Ethnic cleansing continues but so does the global BDS movement

Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to push for a referendum to consult Israelis about whether they would support any future peace deal with Palestinians. One wonders whether the democratic right to be consulted about the future of the military occupation which is being granted to the inhabitants of the occupying power will be extended to those living under occupation.

Carlos Latuff, 2009.
Carlos Latuff, 2009.

It is worth pondering what any possible peace negotiations might involve outside of further entrenching the military occupation and expanding Jewish-only settlements – which now house 500,000 illegal settlers. As has long been true, the removal of illegal settlements and settlers remains the startng point of any real negotiations. But settlement expansion continues apace, and perhaps even at an unprecedented rate if Peace Now is accurate in claiming that 1,500 new housing units have been approved for construction in the occupied territories by the new government since March.

Israel’s Prawer Plan which aims to empty the Naqab (Negev) desert of southern Israel of its Bedouin inhabitants passed in September 2011 without any consultation with those people it aims to displace. This campaign has been recognized for what it is by many – a clear case of ethnic cleansing in which the Bedouin population will be shoved into 1% of the land of the Naqab – not least the tens of thousands Bedouin inhabitants of those 35 villages earmarked for demolition under the plan.

One village which is not giving up without a fight is that of Al-Araqib which has been demolished and (rebuilt) 52 times in the past two years. It is not with a light heart that many are now referring to this planned mass eviction and expulsion as a second Nakba or tragedy.

Israel’s apartheid regime does not only discriminate against Palestinians. In a bid to reduce the number of African migrants in its borders, Israel is making agreements to trade humans for weapons and military training. This means that Israel is willing to send asylum seekers back to those regimes from which asylum is being sought in addition to bolstering them with arms. The mind boggles. Yet given the normalization of the exclusion of Palestinians from Israeli society and expulsion from their land even when under military occupation, this can be understood as a natural development in a state embracing racism as its modus operandi.

There has been some positive news. The European Union has taken steps to further recognize the illegitimacy of Israel’s colonial military occupation of  Palestinian territory and illegal settlements. According to new funding guidelines, Israeli ministries, public bodies and businesses operating inside the occupied territories will be ineligible for hundreds of millions of Euros in annual loans from the European Investment Bank and grants and prizes will no longer be awarded to any Israeli entities carrying out activities in the occupied territories. The guidelines do not amount to a complete ban on funding, though, as companies like Ahava who are registered to an address inside Israel but carry out most of their business inside the occupied territories, will still be able to apply for research funding for research carried out inside Israel. Nonetheless, the move is being described as a major step forward by the global Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Carlos Latuff. 2007.
Carlos Latuff. 2007.

There is real evidence that the global BDS movement is making headway. More and more Israeli’s are answering the call of Palestinian civil society for an effective boycott movement as the best possible nonviolent route to an end to occupation and justice for Palestinians. These voices are important and one can only hope that, like in South Africa, they will grow from the inside as they grow around the world. The following are words from Israeli journalist Gideon Levy:

“It’s difficult and painful, almost impossibly so, for an Israeli who has lived his whole life here, who has not boycotted it, who has never considered emigrating and feels connected to this country with all his being, to call for such a boycott. I have never done so. I have understood what motivated the boycott and was able to provide justification for such motives. But I never preached for others to take such a step. However, with Israel getting itself into another round of deep stalemate, both diplomatic and ideological, the call for a boycott is required as the last refuge of a patriot.”

Palestine: the view from Korea (July 8, 2013)

All eyes on Egypt
Democracy is best understood as a process. The transition from military rule must be seen as part of this process and therefore those in power must evolve to meet the newly buoyed aspirations of the people. One need only turn to Egypt to see that this is not easily achieved.
Following a mass mobilization of protestors calling for democratically-elected President Morsi to step down which was larger than that which toppled Mubarak in 2011, the military carried out a coup to remove him from power. The streets are now filled with both Morsi supporters as well as those who had been calling for him to step down, and it appears that further blood is likely to be shed on both sides. While a majority of the population no longer trusted Morsi, certainly it would be very dangerous to put any trust in the military. One can only hope that the people will find reason to unite to finally destroy the military’s grip on power and remove with it all of the vestiges of decades of military rule.

Carlos Latuff, 2013. Military Coup in Egypt.
Carlos Latuff, 2013. Military Coup in Egypt.

For an excellent summary of the powers at play on the streets and behind the scenes in Egypt, it is worth watching these interviews with Gilbert Achcar.



Whether Morsi’s removal was an inevitable outcome or not, the current purge of the Muslim Brotherhood is a very dangerous sign. Egypt’s revolution is far from over but as of yet there are no clear signs which direction it will end up taking. The immediate future is looking ominous but revolutions are by nature dynamic and turbulent things. What is clear is that it will inevitably be a long and difficult process that will ultimately be determined in the streets.
What significance does this all have for Palestine? Aside from the fact that all eyes are on Egypt as an important source of hope for democratic change in the region, Morsi’s ousting may indeed lead to a strengthening of relations between Israel and Egypt. In the wake of the removal of Morsi the Egyptian military had already closed the Rafah crossing into Gaza and has begun destroying the many tunnels which act as a lifeline for much of the population under the ongoing Israeli military siege.

July 4, Al-Quds. Tunnels between Egypt and Gaza are destroyed under Egyptian military protection.
July 4, Al-Quds. Tunnels between Egypt and Gaza are destroyed under Egyptian military protection.

Compounding hardships in Gaza
Although this is not the first time that Egypt has moved to close the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, having flooded many with sewage earlier in the year under Morsi, the closing of the tunnels is very alarming given their importance in keeping the remains of an economy in tact in Gaza. An estimated 10,000 Palestinians including a number of children work these tunnels. UN Humanitarian Coordinator James W. Rawley recently reiterated the call for the full lifting of the Israeli blockade which is preventing the development of any real economy in Gaza. He detailed the impact of these restrictions, which he described as disproportionately impacting the most impoverished. 57% of Gazans cannot afford sufficient food, 80% rely on foreign aid in some way, and the restriction of access to a third of agricultural land and two-thirds of Gaza’s fishing waters is costing farmers and fisherman dearly.

The Electronic Intifada is already reporting that Palestinians attempting to return to Gaza via Cairo Airport are being deported back to the country of departure and forced to cover the expenses themselves.

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I’d like to hear from readers what they think about this situation in Egypt and what potential consequences the unfolding events might have on Palestinians, especially from those themselves living under the Israeli siege or occupation. Please do respond with your own thoughts.

Palestine – the view from Korea (May 27, 2013)

Palestine Peace & Solidarity in South Korea set up a booth at the 18th Seoul Human Rights Film Festival in order to promote our campaign to pressure Hyundai Heavy Industries to commit to making no future sales of its products to Israel to be used for the illegal demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied Palestinian territories, hand out our report on ROK-Israel relations (online version available here) and meet people interested in supporting human rights. We sold some of our new T-shirts and handmade jewelry as well. If you’re interested, you can check out our online store. It was great fun and we’re so grateful to everyone who helped out in different ways, from grabbing a T-shirt to support us or jumping behind the counter to get your hands a little dirty. We were very fortunate to have lots of friends join us this year! (Please email your photos to palestinekorea@gmail.com so I can post them here.)

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In its Weekly Report On Israeli Human Rights Violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory for May 16 – 22 the Palestinian Center for Human Rights is reporting that 14 Palestinian civilians (including 12 children) sustained injuries at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) at a protest in front of al-Jalazoun refugee camp, north of Ramallah. The IDF also carried out 65 incursions into the occupied West Bank in this period during which a further three Palestinians sustained injuries. Another 32 Palestinian civilians were arrested inside the occupied West Bank. In occupied East Jerusalem where Hyundai’s equipment has been documented being used, the IDF demolished 8 houses and forced a man to demolish his own home. The Israeli Committee to End Home Demolitions puts the total Palestinian structures demolished by the IDF for 2013 at 237 with 397 people displaced. It also puts the total number of Palestinians injured by the IDF for this year at 2,233. Homes are demolished to make way for the growth of Jewish-only settlements, illegal under international law and the UN has consistently called for the withdrawal of, were expanded by nearly 8,000 dunams last year (one dunam equals 1,000m2).

Bulldozers demolish a residential home in the Jabal Mukabbir neighborhood in East Jerusalem, May 21, 2013. From ActiveStills/Tali Mayer.
Bulldozers demolish a residential home in the Jabal Mukabbir neighborhood in East Jerusalem, May 21, 2013. From ActiveStills/Tali Mayer.

Furthermore, Hyundai construction equipment is being used in the development of a six-lane settlement highway that will cut through the middle of the Palestinian community of Beit Safafa in East Jerusalem which is home to over 9,000 residents. The construction project has been condemned by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestinian human rights Richard Falk who recently issued the following statement: “Companies taking part in the construction of the illegal highway in Beit Safafa, under the auspices of the Moriah Jerusalem Development Company and their implementing partner, D.Y. Barazani Ltd., must be held responsibleEarth moving equipment of Volvo, CAT, Hyundai and JCB has been seen at the construction sites.” [Emphasis mine.]

House demolition, Abu Tur, East Jerusalem, 02/10/09

Back on the peninsula, there is still concern that South Korea may decide to purchase Israel’s Iron Dome “defense” system despite missing out on a deal that would ensure Israel purchase South Korean made fighter jets and ships. While the deal has been on the cards for a couple of years now, there is no clear indication of whether any acquisition will be made. The South Korean military has recently deployed a number of Israeli made satellite guided Spike missiles along its borders islands that could be used to strike North Korea’s artillery guns along its border despite reservations from inside the South Korean military establishment that the missiles may not be suitable and have not yet been adequately tested.

Palestine: the view from Korea (May 6, 2013)

According to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, the IDF arrested 32 Palestinians including 7 children in the West Bank and conducted 63 invasions into Palestinian communities in the besieged Gaza Strip and occupied West Bank in the week ending May 1.

There are signs that Israel may be gearing up for another assault on Gaza. A popular Israeli web portal has reported that Israel may be preparing a second Operation Pillar of Defense as it conducted last November in which 160 Palestinians were killed and countless more wounded. The article, as reported by Press TV, is claiming that the IDF may carry out another military operation in order to destroy Hamas’ military infrastructure.

War and Peace

The revised peace deal put forward by the Arab League for a settlement between Israel and Palestine has been rejected outright by Hamas. The Arab League’s proposal is a weaker version of that first suggested and rejected by Israel in 2002 and includes potential land swaps. Mondoweiss is reporting that Netanyahu’s backing of the proposal is in part fueled by his fear of an eventual one-state solution: “The purpose of the future agreement with the Palestinians is to prevent the eventuality of a binational state and to guarantee stability and security.”

Over the weekend Israel reportedly bombed a number of sites including a military research facility near the Syrian capital of Damascus, purportedly targeting advanced Iranian-made missiles that were earmarked for Hezbollah. One report suggests 100 soldiers were killed in the strikes. The U.S. has predictably defended Israel’s right to bomb a sovereign nation. You would be forgiven if the varying accounts had left you rather confused about the whole situation.

It is important to note that Israel was the first and has been the loudest to claim that the Assad regime has been using chemical weapons, especially given that the U.S. may use this as a pretext to escalate its involvement (thus far through covert training operations) in backing Syrian opposition forces with lethal force. Interestingly, while there is no hard evidence of the Assad regime using chemical weapons, a recent Haaretz article reports that the United Nations has gathered testimony that indicates that opposition rebel forces have been employing saran gas.

The last time Israel bombed Syria was January 31, but this time the bombings were reportedly on a much larger scale. Such a move could certainly provoke a response that could quickly escalate into a larger regional conflict. As Larry Derfner suggests that it is in part a show of strength, “The rules of this game are that Israel continually flies spy planes over Lebanon, bombs Syria now, and may bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities later, secure in its belief that the targets can’t do much in return… In other words, Israel’s air strikes in Syria were meant to maintain its ability to carry out continued acts of aggression against its enemies without fear of challenge. This is the game, and this is what Israel doesn’t want anyone to change.”

Resistance is Never Futile

Despite the threat of a future Israeli attack on Gaza and the ongoing occupation, Palestinans remain resiliant and defiant. Members of Jenin’s Freedom Theatre in the occupied West Bank recently performed a play depicting the resistance of the villagers of Nabi Saleh based on the testimonies of children from the village itself.

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Check out more wonderful images from ActiveStills. You can also check out their latest online newsletter here.

Palestine: the view from Korea (April 22, 2013)

Apologies for missing last week’s update. As Palestine Peace & Solidarity has been busier than usual, I was unable to offer an update last week. By way of making up for this, this week I want to focus on some achievements made by the solidarity movement after a quick review of PPS’ recent actions.

Palestine Peace & Solidarity Action Review

Hyundai Flash Mob (April 12): PPS activists and friends gathered in front of Hyundai Heavy Industries’ main building in Jongno and in locations in Gwanghwamun, downtown Seoul, on April 12 to call on the company to make a commitment to end all sales of its products for use by Israel to carry out illegal activities in the occupied Palestinian territories. We were met by a representative of the company who agreed to pass on our complaint and get back to us. We are still waiting on their reply and have promised to return in the future if no such commitment is made. You can read our statement on Hyundai here and see a video of our action below.

GDAMS (April 15): April 15 was the Global Day of Action on Military Spending (GDAMS) and PPS teamed up with 23 other anti-war/peace groups and other civil society organizations to demand that both Koreas put down their arms for peace. A promotional video was made which won the Craziest GDAMS Video award which I hope you will take a few minutes to watch.

As the day coincided with the reopening of the National Assembly, a press conference was held in front of the assembly building with members from the different groups as well as 15 parliamentarians in attendance. The full press statement can be read here. In addition, a Korea-Japan Civil Society Joint Statement was endorsed by participating groups and published and activists donned Teletubby costumes and gathered messages of peace from the public throughout the day. It is interesting to see how these larger-than-life creatures can disarm even the most pro-war of pedestrians! The day ended with a talk titled ‘Sorrows of Empire: Confronting U.S. Military Imperialism’ by U.S. Veterans for Peace activist Dud Hendrick at which he discussed the impact of the U.S. empire of bases around the world.

We encourage you to join the photo petition by taking a photo of yourself calling for peace on the Korean peninsula and uploading it here onto the GDAMS Tumblr page.

 Palestinian Prisoners’ Day (April 17): PPS prepared a street action a day before the official day, on April 16, in front of the Israeli Embassy in downtown Seoul. Focusing on the practice administrative detention widely employed by Israel on Palestinians including many children, we handed out a bilingual information leaflet from Addameer and demanded an end to this cruel practice. You can read our short report on administrative detention here.

Palestine Peace and Solidarity activists In front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul (April 16)
Palestine Peace and Solidarity activists In front of the Israeli Embassy, Seoul (April 16)

The human costs of occupation

The Palestine Center for Human Rights reports that during the week of April 11 – 17 the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) made a total of 71 incursions into the occupied West Bank in which four civilians (including two children) were wounded. A Palestinian shepherd was also shot and wounded by the IDF in the Gaza Strip and fisherman continued to be shot at by Israeli forces imposing the 3-nautical mile limit off Gaza’s western coast. 40 Palestinians were arrested in the West Bank, seven of whom were children.

Resistance and Hope

Palestinian Tent Villages: A new form of protest is gaining popularity in Palestine in which Palestinians are establishing what are referred to as ‘tent villages’ throughout the occupied West Bank in opposition to the development of new illegal, Jewish-only Israeli settlements. In a sense, the use of tents to form villages can be seen as an inversion of the illegal Israeli appropriation of Palestinian land. While not a completely new tactic, the recent use of tent villages as a protest space for Palestinians and international activists supporting their struggle began in January and gained momentum during President Obama’s recent visit. The aim is to build a national movement to occupy land from which Palestinians have been dispossessed.

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions: Momentum appears to be increasing in the U.S. for the BDS campaign. The Student Senate at the University of California – Berkeley debated through the night of April 17 and into the morning of April 18, finally passing a resolution to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli military occupation of Palestinian territories in the West Bank and Gaza.

In addition, the Association for Asian American Studies (AAAS) recently adopted a resolution in support of the boycott of Israeli academic institutions at its annual meeting. The US Campaign for the Academic & Cultural Boycott of Israel is stating that it is the first U.S. academic organization to boycott Israeli institutions.

In another success for the BDS movement possibly driven by the concerted effort of Palestine-based Addameer and other Palestinian prisoner support organizatons, G4S, the world’s largest security company in the world has signaled that it will end some of its contracts with Israel. The company currently operates in 125 countries hand has supplies security systems to all of the major Israeli prisons and detention centers where Palestinians are detained. The company claims it will end its contracts which provide security systems for Israeli military checkpoints, one prison and a police station in the occupied West Bank, but will continue to service prisons inside Israel where thousands of Palestinians are held.

Refuseniks: the courage to say No!: 19-year-old Israeli Natan Blanc is the latest brave Israeli to face jail time as a conscientious objector after refusing to serve in the Israeli military in opposition to its brutal occupation of Palestinian territory. He has already racked up 120 days in prison but refuses to abide by anything but his conscience. Other refuseniks, as they are known in Israel, include the nephew of current Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu, Bibi Netanyahu who views Israel as an apartheid state. Below is a short interview with Natan which is quite inspiring.