidelines are to allow everyone to mark Land Day quietly ... We will keep a low profile," he told Israel Radio.' Well that comment is somewhat belied by the gunfire I heard last night in Rafah from their side.

Police spokesman Mickey Rosenfeld said thousands of officers were on the move throughout the country Thursday in preparation for Land Day. He said the biggest deployments were near Arab towns in northern Israel and in Jerusalem.

He said police were in touch with leaders of Arab communities in Israel in an attempt to keep protests peaceful.

"We're hoping there won't be any major incidents," he said. "If there are ... obviously the police will respond and deal with them."

Mahmoud Aloul, a Palestinian leader in the West Bank involved in preparations, said demonstrations were to be held in Jerusalem, the Qalandiya checkpoint -- a frequent flashpoint of violence on the outskirts of Jerusalem -- and in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Other events were planned in Arab towns in northern Israel.'

The Israeli military was also preparing for possible trouble along the borders with Lebanon and Syria in the north, Jordan to the east, and Egypt and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip to the south.

In a statement, the Israeli military said it was "prepared for any eventuality and will do whatever is necessary to protect Israeli borders and residents." I shall grab another hours sleep now. More from Gaza this afternoon as we mark Land DAy and the Global March to Jerusalem.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Three people in this marriage. The PSC, the JC and Harry’s Place

This week, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has revealed itself to be ethically compromised at the highest level.

 In recent months it has become clear that the central office of the PSC, are increasingly pandering to the whims of Israeli hasbara activists. Joining with the likes of the rabid Zionist site Harry’s Place in efforts to silence some of this movement’s most outspoken and popular, thinkers.

Last week the British media carried a rare report into the pressure exerted on British news outlets including BBC, Sky News and Financial Times pro-Israeli lobbying group, Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM). The report found that BICOM's efforts had produced results, in that major channels and papers had “changed their narrative” to meet the Zionist regime's demands. This week, we see the fruits of Zionist labours in a more surprising arena. Sarah Colborne, director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, was quoted in the pro Israeli paper, the Jewish Chronicle, as supporting a boycott of the highly renowned musician and academic Gilad Atzmon. Atzmon was booked to perform in his professional capacity as a saxaphonist at an event celebrating political song in Bradford, called 'Raise your Banners.' The musician/author has recently published his best selling treatise on Jewish cultural identity called ‘The Wondering Who’. A work that, unlike Sarah Colborne, I have actually read, and can highly recommend, as it pulls no punches, when asking to what degree the racist idealogy - Zionism, when mixed with the Jewish sense of ‘Choseness’, is to blame for the existence of todays Apartheid Israel. It has been endorsed by some of the finest thinkers and writers on Israel/Palestine of our age.
But the subject matter alone (predictably) proved more than enough to have Atzmon, once again, falsely, branded an anti semite by the sections of the Jewish diaspora committed to stopping debate into their awkward, yet staunch, support for Israeli war crimes.

The Jewish Chronicle has spear headed the campaign to pressure organisers of the Bradford event to drop Gilad Atzmon from the bill.

Now, Atzmon is well liked in the PSC branches nationwide. Both as a radical, brilliant, speech maker and as a musician and fund raiser for Palestinian causes.

Yet, this is what Sarah Colborne of the PSC had to say when asked about Atzmon by the JC. "I am very concerned at what appears to be an attempt by Raise Your Banners to misrepresent the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. PSC has made clear to Raise Your Banners that we have no links with Gilad Atzmon, and that Palestine Solidarity Campaign does not work with him. When a representative from Raise Your Banners contacted the PSC office some months ago, they were urged to take seriously the concerns of those who had raised this issue’.

Her words raise several questions that need to be addressed at both national and regional level by the PSC.
Firstly, were members of the PSC asked if they support Colborne in what amounts to a cultural boycott of any staunchly anti Zionist academics?

Let's take a closer look at her last sentence.

‘When a representative from Raise Your Banners contacted the PSC office some months ago, they were urged to take seriously the concerns of those who had raised this issue’.
Colborne reveals that she is apparently supported by other London officials, in this effort to ostracize Atzmon.
So, here's another question. Hasn’t Colborne overstepped her official remit as Director of the PSC? After all this is a body whose name, (if little else at national level), suggests an inclusive movement, open to all voices who actively speak out against Israeli Apartheid with the aim of supporting the Palestinian right to a free state.
She has certainly set a very foolish precedent by bending over to hasbara activists. 
Except it was far from a precedent. But merely the most recent in a shameful spate of expulsions and harrassment by the national office of the PSC.

Last month, I interviewed Sammi Ibraheem. Sammi is Palestinian. He was chairman of a regional PSC group in 2010. After six months he was ignominiously removed after a campaign of harrassment and rumour from inside the PSC. The pressure on Sammi began when a man named Anthony Copper began claiming he runs a website called ‘Shoah - the Palestinian Holocaust.’ HYPERLINK "http://www.shoah.org.uk/" http://www.shoah.org.uk/.
And who is Anthony Cooper, this informer on ethics to the PSC?
Well, he introduces himself in online debates as follows; ‘ I am a Jewish supporter of Israel. Whilst surrounded by enemies bent on her destruction she has gathered and absorbed people from different parts of the world with different cultures and in so doing developed one of her own. Her people are resourceful and resilient. She has problems but her achievements are remarkable and perhaps unparalleled. So why am I suggesting that her friends, like me, should stop defending her?’ He claims he has been ‘researching’ the background of many local PSC groups. He has pointed out numerous websites which he considers (as a 'Jewish supporter of Israel') to contain ‘Holocaust denial’ material. Some of these have been  ‘linked to’ PSC members own websites.
Let us note the words ‘linked to’ here. Not even written. But merely ‘linked to’. Links which after pressure from the PSC, its members (those who still care about remaining members) have had to remove.
Mr Ibraheem writes for the site shoah.org. It is strongly worded, carries stories from Palestinian sources on Israeli racism and (significantly) makes no concessions to Jewish sensibilities. 
Is writing for such a site a problem for a Palestinian member of the PSC? Apparently so.
 Sammi Ibraheem told me; ‘Somebody in the Birmingham PSC with links to the Zionist movement began to take action against me. They asked me to be investigated about my links to Shoah.org. 
Sammi disputed the right to an investigation. One that he suspected being set in motion by the very Zionists who occupy his peoples land. Those very people that the PSC are supposed to be in ‘solidarity' with. 
He continues;
‘I refused to attend the meeting and be questioned by a bunch of thugs. So I was removed by vote as the chairman there and then’.
Nothing official was processed or put to the national membership of the PSC many of whom doubtless would have opposed the initimidation and harassment of a Palestinian member.

‘I feel they (the PSC) have no right to represent the Palestinians’ he says, ‘Their policies are pro the ‘two state’ solution. But such a decision is up to the Palestinians to decide. Not a foreign campaign group. The fact that Palestinians involved in an anti Zionist campaign are being kicked out of their committees and local groups proves they (PSC) have no right to represent the Palestinian cause’.

Mr Ibraheem’s experience with the PSC reveals a weakness at the organisations heart. 

Today the PSC is attempting to perform a trick that is both impossible and, let's be frank, pointless. They are attempting to create a pro Palestinian organisation - that does not hurt Zionist sensibilities.

And what of the PSC’s rather too cosy relationship with the Zionist blog Harry’s Place? 
For Palestinian activist Sammi Ibraheem his woes with the PSC did not stop when he was vaulted from local chairmanship. The harrassment continued. His weekly radio show in Birmingham is called ‘Face the Nation’, on Unity FM. Recently, Ziobots from Harrys Place managed to have him suspended from his radio show for (again) the exaggerated links with the website ‘Shoah.org’ and guess what, for broadcasting an interview with -  Gilad Atzmon. 
Mr Ibraheem says; ‘The letter that was used to accuse me of anti semitism came from Harry’s Place. But included an email from the recent chair of the Birmingham PSC Naim Malik. It seems to me that Birmingham PSC has links to Harry’s Place somehow’.

This is disturbing. For it appears that it’s not only the London office of the PSC taking tacit (or explicit) guidance from the enemies of our movement. But some of its regional offices as well.
Leftists who increasingly see their remit as not offending Zionists are heading the British ‘solidarity’ work for Palestine. Have they not learnt the larger lesson from, the PLO/Fatah/the PA? Namely, that campaigns of appeasement to the Israeli lobby can never, ever, co exist as part of a determined campaign to end Israel's bloody and illegal occupation of Palestine. And let us be clear. A Palestine Solidarity Campaign should be working to END Zionism. Not ease it a little. Not work alongside it. To be in solidarity with the people of Palestine means fighting Zionism.

And guess what? That just is not going to get you good headlines in the Jewish Chronicle, Harry's Place or for that matter Fox News or the Guardian.
Real leaders of this movement say to that - so what!

The rejection of Gilad Atzmon's academic voice by the PSC is more significant than it may at first appear. 
For it cuts to the very heart of where this movement, to end Zionism, (not to merely oppose it, but to end it) should be heading from now.
Atzmon has drawn a disturbing parallel between the political landscape that the Zionists are pushing Britain toward today; and Nazi Germany.

In the Fascist 1940's, most forms of modern art were banned. Only those with a focus on racial purity, militarism and obedience were permitted.

Atzmon says the same is true for the Zionist lobby in the UK, who are intent on controlling the British political scene and dictating “their own political agenda to the British public.”

And here we have the heart of Britain's Palestine Solidarity Campaign refusing to even engage with a voice they fear as too controversial for Zionist, yes Zionist, sensibilities.
What an error of judgement. How out of step with their own movement the likes of Colborne now are. For Atzmon's blog on Zionism related issues is even more popular than that of the Electronic Intifada (presumably by dint of its name far too radical for the PSC too).
For which of us who speaks against Israeli war crimes has NOT been branded a terrorist sympathizer or an anti semite on more than one occasion? These overused, misused terms are part of the Sayanim (Israeli Mossad activists) armoury, as has been repeatedly revealed in the past. Branding an anti Zionist 'anti semitic' It is a well worn ploy, an effort to intimidate activists or to delay real progress in the global fight against Israeli Apartheid. The Jewish States Sayanim target those they see as effective, painting us all as radicals and extremists, in the hope that the media, our places or work and even the pro Palestinian movement itself will shun us.  Until now, this last has been laughably ineffective. But the friends of Zionism seem to be making some headway. With the likes of Colborne and the National body of the PSC their willing accomplices. 

At this crucial time for Palestinian activism, Sarah Colborne et al, have chosen to align with those whose interests lie in silencing debate on the precise nature of Apatheid Israel. And its root causes.
Gill Kafesh, until recently, the popular secretary of the Camden branch of the PSC. was ‘asked to resign by a small group, who made the decision at a special meeting’ this Autumn. On Harry’s Place, Kafesh is listed as (guess what) ‘a supporter of Holocaust denial.’ Kafesh defends her right to engage in open debate about all aspects of history. Feeling that no time period should be beyond research or evaluation. 
However, she has openly asked the following prescient question; ‘How long do you think it will be until the Jewish Chronicle demands that PSC unreservedly condemn Hamas? And how long before PSC complies? After all, Hamas is obviously ant-semitic – most of the people it attacks are Jewish’.
The point she is making is important. For it is not for the main office of the PSC to decide who is 'right' on such questions as one state/ two state. It is for the campaign to listen to all sides of the Palestinian debate and to reflect these all views in its work.
A leaf should be taken out of the The International Solidarity Movement’s book. A movement whose impetus ALWAYS comes from within Palestine. And for whose members the word 'solidarity' still retains its meaning.

In September, the Jewish Chronicle reported gleefully on the PSC’s amended mission statement. Which had the following addition: ‘Any expression of racism or intolerance, or attempts to deny or minimise the holocaust have no place in our movement. Such statements are abhorrent in their own right and can only detract from the building of a strong movement in support of the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people. We welcome all those who share our aims to join PSC.'

Meanwhile, Francis Clark-Lowes, who has been chairman of national PSC and Brighton PSC was also ‘kicked out’ this Summer. Also for being - guess what- an alleged ‘Holocaust denier’.  
Clark-Lowes says ‘Although I didn’t actually hear about it until 21st June. I have appealed against the expulsion from national PSC, and this will be heard at the AGM in January, though it is quite unclear what the procedure will be’.

Whose interests do these expulsions serve?
The Palestinian cause?
Britain is witnessing the rise of a new wave of pro Palestinian activists. They need an organisation that is fit for purpose. One that does not pander to the emotional whims of the Jewish, Zionist lobby. 

Meanwhile, The Jewish Chronicle, Harrys Place and the PSC central office, should take note of the following news. Last nights 'Raise your Banner' event in Bradford, in which Gilad Atzmon performed, was sold out. Not a single ticket remained. And no protest against the artist and author took place.
When Atzmon asked the audience if they thought that the Board of Deputies of British Jews had a right to control artistic freedom in Britain the crowd of some hundreds yelled a hearty 'No!'
They would answer the same to Sarah Colborne.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Qasim Basir, Moozlum and US islamophobia

Interview with the film maker QASIM BASIR
Venue: London Hotel
Date: 4/05/2011
By; Lauren Booth

In the foyer of a modest London hotel, Qasim Basir, director and writer of the groundbreaking film Moozlum, is, (despite sore muscles from working out), a a study of well groomed, calm. His voice drawls ‘He - ey’ with such smoothness that over in the hotel restaurant, I can hear butter melting.
Qasim Basir has the trappings of an American, media darling, in Usher- style sunglasses and tight t-shirt. But the choice of movies he is making and his impeccable manners, tell a different story.
Danny Glover, incredibly, has taken a starring role in Basir’s latest, coming-of-age, film. About a Muslim college boy struggling with his identity, against a politically charged 9/11 backdrop, ‘Moozlum’ (the mispronunciation of Muslim in the states) has had a limited premier in the UK . This week, during Qasim Basirs UK tour, we talked Hafiz, 9/11 and life for American, Muslim, frat boys.

Lauren: Did you feel you had ‘guidance’ (from Allah) in making this film?

QB; ‘I do not feel that any of this would have been possible without that guidance. What we’ve done is unheard of in a way; a director like myself, kinda unknown, to get these kind of stars to make this kind of movie? It’s absolutely guided, you know.’

The lead character in the film, loosely based on Qasim’s young life, is pressured by his father to attend a Madrasah (Islamic school), where he must become a Hafiz (one who knows the Quran, by heart).

Lauren; Did you memorize the Quran?

QB; I memorized about a fifth of it as a kid, you know. I don’t know as much anymore. Like the character in the film, there were certain things that turned me away from it at that time. But, yeah, I was on the path to becoming a Hafiz.

Lauren. Do you feel like you are part of the Ummah?

QB: I directly identify with the black Muslims because that’s who I am. And I absolutely identify with the worldwide Muslim community because that was the view that was shaped in me my whole life. Thats the perspective I see the world with; with the perspective of Islam, with what it teaches.

Alienation from American youth culture and the conflict between having a faith and needing to ‘fit in’ are the films driving themes. In one scene the lead character is laughed at in the classroom because of his name.

QB: The first time I visited Egypt - there it was! The first time in my life that it felt okay that my name was Mohammed Qasim Basir, you know? I’ve never felt that in the US.

For a lot of young Muslims living in secular nations, the teenage years are the mosting testing time for their faith. Qasim was no different.

QB: When I went to college (like the character in the film), I pulled back a great deal from Islam. I still went to Jum’uah, I was still fasting. I just kind of wanted to do my own thing. I was a football player, I joined the fraternity, I was wa-aay on a whole (laughs) other page. It was the sort of life, I was never necessarily comfortable with. I always sorta knew that.

Lauren; What weren’t you comfortable with?

QB: ‘Well I was dating a lot, I was drinking, I was partying. I wasn’t raised that way. I had never drank before. But you hang around football players and frat guys, its bound to happen. So that’s what happened.

Lauren: How did you get into movies?

QB; It started as a hobby, as a teenager. Although I went on to pre law in college. I actually have a degree in criminal justice. But I had a big life changing moment; a car accident. Then, I decided I wanted to do what I loved.

Lauren; What is the atmosphere like for Muslims in America in 2011?

QB; There was a special on CNN not long ago; ‘Unwelcome. The Muslims next door.’ This town had a trial, funded by a wealthy couple, into whether Islam was really a religion. This really happened! It was insane but it was actually happening. In 12 states in the US they are trying to pass a law to ban Sharia. No one is gonna install Sharia in the States! But making wudhu (ritual cleansing) is part of the Sharia. Will you get arrested for making wudhu in a public rest room? Will you get arrested for praying on the side of the road? Thats the kind of stuff (trying to pass anti Sharia laws) that’s happening.

Lauren; Do you have to compromise any of your Muslim values to make movies?

QB: I haven’t had to compromise anything ( for this film). All of it was independently done. I was able to put what I wanted on screen. I didn’t want to put nudity on screen. There isn’t too much violence. I don’t feel the need to put those type of things in a film, for the sake of it, you know? A lot of films do.

LAUREN; This film takes place around the backdrop of 9/11. Tell me how you felt on that day as a ‘Moozlum’?

QB; ‘I never thought the blame would be placed on Muslims in general. I never thought all of that backlash would take place. Because I knew what Islam represented. It just became a fiasco.

LAUREN; Is the post 9/11 backlash over?

QB; In the past, like, year or so, it is absolutely worse for Muslims. With Obama in office, a lot of people feel they are losing control. That pretty picture of an old, white man, in the Oval Office is gone. All of a sudden this guy who some people are, like, ‘Hey I think he’s muslim!’ is making decisions. Muslims are the main target of that right now.’

Qasim Basir, is far from a product of the movie industry, summed up by his exterior. He is the real deal; An American Muslim for the 21st century. A man who lives his country and his religion, in a confidant way that is going to make all kinds of audiences sit still and watch his films.

To find out how to support the independent film ‘Moozlum’ please go to;

Thursday, 5 May 2011

'Jewishness', scare tactics, and a sense of humour.

Cloak and dagger antics outside a campus in central London, Tuesday night. As, the University of Westminster, caved into threats of disturbance, from UK based Zionists. Why? Because, Gilad Atzmon, world renowned saxophonist, author and anti Zionist racconteur had put together a panel to debate the following; ‘Jewishness and Israeli criminality.’ 
To a packed venue just round the corner from the campus the discussion, began with breathtakingly robust opening statements. 
 Consider, as you read, the immense pressure not to take part placed on each panellist. The threats against the university of Westminster of disturbance or even violence if the talk took place. And, should you read a hackneyed report (in the Jewish Chronicle or some such useless organ). Return to this page to revisit the precise nature of the debate.

Alongside Gilad Atzmon, the panel consisted of Alan Hart, author, former Middle East Chief Correspondent for Independent Television News and former BBC Panorama presenter, specialising in the Middle East. And Karl Sabbagh, author, TV producer and publisher.
Gilad began his talk by reminding the audience that causing Zionists to feel outraged; ‘Makes me cheerful’. He has not struggled with his own identity he says accepting with a shrug of his irascible shoulders titles such as ‘proud self-hating Jew.’ His first riff, for that is how he talks, in dramatic sequences, was on the nitty question ‘What is Judaism?’ 
This, in literal terms is the religion of the Jews. Although, this cannot aptly define the large number of secular Jews. What is Zionism then? Zionism, Atzmon contends is NOT a colonial enterprise. It is a tribal setting.
It has nothing whatever to do with Jewish traditions nor Judaism. It is a political cause which cynically uses faith for its ends. Thus Zionism dupes followers of Judaism and secular 'Jews' who identify with these traditions, by getting them to emotionally invest into a violent expansionist project, which they would otherwise find repugnant.

Atzmon plunged headlong into a question that few others would consider anything but career suicide.
‘Is Zionism what it is. Because ‘Jews’ are what they are?’ Gilad Atzmon, comes from a secular Jewish family. He was born and raised in Israel. Until his late teens his big dream was to have a shining career in Israeli Defence Force. What he saw in his time in the army as a teenager serving in Lebanon, was enough, he has said, to make him 'change sides completely.' He is uniquely placed to ask the unaskable and to say the unsayable.

‘Judaism,’ he said ‘I don’t deal with this as religion. ‘It’ (Judaism) doesn't kill. People kill in the name of religions'.

'But what is Jewishness? It is a supremacy. A Chosenness.'

A decade ago, Gilad remembers being something of a ‘darling’ of the UK anti Zionist movement. But he refused to play what he calls ‘the good Jew’. Namely, to become an anti Zionist ‘lite’; A Jewish person willing to condemn certain acts of the Israeli state. Whilst contradictorily arguing the right of ‘Jews’ to have a homeland. On Palestinian land. Such activists often avoid making or worse still retract, important, statements due to social pressure on their families. This works in Israel's favour and to the detriment of the anti Zionist movement as a whole.
Think Goldstone.
As Gilad continued to insist on his right, as a former Israeli, an academic and a member of a democracy, to look into the darker psychological recesses of the Israeli Jewish mindset, he went from darling to demon. For going on ten years, a number of Jewish anti Zionist (softly, softly) types, have been campaigning hard to black ball Atzmon from events and debates. Atzmon puts this effort squarely down to the topic of this evening, his contention, his amuse bouche; that Jewishness itself means a presumption of superiority that can only inevitably lead to violent tribal expansionism. And Apartheid.
  A member of a Palestinian solidarity group made an interesting point telling the hall that,
'Jews For Justice for Palestinians, wanted to be called; Jews for Justice for Palestine. They binned that idea when members found the word Palestine ‘too difficult’.  

Atzmon vehemently  denies the accusation that he is an anti-semite. In no small part because he denies the existence of anti-semitism. In 2003, he wrote in an essay; ‘There is no anti-Semitism any more. In the devastating reality created by the Jewish state, anti-Semitism has been replaced by political reaction’. This is a point he returns to this evening. 
‘How do you become and anti Semite? Easy upset a Jew. They don't even need to tell you how you upset them.  ‘Anti semitism’ what does it mean? The dictionary tells us its a loathing of Jews, just because they are Jews.’
In all his years, speaking on the subject of Jewishness, Israeli war crimes, Zionism, he has, he has ‘Never met an anti-semite.’ How is this possible you may ask? Atzmon seeks to put clear intellectual water between the actions of ‘race’ hatred (Jews are not a race), and an oppostion to Israeli Apratheid policies that lead to frustrated acts of say, grafitti.
Atzmon continues; ‘ Yes I have met those who object to Israeli policy. To those who objected to Lord (cashpoint) Levi and his role. But this is not anti- semitism.’
What is it then?
“It is an objection to political lobbying.’ 
 Recent figures seem to bare this stance out. Tel Aviv University researchers has released some startling new figures. These reveal that 2010 saw a 46 percent drop in the number of violent incidents targeting Jews relative to 2009 — from 1,129 to 614. Clearly, attacks on Jewish property or persons in 2009 can be seen, not as actions related solely to followers of an Abrahamic faith. But, in response to the violence of Israeli Zionism; A frustrated backlash against a criminal, political movement. Such findings, instead of reassuring Jewish communities, act as an unsettling factor to the pro Israel lobby within them. For without Jewish victimhood, how can the human rights violations of the Jewish State be justified?

On the question of identity for secular Jews, Atmon had this to say;
‘Ask a secular Jew what (does) it mean to be Jewish. They will list what they aren't. It leads to strange ideas that all come down to chicken soup!’ The audiences laughs. 
Some academics, find Gilad's playfulness troubling. Audiences like the one this evening, enjoy his cerebral shadow boxing.
He continues.
'Like the Muslims, who have ‘salam’ as a greeting, the Jews greet one another with Shalom - also a greeting of peace. 
Says Atzmon
‘Shalom doesn't mean peace though. It means security. For Jews’. That peace, (it means) peace for them only’.

“Jewishness tends towards segregation. Living in a ghetto. Look at the (Israeli Apartheid) wall. Is it really for security? No it's to keep Jew and gentile separate’.
‘If you are not Jewish, you are not due the same treatment. You are lesser.’
Atzmon moves onto the controversial 'hate crime' of talking of a Jewish world wide conspiracy. So does one exist? Gilad is semi serious when he says;
"No Jews do not run the world. They get others to do it for them.' 
As for who stops the media from fully exploring the real situation for the Palestinian people. From revealing crimes against humanity such as the massacre in Deir Yassin. Gilad rejects the idea of media executives refusing to engage with news from Middle East- to a degree.

‘The world' he says, 'self-censors. ‘Jews’ are not forcing the end of debate. We (the rest of the world) do it ourselves!” Goyim tolerance is seen as weakness. As stupidity yes!’

This argument is not without example. In 2001 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, made unguarded comments, about relations with the United States and the peace process. 
"I know what America is," he told a group of terror victims, apparently not knowing his words were being recorded. "America is a thing you can move very easily, move it in the right direction. They won't get in their way."
The Israeli leader went on to boast about how he undercut the peace process when he was prime minister during the Clinton administration. "They asked me before the election if I'd honour [the Oslo accords]," he said. "I said I would, but ... I'm going to interpret the accords in such a way that would allow me to put an end to this galloping forward to the '67 borders. How did we do it? Nobody said what defined military zones were. Defined military zones are security zones; as far as I'm concerned, the entire Jordan Valley is a defined military zone. Go argue!' This is a fine example, Gilad would contend, in which, Israeli negotiators, playing political games, find the ‘Goys’ in the White House, easily tricked and manipulated.  
Alan Hart doesn't blame Zionism for having global power either. He blames America for being intellectually weak at its heart (land) and easily financially manipulated in its political terrain.  
Whilst Atzmon sums up the entire multi billion dollar Christian Zionist movement, in his usual pithy way. 
‘Goys are stupid’.

Can Atzmon have his Kosher cake and eat it too? He began the evening by stating squarely that Israel was a state NOT built on Jewish principles, but on the expansionist lusts of a secular movement from Eastern Europe. Why, then in relation to what is going on, say in Gaza, does he return time and again to the question of ‘Jewishness’?

‘Because the bombs that fall on Gaza night after night, are all decorated with Jewish symbols.’

The concept of ‘Jewish’ labelled, pro Palestinian groups, really gets under Atzmon’s skin. Why again, he argues, this need to be ‘special’ or ‘separate’ from other solidarity groups. The idea has been, he contends that words of condemnation against Israel, are stronger coming from ‘Jews.’ That Jewish outrage holds more weight than any other. Isn’t this itself a supremacist concept, elevating Jewish suffering and understanding of pain above all others? The irony, which Atzmon relishes sharing, is that a Palestinian wishing to protest against Israeli policies in his homeland, would be excluded from joining Jews for Justice for Palestinians, on racial or ethnic grounds.

Alan Hart, author of an epic trilogy on the nature and history of Zionism, finds a pause in which to interject; ‘Nakba denial is as offensive as Holocaust denial.’ This is the comment of the evening which is met with a unanimous cheer.

Karl Sabbagh has a deep knowledge of modern Palestinian history upto and including the Nakba of 1948. He has come to the debate to discuss such tetchy issues as who ‘owns’ the land of Historic Palestine
Sabbagh prefers historical facts to rhetoric.
However, he too relates his frustration, as a historian, when he has made efforts to talk facts with Jewish colleagues and friends.
  'You cannot argue with people from a position of logic when they come from a position of no logic.' For an example he describes the old lie that the Nakba was in fact the time, in 1948, when a small group of brave Jewish Holocaust survivors, fought against the might, cruelty and brutality of the surrounding Arabs. In fact, Sabbagh who specialises in this era of history reports that when the British mandate ended in ignominy;

'Ninety thousand well-armed, highly trained Jews, went against, twenty thousand, poorly motivated, badly trained ill equipped Arabs! You tell them this (British Jews who support Israel) and they say it didn't happen'.

The hall then heard from Sameh Habeeb. A young man from Gaza in his twenties. The founder and editor of the online newspaper the Palestine Telegraph, says he finds it hard to cope with the way his efforts to share his first hand experience of life under Israeli occupation has been met with attempts to frighten him from speaking out.
 'I Come from the Middle East' he says, 'A region which has been authoritarian. I looked forward to living In a democracy. But once you discuss Israel you are called an anti semite and you no longer can enjoy democracy and free speech'.
The Palestine Telegraph published articles apparently linking Israeli groups with organ theft. Some of these sources were taken from the Israeli Ha aretz newspaper. Yet he was targeted by aggressive UK Zionist groups, he and his family threatened with violence and court cases. 
'I was immediately accused of being an anti Semite. Although I am very semite' he says. of his Palestinian semitic, roots.

Gilad ends the night with his trade mark frippery.
'The real genius of the Jews' he says 'Is that they made God into an estate agent and the Bible into a land registry'.

The debate about whether or not this sort of language constitutes anti-Jewishness should continue. What must also continue, freely and without hindrance are debates into the British Jewish communities role in funding the ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and East Jerusalem via such bodies as the Jewish National Fund (patron, one D.Cameron).
The question hanging in the air for the British Jewish community at the end of the event, was this ' Do you know what is really being done by the Jewish State in the name of the ‘Jewish People’. And do you care?'


Sunday, 17 April 2011

Vittorio and Israel's attack on the Intellectual Intifada

The intellectual intifada under attack.
By: Lauren Booth
Additional Material; C Grayson
Additional research; Fouzi Slisli

The killing of Vittorio (Vik) Arrigoni in Gaza this weeks follows (too) closely, the murder of pro-Palestinian peace activist Juliano Mer Khamis in the West Bank. Juliano, 52, was shot dead outside the Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp on the West Bank on the 4th April. His documentary Arnas’s Children detailed the work of his mother in helping Palestinian children deal with the trauma of living under Occupation through the use of drama and self – expression.
Juliano was untimely, bloody, end was one he had predicted three years ago on Israeli television.
Vittorio Arrigoni was found, this week, hung, by armed ‘fanatics’ in an apartment in Gaza. An end he would never, ever, have predicted.

There was worldwide condemnation for the killing of both men.
For friends of Vik, touched forever by his deep, smile filled voice, the pain of loss is made more acute by two factors. The first is the brutal manner of his death. For, Vik, was a gentle giant. A Samson in size and appearance, black curly hair about his rugged face. HIs arm muscles, there to scoop up a passing child, or wave the Palestinian flag at a moments notice, in the face of Israeli sniper fire, aimed at farmers attempting to harvest crops, or at fishing the coastal Gazan waters.
That a man dedicated to non violent resistance should die in violence is bad enough.
Worse, far worse is this; That his avowed enemies the ‘Fascisti’ in Israel (as he would call the government there) seek to make political gains from a life lived in direct challenge to them. This, as much as the sight of that last, dreadful film showing his eyes taped and his face bruised, is a knife in the heart of all who loved or knew of him.

The headline ‘Italian peace activist killed by Palestinian extremists’ is an Israeli propagandists wet dream. A gift as potentially large in its political implications as the now inevitable retraction by the UN of the Goldstone report.
Two reasons. firstly, if nothing is done, and fast, Israel will use the momentum of these two machinated events, as an excuse to re invade the Gaza Strip under the auspices of ‘terrorism and security’ issues.
Secondly, Israeli is seeking to end the growing momentum of the siege breaking movement and the increasing appeal of the ISM (International Solidarity Movement).

Which brings us to timing of both Juliano and Vittorio’s murders. Both men were respected for their creative work. Juliano, for inspiring a new generation of actors and writers in Jenin and for his film making on the subject of life under Occupation.
Vik for his award winning writings and broadcasts, on the suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza.

Both men were part of a new uprising, arguably, the most successful yet. The uprising that hurts Israel where it hurts most - in the TV studios of Europe and the US, right in the intelligentsia. Their impact on the Israel ‘fascisti’ machine was a phenomenon in the expanding worlds of twitter and facebook. They had voices like no others in this movement.
More though. Vik was pivotal in the reformation of the ISM Gaza Group, the non violent resistance team, put on hold after the murders of two of its members by Israeli forces ; Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie. After it became clear that Israel’s leaders had taken the decision not only not to ignore the human rights of internationals in the West Bank and Gaza (thus putting them on a par with Palestinians), but to actively target them. The ISM in Gaza took time to consider whether it could encourage, young activists to join them on the ever increasingly mission to accompany Gazans about their daily business. Human shield work. Tom Hurndall and Rachel Corrie’s deaths were part of a dedicated attack by Israel on the work of the increasingly effective ISM.
More recently, IOF commanders have been focusing their attention on the Freegaza Movements efforts to break the siege of Gaza by sea.

It is no coincidence then that both Juliano and Vittorio should die within two weeks. Both, at the hands of unknown Palestinian ‘cells.’ As they say on children’s TV - tell us boys and girls what’s wrong with this picture?

Israel’s supporters will doubtless feel affronted at the assertion that Vittorio was murdered by those almost certainly in the pay of the Jewish State. But they can’t have their dark ops cake and eat it too. Not this time. Too many of us have our eyes open to the filthy tactics employed by Israel every time they come under intellectual attack. And there is no doubt that Israeli Apartheid is losing traction by the day.

Still unsure who was behind Vittorio’s murder? Well, how often have the Israeli press lauded and applauded ‘covert ops’ in the Occupied Territories? Want some examples? Fine. In 1952, Shin Bet agents were sent undercover to spy inside Palestinian villages. Ten Jewish men assimilated into Arab communities in the early 1950s, marrying local women and starting families with them, were, all the while serving in the Shin Bet as "mistaarvim," literally- masqueraders. The men learned the Palestinian dialect, studied the Quran and espionage techniques in an Intelligence Corps base near Ramla. With a detailed cover story, they were sent into Palestinian villages and cities pretending to be refugees from the Nakba returning home.
Just this year, Israel has carried out an assassination in Dubai of a Hamas member (or as it was known in the British media - the ‘passports scandal’). Mossad operatives have kidnapped a Palestinian engineer from the Ukraine, who is now, illegally held in an Israeli prison.
And what of the sadistic coercion that Palestinians with chronic illnesses have been subjected to by Shin Bet? Known in Gaza as treachery for treatment? A Palestinian patient requests a permit from the Israeli- Palestinian Civil Liaisons Department to be allowed to travel from Gaza to the West Bank or Israel for an operation. After exhausting efforts, patients receive permits and go to Erez. Prominent human rights centres report that Shin Bet officers,then attempt to coerce and entrap patients, to do dirty work for them in their home towns and villages in return for rapid and/or ongoing medial treatment.
Yes folks, spies-for-health.

Israel then, ‘has form’ when it comes to lying, murdering, and coercion, for its own ends.

As Hamas rounds up the perpetrators of this most recent, deadly crime, the Gaza grapevine is buzzing with the news that they will indeed be found to be, (as suspected from the get-go), Israeli collaborators.
Statements of denial from the ‘Salafis’ accused of the murder have already been issued. Despite the fact the Western media is still running with the story of their guilt.
There were statements from Tawid wal – Jihad and Ma’sadat al- Mujahedin  An excerpt from a statement read,  “we strongly deny any responsibility for or connection to the kidnapping of the Italian (Vittorio Arrigoni)… Our statements are distributed exclusively through Shoumouk al – Islam, Attahadi Network and the Ansar al-Mujahideen Network…Any statement attributed to us that are not released through these channels, have nothing to do with us, even if they are published on Jihadi websites…”
So, who benefits from the killing of Vittorio Arrigoni? And what is the significance of the timing of his murder?

Well, if it smells like s***t and looks like s**t it almost certainly is - Israel.

Sure, the kidnappers’ video looked genuine at first. It had all the customary layout of the kind of ‘Jihadi’ videos that the tabloid press loves: the black flag of Islam, the Quranic verse in the introduction, footage of the kidnapped victim. But a small detail on the black flag, underneath the precious, Islamically untouchable phrase ‘There is No God, but God’ raises questions about the authenticity of the groups grasp on Islam. The extra words read something like “the Brigades of Muhammad Ibn Maslama.” This has been hard for experts to verify because the video is being systematically pulled off YouTube. But one thing is certain;
‘Jihadis’ never write ANYTHING on the flag besides La Ilaha Ila Allah.
Also unusual, was the lack of customary logos of the Jihadi media distribution channels: Shoumoukh al-Islam, Ansar al-Mujahideen, Global Islamic Media Front, etc. (See the statement of denial above).

You know what, right now, who cares?

Vik; friend, solidarity activist, hero, author, is dead and his enemy is making gains from his life. A life dedicated to the opposition of Israeli Fascism.

So what can, what should be done, must be the focus now, not only of his friends, but of all those who support the cause of Palestinian justice.

It was in 2008, as a passenger of the Freegaza, that Vittorio arrived in Gaza for the first time. I had the pleasure of being one of the activists arriving, alongside him on that day. During the weeks preceding the successful crossing all of the passengers had considered Israel’s possible tactics for stopping a sea channel from effectively opening up. Two options seemed most likely.

A massively violent boarding of the ships, incurring several deaths, that would act as a warning to other potential voyagers not to sail

The option, I feared most. The use of on-the-ground collaborators to do Israel’s dirty work for them. A network of paid for ‘cells’ who would pick off activists one by one in the Gaza strip. Thus, both terrifying the solidarity movement AND providing Israel with some much needed beneficial headlines of the kind we have seen since Vik’s death.

We know all to well, the bloody massacre that took place last year on the Mavi Marmara, committed by Israeli forces.

Now, as the second Armada plans to chart the same course on or near the anniversary of that sailing, Israel is pulling out all the stops, in its efforts to stop, frighten, threaten and deter, hundreds more activists from taking action against their Apartheid state.

Israel's ambassador to Turkey, Gaby Levy, has just asked the Turkish government to help halt the flotilla movement saying their sailing would be a "provocation." Asked about the pressure, a Turkish foreign ministry official told Reuters: "We listened to the message given by the Israeli side and told them this is an initiative by civil society."
The official did not elaborate.

Strike one, for Israel.

But the efforts continued.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called on EU ambassadors in Jerusalem saying "This flotilla must be stopped.”
And there’s more. On April 1, Netahyahu's office asked UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to stop the flotilla setting sail.
Netanyahu told Ban Ki-moon that the mission of ships was being organized by (guess who folks?) "Islamic extremist elements" intent on bringing about "a flare-up."

Then, on Wednesday, the morally bankrupt, Silvio Berlusconi, told Israel Radio, that he would work to prevent the next flotilla bound for Gaza, from sailing.
Berlusconi said that a peaceful Middle East is farther from reality now than it ever has been before, adding that Israel has no viable peace partner. He even asserted that Israel is the only Middle Eastern country that the West can trust, and that Israel should join the European Union.

The next day, Vik was kidnapped.
The same night, before any realistic negotiations could take place for his release, Vik was murdered.

Feeling sick yet? Yeah, me too.

Because this was a hit. A hit carried out to intimidate, to frighten off those who have already signed up for the next flotilla to Gaza and may be traveling there for the first time, Those unsure of the exceptional good will and generosity of the people there. A good will Vik would tell you about.
If he were still here.

We mustn’t let the Israeli ‘fascisti’ succeed in their latest terror tactic. Early signs are that for all the pain Vik’s death has caused, all the tears that have flowed. that we, in the solidarity movement will only grow more determined, in light of this crime.

Since his death the ISM has reported a sharp rise in people wanting to go to Palestine.

Meanwhile,a Freegagza Movement contact, tells me that no one from the next convoy expected to include Turkish, Algerian, Scottish, Spanish, Dutch, Irish, Italian, Swedish, Norwegian, Jordanian, Malaysian, Indonesian, Swiss, US, Canadian, British and French nationals, has pulled out as a result of Vik’s murder.

And now, the incredible news comes; That Vik’s own mother will sail to Gaza on the next flotilla.

Agidea Prata told Italian news sources yesterday; “I want to see (the) Gaza that my son loved and sacrificed for, I want to meet the good people living there that my son Vik always talked about”.
Vittorio’s mother knew about the death threats Vittorio received from a right wing American group on their website. She also knew that he loved the people of Gaza with every ounce of his formidable strength, with his every smile, and his every waking moment.

Yesterday, organizers of the  Free Gaza flotilla announced that the coming voyage to Gaza will be named “ Freedom Flotilla – Stay Human” in honor of our fallen friend, Vittorio Arrigoni.

Now it’s time for the Palestinian leaders to pay a decent tribute to this great man. No. Scratch that. As Vik himself would say; it’s time for them to pay a decent tribute to ALL the fallen Palestinian martyrs.

What a great day it will be if in June, Agidea Prata, Vittorio’s mother, sails to Gaza to be met by a single, united, government.
Imagine it Vik. Abbas and Haniyeh side by side. One Palestine, one voice. One government able to stop Israel from infiltrating their midsts and murdering those who come in hope and solidarity.
As my dear, wonderful, strong, funny, friend, Vik would say
‘Come ON!’

Monday, 14 March 2011

Palestinian prisoners and their rights

The First International Conference on the Rights of Palestinain Prisoners and Detainees.
By: Lauren Booth

After six decades, the illegal detention, torture and prison abuse of Palestinians by the Israeli regime, is being seriously addressed on the international stage. Just days after the UN heard testimonies from former Palestinian prisoners at a special meeting in Vienna, a comprehensive conference has taken place on the same issue, in Geneva.

The session was organised by an Oslo-based network for defending Palestinian prisoner rights, 'UFree' alongside the NGO 'Droit Pour Tous' (Right For All).

In his opening remarks the head of UFree, Mr. Mohammad Hamdan, asked why the mainstream media beyond the Middle East had remained mute, on the suffering of Palestinian men and women detained by the Israeli forces. The conditions in prisons and detention centres, he made asserted, in no way meets international minimum standards.

More than 80 delegates, including Palestinian wives and children of male prisoners, were then shown excerpts from a documentary 'Imprisoned Flowers'. A film which focuses on specific cases of suffering, in Israeli detention centres and prisons.

One such case was Nilly Safadi. A young woman, who fell in love with a blind colleague. In 2003, 14 days after the wedding, Israeli occupation forces arrested her unseeing husband without explanation. For the next seven years she was not permitted to see him. Not even once.
On the 11th of November 2009, Nilly went to visit her sister in Ramallah. She was snatched by Israeli forces and taken to a detention centre near Jerusalem. Without any official charges being brought and without explanation, she was the subjected to 100 days of interrogation, undergoing physical and emotional torture.
The couple were tragically re united, for the first time, in an Israeli courtroom. There, they were forbidden from talking to one another. Unable to help herself, Nilly spoke to her husband. An emotional outburst which earnt her three days in solidarity confinement on return to the prison. On 5 December 2010 she was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment.

The story of Kefah was shown to the conference.
Kefah means ˜struggle' in Arabic. From the West Bank, this mother has two children aged 16 and 17 year old. Children she calls ˜the flowers of her life'.
Kefah suffers from the rare condition Raynauds synrdrome. It has been gradually eroding her limbs for some years. This condition leads to eventual amputation. It is spreading through her body. Kefah,also suffers from asthma and reheumatoid arthritis.
The mother of two, was arrested some years ago. She was not charged with any crime by the arresting officers. However, she was tortured; hung up by her wrists in a cell, then placed in solitary confinement. To this day she has not appeared before a court.
Under pressure from rights groups Kefah̢۪s deteriorating health, meant she was eventually sent to a clinic in Israel from prison. Here against a series of legal appeals, her hands were cuffed at all times, causing her further injuries.

No one knows when she wil be released.

The most moving speech of the day, was given by the daughter of Ayman Kfisha; Saira
Saira was born not long after her father was imprisoned, by Israel. She is now fourteen. Her father has not been home since her birth.

She told delegates; '˜This night has been too long. I don't see the end of it'. She expressed her solidarity with the prisoners and their families suffering like her own, saluting their strength.
To the Zionist regime, 1,000 days is nothing, but to a family missing a loved one, unable to carry on with their lives, or visit their relative, it is an painful emotional torture. Saira talked of her sadness.

"I feel sadness. How long must we suffer this? Until when will the mothers continue to cry for their detainees and the wives continue to worry for their husbands? How long will children be denied fathers? I appeal to the international conscience. Humanity should not have accepted this reality. To speak about detainees is to speak about a great wound in my heart. You can ask my mother how can she spend her hours. How can she meet the loneliness? Ask my grandmother- can she still cry for her son? She has cried too much."

Saira gave delegates a clear view of what it is like for children visiting fathers held in detention by Israel. The security barriers, the inspections, the use of "every method" to break the womens dignity. The cruelty of even these rare visits is something that tens of thousands of Palestinian families have been familiar with. since 1967 almost three quarters of a million Palestinians have been subjected to Israeli detention, often without charge. Only 3 per cent of those incarcerated were convicted of acts of resistance.

Saira movingly described the agony of the women and children who after months, even years of waiting to see a loved one, after hours of humiliations to reach the prison entrance, that, (in an inexplicably callous manner) an Israeli soldier will often tear up the wives precious permission slip. Throwing it onto the ground, reports this child, ' because they are in a bad mood'.

'In this way they manage even to remove the pleasure of seeing a father again. Replacing even this moment of hope, with anxiety and fear'.

What is daily life like for Palestinians in Israeli 'security' prisons? The conference heard Saira recount her father Ayman's experience in some detail. Newspapers are banned for the father as they are other detainees in Beer Sheva prison. Interestingly, you will find it hard to get any information on these facilities on the internet. Those held in Beer Sheva, are routinely denied pens and rulers. Listening to Al Jazeera has been banned. Books are banned for many. Access to external news was briefly given (then removed again) after several prisoners went on hunger strike.

Saira, went on to describe her father's experience of solitary confinement. These cells are just 1m by 1m and are Medieval in other ways. No light enters them. Some prisoners are reported to have spent 25 years in these conditions.

Here is a report into the most recent attack on prisoners in Beer Sheva ;


As the young girl spoke, some Palestinian men in the hall - former prisoners - cried. No doubt reliving their own experiences. One man sobbed, his chest heaving.

The next speaker to address this ground-breaking conference was Mrs Nurhayaty. She is leader of the co ordinating committe of women parliamentarians of IRP and an Indonesian parliamentarian. Mrs Nurhayaty spoke of the need for an international 'conscience' and to applause, told delegates:
'There will be no world peace without peace in Palestine'.

Mr Ueli Leuenberger, Leader of Green Party, expressed sympathy for all those suffering the 'failure of the international community in giving them their land and their freedom'.
He called on Switzerland to end trading arms to Israel and to end all and any military co operation with the regime. His colleagues in he Green Party intend to place before the Swiss parliament a call for an end to the trade in settlement produce in Switzerland.
He spoke of the a changing world, in which, in light of the uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, there are renewed hopes for solidarity, justice and freedom. Beginning, he emphasized, with the liberation of all Palestinian 'political prisoners'.

Jeremy Corbyn UK MP and long term activist for Palestinian rights, came up with the first solid recommendation of the day. One that can be easily implemented by human rights groups, NGO's and even individuals worldwide.
'Geneva, the home of so many hopes. And the reality of so many disappointments, in relation to Palestinian rights' he began.
Then he listed the abuses of human rights Israel practices on the Palestinian civilians, including children and women, it kidnaps from the West Bank and Gaza, week in, week out;
'Administrative detention. Solitary confinement. Lack of medical support. No visitors associations. Perhaps worst of all, the torture of not knowing. Nothing is worse than a state that takes people from the street, then forces them into wasting their lives (in a cell) not knowing when they will be free. Each prisoner has their families put in prison too. Because, their hopes and their dreams are all put on hold as well.
Corbyn proposes that the files of individual prisoners now be sent to solidarity groups internationally so that the faces, ages and names of these prisoners can be more widely known and one to one campaigns for their release. And compensation for their suffering. Can begin in earnest. It is of the upmost importance to children, to family members, like Saira, to the Palestinian detainees themselves, that Corbyn's call is heard and acted upon.

Mr Husam Kader, himself a former detainee in an Israeli 'security prison' is also a member of the Palestinian legislative council.
He told the conference that there are legal teams globally, ready, today to use 'all possible means to extablish justice in Palestine beginning with violations against the prisoners'. Mr Kader, expressed confidence in the abilty of these lawyers to act as soon as the prisoners files on these cases, arrive at their offices.
The use of detention without any given cause, particularly in the case of aged persons, women and children are abuses that fall under the remit of the international court. He calls for Arab and European lawyers to deal in an organized way, in co operation, so that prisoners and that justice, be served.

The vehicle firm Volvo was indicted for it's involvement in Israeli crimes regarding the illegal transportation of Palestinians from their home towns and villages to prisons and detention centres in Israel. Volvo has created a specialized bus for the sole purpose of transporting Palestinian detainees, from their land - to Israel. Volvo must now be make the top twenty in the list of firms to be targeted by the BDS campaign.
Leader of the policy committee of the Swiss Socialist party, Mr Carlo Summaruga, made an impassioned call on the citizens of the world to take a reminder of our duties to one another from the Arab and North African uprisings. Our duty - to one another.
'We, the Swiss people,' he said 'demand the immediate release of the Palestinian prisoners. An end to all econmic co operation and miliatary co operation with Israel. And that the international community banish Israel from all future meetings, until they meet their (human rights) obligations'.

The gently charismatic, former Guantanemo prisoner, Sami al-Haj addressed the conference. I first interviewed Sami just after his release from Guantanemo in 2008. He was frail and had just met his son, a boy who had not seen his father, for six years. Here is a man of dignity and bravery, whose mission now in life is to see the release of those men and women detained by corrupt systems and governments, where ever they are. He told me in 2008, he would never leave his 'brothers' behind without a voice and of his intense emotional sensitivity to the suffering of all prisoners in dire conditions. His presence at this, ground breaking conference, again shows his commitment to that cause.

Mr Al Haj began by offering the conference the Islamic greetings of peace. Then began
'I feel now... I can feel the pains of the detainees and the pains of their families.. their wives their children.' He pointed at the mass media's silence on the denial of basic rights to Palestinians and detainees.
He called upon the secretary general of the UN, 'and all international societies who could intervene' to ensure that father's, like Sair's father (the young girl who spoke earlier) to return home.' He went on to tell of a man he had met whilst in Guantanemo, like Saira's father a Palestinian called Ayman.

' Ayman the Palestininian, in Saudi Arabi, kidnapped by the Americans. He is still detained (in Guantanemo) after seven years. Yet four years ago he was proven innocent. Why was he not released? Because the US authorities say he has nowhere to go!'
He ended with a crie to coeur that touched all our hearts.
'They will come home Saira. Your father Ayman and Ayman in Guantanemo. The winds of change have come, starting in Tunisia and spreading. Your father will be released and your father will take you to school!'

The hi light of the conference for many was the appearance and speech given by Sheikh Raid Salah. The humble, emotionally strong, Sheikh, has spent more of his time in Israeli 'security prisons' in the past decade, than he has with his family in the north of historic Palestine (Israel). A poet, scolar and father of eight, he is also the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel.
On a personal note, he is also one of the reasons that I found Islam. But that's another story. His 'crimes' according to the Israeli regime include; raising funds for 'terror' of which he was eventually fully acquitted. He is outspoken in his support for the rights of Palestinians under occupation to mount a physical resistance (as outlined under international law) against the occupying force and power.
He addressed the conference; 'So long as there is an occupation then it is expected that Palestinians, resist the occupation As long as the occupation imposes this bloody violence on the Palestinian people, it is to be expected that some elements of the occupation will be killed .
Why do I speak like this? Because the claim by the israeli occupation regime, is that freedom fighters have blood on their hands. This is wrong. It is the Israeli occupation, which is the terrorist. We have to say the truth when we speak about pure human justice. Then we should not make it easy for the authorities. If they are angry - let them be...Therefore I have to say this; I have to state what I believe. I am ready to pay the price. It must be said that we are going to win the freedom of the prisoners and we are not afraid of prisons! We are seeking victory for justice and humanity. I say without any hesitation..if the choice is relinquhsing freedom and the Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital. Then I tell them (Israeli occupation regime), we will go to prison, as we will not give up our rights! There is a state of war between this resistance. And this occupation. This means that the Palestinian prisoner (found guilty of armed struggle) in prison, is a war prisoner. And must be treated as such in keeping with all treaties and conventions."

It is Israel's responsibility, as an occupying Power, to comply fully with its legal obligations, including the Fourth Geneva Convention.
The United Nations, opposes measures of forcible transfer .

Thursday, 24 February 2011

CIA plots and Tunisian realities

Those who should be Wikileaks greatest friends have (in part) turned into its harshest critics. 'Deals' with Israel, talk of Assange's mental health, such things have served to partially undermine the world changing revelations of this stunning agency.
Now it's the turn of critical thinkers and those who may be called 'conspiracy theorists' to turn their gaze towards the Pan Arab, North African uprisings.

In Tunisia, the people here are not 'happy' about events in Egypt, despite intense brotherly (sisterly) support for the uprising itself. Why? Because the people here fear/sense that the military handover that followed the ousting of Mubarak is a catastrophic mistake.

Let's take a look at the facts. As in the case of Iran under the Shah, the US stood by the 33-year dictatorship of Hosni Mubarak. Their simplistic dogma, shared by most European nations, and extended to become what Tony Blair called his 'world view' ran like this:
'Either secular repression or anti-American Islamism’.

The Egyptian security services and the CIA have been unhealthy co-dependents for over six decades.
In 1952, the young agency supported the Free Officers Movement that toppled the monarchy. Since 1995 it was highly placed in the dark partnership against 'Islamic fundamentalist terror.' A catch-all remit that Ben Ali of Tunisia had polished into a shining beacon of oppression in the eighties.

In Egypt the CIA has always played with two decks.
A dual relationship flourished with Nasser’s successor, Anwa al-Sadat. It supported him in the open, whilst spying on him in the gloomy corridors of power.
“A CIA security operation in Egypt, designed to provide...Sadat with protection and warnings of coup and assassination plots, also provided the CIA with electronic and human access to Egypt’s government, its society and its leader,” US journalist Bob Woodward of the Washington Post wrote in “Veil: The Secret Wars of the CIA, 1981-1987.
“The place was wired,” he stated.
The CIA’s double-vision in Egypt, of course, was no different than in any other “friendly” country. But the partnership with its Cairo counterpart intensified in the mid-1990s with what it saw as the swelling threat of Islamic fundamentalism.
Now, with the military firmly in power (albeit, it is hoped, temporarily) there are fears in Tunis that the “Egyptian revolution,” has turned into a behind-the-scenes military putsch, intent on imposing a new junta of CIA puppet generals.
Central to this theory is growing evidence that such a sly coup involved the seizure or blocking of the Suez Canal. The canal is the historic Egyptian waterway, which still carries over 8% of all seaborne world trade. And which the British imperialists tried to grab back in 1956. Incidentally the US and the UK still wish to exclude China, Iran, and Russia, from using the Suez.
So, there are mutterings that that Mubarak was toppled in the end, not by the brave millions on the streets of Cairo and Alexandria and beyond but by Washington and London. Why get rid of this useful despot and risk the spread of popular revolt in the region? Because, Mubarak supposedly opposed the current US-UK plan to organize a block of Sunni Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the Gulf states — under a US nuclear umbrella and shoulder to shoulder with Israel — for the purpose of confronting and provoking a war with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah.
Sends a cold chill down the spine doesn't it?

If this is the case, then the fall of Mubarak, has taken the Middle East a big step further down the road to a vast, general war.
As for the madman's Junta; they have now dissolved parliament, shredded the constitution, and announced six months of martial law. Not a bad result for an authoritarian regime with a history of working with imperialist oppressors.

In Tunisia, they are determined the same will not happen here.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Youth, 'Islamism' and some long awaited reunions

Youth, 'Islamism' and some long awaited reunions

Tunis, 21/02/11Casbar
The square before the Finance Ministry is thronging with young people at 8am. There is a major university campus opposite, but these young people aren't just taking a stroll to class on a rainy morning. The scene is one that Tunisians are used to but jolts my children as we walk through the crowds. For the unarmed but noisy students are facing and chanting at military lorries and jeeps parked at one end of the square, guarded by equally youthful soldiers, looking, Id' say, sheepish. At the other end of the tree filled square there is less uncertainty. Older men, in black state uniforms gather around a rotund commander in the peaked cap beloved by the likes of Gadaffi. Side arms are on display and British MP, Jeremy Corbyn, himself no stranger to demos for three decades, points out two water cannon trucks on standby, almost hidden by the rush hour traffic.

OUrghemmi Manel is a 19 year old, in her first year of a Business English course. She takes my pad and pen and writes;
'We want to put these persons who are working in our government out, because they were working with Ben Ali in the past. We are here to say 'What are you (these officials) doing here (still in office)? This is not your place.'

The question of whether the army is 'with' the people hangs unanswered in the damp air. For three decades all tiers of the military have worked with secret police to suppress basic freedoms for Tunisians. Freedom of speech, press freedom, the right to education, the right to trial by jury, were just a sample of the collaboration between the forces and the Ben Ali regime. This is why the people here protesting reject absolutely 'the Egyptian option' of having an interim military state whilst a democratic process takes shape. 
When I meet officials from the Islamic Al Nadha party they ask 'What will happen when the army is in power and the pressure on the streets eases off, what then?' But more from Al Nadha later.

Jeremy Corbyn and I leave the scene at the Casbar in one of the bone crunching, miniscule local taxis. Did I mention that the people here can't stop talking (politics) now? Well, the driver had some juicy political gossip to impart.
'The Presidential Palace has been opened for the first time and guess what was found inside the Palace Library? Bookcases stuffed, brimming with international currency.
'Enough to fund three new governments' he sighs shaking his head.