BDS in Australia

MEDIA RELEASE

Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign in Support of Palestinian Human Rights Moves Forward in Australia After Landmark Conference

4 November, 2010

From October 29-31 more than 150 Palestine solidarity activists and supporters of human rights gathered in Melbourne for Australia’s first national Boycott, Divestments and Sanctions (BDS) conference. The conference represents a watershed moment in the Palestinian solidarity movement in Australia with activists across various campaigns coming together and addressing the way forward in the global campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions.

The conference was launched with a public meeting on October 29 at the Victorian State Library, chaired by the ABC’s Bryan Dawe and addressed by Palestinian artist and activist Rafeef Ziadah speaking on behalf of the Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC). Also speaking was Palestinian academic and radio presenter, Yousef Alreemawi, Jerusalem based Israeli activist Ofer Neiman from “BOYCOTT! Supporting the Palestinian BDS call from within” and Kim Sattler, the Secretary of Unions ACT in Canberra.

Keynote speaker Rafeef Ziadah, a member of the steering committee of the Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, explained “this conference is an important step in coordinating a national BDS campaign across Australia to put pressure on Israel to simply abide by international law”.

Other guest speakers included prominent American Jewish activist Anna Baltzer and Australian-Palestinian author and activist Samah Sabawi.

One of the conference highlights was a concert on the Saturday that formally launched Australian Artists Against Apartheid (AAAA).

On the labour movement front, the conference helped to bring together unionists who are members of twenty different unions across Australia, with five Australian unions sending official delegations to the conference to discuss practical implementation of BDS resolutions.

The conference unanimously adopted a calendar of BDS actions to be carried out over the next 12 months. Conference organizers urged all attendees ”to build on the momentum of the conference and work together to build the strongest possible grassroots campaign to hold Israel accountable for its actions.”

The conference was organized in response to the call by 171 Palestinian civil-society organizations in July 2005 for the international community to implement a comprehensive boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) strategy against apartheid Israel as the focal point of solidarity efforts with the Palestinian people.

Inspired by the struggle of South Africans against apartheid, the Palestinian-initiated BDS campaign is conducted in the framework of international solidarity and resistance to injustice and oppression and calls for non-violent punitive measures to be maintained until Israel meets its obligation to recognise the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with international law.

Media Contact: ausbds@gmail.com

For more information on the Australian BDS Conference: Visit: http://australianbdscampaign.wordpress.com/

33 thoughts on “BDS in Australia

  1. End the occupations — no war says:

    Sadly, a majority of Australians do not support Palestinian, Iraqi or Afghani people. Australian political parties across the board have supported imperialism in these countries. New parties base their popular appeal on fear of refugees fleeing wars.

    The dominant position in Australia is support for the US and therefore Israel – it is on the side of the occupiers. When Obama vetoes Palestinian bid for statehood in the UN he is expressing the views of the US and therefore Australia. This is a shame, but it is true. It is not Obama, Rudd or Gillard that determine these things. It is corporate and military power that dominates the US and Australia, and these determine our countries’ stance against justice and freedom in the ‘Middle East’.

    However those who point out that the apartheid wall in Israel is a mistake will be proven right, in the end. Change began when Palestinian people, many of them children, withstood Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2008, when Lebanese and Palestinian resisted Israeli bombing of Lebanon in 2006, when the people of Bi’lin on the west bank resist the apartheid wall and so on. The wall is wrong. It makes people of Israel less able to develope and share their common humanity and culture with Palestinians.

    Once Palestinians – Muslims, Christians and Jews – lived in harmony (prior to UN recognition of Israel in 1948). Since then, two wars (1947 & 1967) and the apartheid wall have sought to destroy peace. This cannot last. No one can say how the deadlock will be broken but the wall and what it stands for will fall. Even the wall itself has come to represent resistance. Huge murals depict aspirations of the people being painted on it every day.

    Murals on the wall

    Marrickville council in Sydney recently stood against apartheid in Palestine by supporting Boycotts Divestments and Sanctions against Israel (BDS).

    Because dominant ideology here in Australia supports US and therefore Israel, that position on Marrickville council has been overturned and the mayor (Fiona Byrne of the Greens Party), who supported BDS, has vacated the position of Mayor and will not seek re-election on council. An independent who opposes BDS replaces her as mayor.

    At the outset of BDS campaign people may have been naive to think that the dominant position in Australia was otherwise. People urged for a grass roots BDS campaign but attempts at this have resulted in a strong backlash. This has understandably brought calls for caution – but caution not become impotence. We need to organise better, ask more questions, be more creative.

    Regardless of what happens, those who support an end to occupation in Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, the bringing down of the apartheid wall in Palestine, and equal democratic rights for citizens right across the Middle East and Afghanistan — are part of a resistance both within and without countries that will eventually prevail.

    Ian Curr
    September 2011

  2. Hi everyone,

    There’s won’t be a JfP meeting this Wednesday. The next meeting is Wednesday October 5, 6:30pm at the TLC Building (2nd floor), 16 Peel St, South Brisbane.

    Please come along to hear a report-back from the national BDS symposium that was held in Melbourne last weekend and help plan the next steps for the BDS campaign here in Brisbane.

    in solidarity,
    Kathy

  3. We didn’t think the Echo would print our letters but here they are plus an inspiring image from our recent celebration of International Day of peace.

    Pages 8 &13 http://www.echo.net.au/archives/full_versions/Echo_26_16.pdf.
    Salaam,
    Gareth

    “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” Voltaire

  4. Loewda. Great! I’m not a guy either. Lets hook up and form the Worker’s Bush Telegraph branch of WIZO. Or the Hasbara Red Herring Blue Stockings. If only I knew what Hasbara meant, we could do Hasbara too. One great thing about people who are obsessed with the-(z)entity-that-cannot-be-named is that they know more about how to run a Zionist conspiracy than we do. Maybe be could take lessons from Duncan.

    On a serious note, I still don’t understand why nobody here wants to boycott Saudi oil because of their apartheid against woment.

    And since Qatar has generously allowed the ban on Israelis to be lifted, wouldn’t it be great, if they had ever put their money where their mouths are, and invested even a fraction of the money they plan to spend on a soccer team into investing in some capacity building Palestinian enterprises other than gun-running.

  5. Touche Abdul! You have changed the spelling of your name but not the cut of your jib…….

    Just to remain on topic – for those interested in supporting the BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS CAMPAIGN AGAINST APARTHEID ISRAEL – the BDS Booklet is a fantastic resource for those wishing to access a balanced viewpoint regarding the moral and legal basis for the BDS movement.

    A free copy of the BDS booklet in .PDF format is available here: http://australiansforpalestine.com/33119

    Australians for Palestine can also supply printed copies.
    Here is a quote from former US President Jimmy Carter from page 21:

    “When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road…..this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa”

    ….and Nelson Mandela:
    “Apartheid is a crime against humanity. Israel has deprived millions of Palestinians of their liberty and their property. It has perpetuated a system of gross racial discrimination and inequality. It has systematically incarcerated and tortured thousands of Palestinians contrary to the rules of international law and waged war against a civilian population, in particular children”
    For evidence of the latter go here – (warning graphic depiction of children killed by IDF):
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFgtk-9tVK8

    The BDS book provides resources and information on participating in the BDS campaign so please download it, distribute copies and encourage those of your friends with a moral conscience to participate.

    Footnote:
    Be wary of Hasbara Red Herrings…….”I just reckon we can combat hasbara best if we stick to the issues and leave the ad hominems, the foot shooting, the sloppy reasoning, …”

    http://thehasbarabuster.blogspot.com/

    BOYCOTT ISRAEL!

  6. loewdabulle says:

    Duncan,

    What i will loosely call your “thought processes” have failed you yet again.

    You refer to me saying a whole bunch of things at universities and etc and have not even noticed that these incidents were related by the author of the ARTICLE I POSTED Khaledd Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim journalist who works in Israel. It’s pretty obvious you’re incapable of comprehending politics or anything that requires thought for that matter,but to attribute someone else’s activities to me, even when it is clearly indicated that it is his experience, is beyond sad.

    My name is NOT an Islamicised version of anything, so Yes, you are ridiculously wrong.

    Jude, i appreciate your solicitude. And I’m not a guy.

  7. loewdabulla says:

    Duncan,

    What i will loosely call your “thought processes” have failed you yet again.

    You refer to me saying a whole bunch of things at universities and etc and have not even noticed that these incidents were related by the author of the ARTICLE I POSTED Khaledd Abu Toameh, an Arab Muslim journalist who works in Israel. It’s pretty obvious you’re incapable of comprehending politics or anything that requires thought for that matter,but to attribute someone else’s activities to me, even when it is clearly indicated that it is his experience, is beyond sad.

    My name is NOT an Islamicised version of anything, so Yes, you are ridiculously wrong.

    Jude, i appreciate your solicitude. And I’m not a guy.

  8. I sense irony in Jude’s reply. No sane rational person could believe that anything but the Israeli government, ( in alliance with the US), is the ‘true oppressor’ of the Palestinian people. The ‘new anti-Semitism’ is indeed a new meme introduced to inhibit criticism of Israel’s actions based on some anachronistic 19th/20thC cultural framework and has no validity in a modern critique of criminal rogue states. Declaring criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic is of course nonsense. Vic Alhadeff – CEO NSW Jewish Board of Deputies – declared in a recorded interview (search youtube for the recording) that criticism of Israel, (and thus by extension the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction movement), is not anti-Semitic. For the simple reason that Israel is not populated solely by Semites and that not all Jewish people are Semitic, the argument is thus demonstrably false. The government of Israel is not a ‘race’ and thus brandishing the racial discrimination card is equally invalid in the debate, unless it is to illuminate the discrimination imposed on the Palestinian people by the Israeli government’s Apartheid system.

    Jude is right one on point, there are many examples of Israelis and Palestinians working together but the real issue is the right to self determination of the Palestinian people – an issue squarely in the field of international politics – but now in the hands of the individual boycotter.

    The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against Israel is designed to change the political status quo vis-a-vis the creation of a sovereign Palestinian state after 62 years of intransigence and stalling of the peace process by world leaders – in particular Israel and the US.

    If you don’t get that, you need to study more deeply the history of this conflict because, as the saying goes: “Those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it”.

    I am happy to debate the right of Anglo-Australia to exist in another discussion thread but in this context it is a red herring designed to shift the discussion away from ISRAEL’S CURRENT CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY in Palestine and the BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS CAMPAIGN AGAINST APARTHEID ISRAEL.

    I recommend that both Jude and Loewabdulla desist from the folly of contributing right-wing Zionist propaganda to a left-wing blog and utilise their energies in lobbying Washington and the Likud coalition to change the status quo in Palestine. If you are successful, we won’t need to continue this conversation.
    Good luck with that, a reading of the Likud party platform will demonstrate that “The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river”, thus illustrating the recent ‘peace talks’ as being the sham they really were.
    http://www.knesset.gov.il/elections/knesset15/elikud_m.htm

  9. It’s good to get a balanced response from John T. I did not say anything about two wrongs make a right. I want to know what it is specifically about Israel that excites such extreme passion from the far Left. Why not boycott all Chinese goods because of the terrible things they do in Tibet? Why not refuse to use petrol because it comes from Saudi Arabia where women are treated like shit?
    Come on, will someone explain what it is about Israel, other than the fact the ruling classes everywhere have been great at using hatred of the Jews to turn the anger of the masses away from their true oppressors. This is a virulent meme in western culture, and the Arab ruling class have been quick to exploit it for similar ends. I doubt that Israel’s ruling right-wingers are any worse than John Howard and his cronies were, except that the Anglos did so much better a job of annihilating Aboriginal resistance, but I didn’t see any of you boycotting goods “Made in Australia”. In short, I think this is a site that has fallen into the trap of the new anti-semitism, I’m wasting my time, and I advise Loewedabulla to conserve his energies for something more useful and give up the unequal struggle too. As I keep saying there are many examples of Israeli-Palestinians working together and trying to get beyond the hatred. http://www.onevoicemovement.org is a good gateway. Anyone who is genuine about peace in the middle-east will nurture these small seedlings of peace, not get into fights about who is cleverer about history.
    As a final, if any of you find yourselves trying to prove that Onevoice is probably funded by the CIA, I would suggest you could well be a conspiracy theorist trying to avoid the stigma of having a paranoid personality by hiding it behind a what must feel like a more respectable “political theory”.

  10. Just to put a different perspective on this.

    Duncan is deluded if he really believes in “the international community’s outlawing of colonialism in the modern era”.

    The U.N. and international law is a construction of the imperial elites to facilitate their own will. The state of Israel is a construction of this process just as the modern states of Iraq and Afghanistan and indeed Australia are.

    I fully concur with Jude’s juxtaposition of Palestine and Aboriginal Australia. Our own colonial situation clearly identifies the purpose and intent of international law which in regard to Aboriginal rights has its high water mark in the U.N. Declaration of Indigenous rights – that says some very nice but moderate things but has no legal authority or enforcability.

    The so-called enforcible elements of anti-colonial international law such as discrimination law is alway interpreted and applied through the colonial state so by the time the principle hits the ground it has dissolved completely or is used as a tool to attack indigenous rights – e.g. native title.

    However I do not agree with Jude’s apparent moral framework that two wrongs make a right, that is the colonisation of Australia might somehow neutralise criticism of colonisation in the Middle East.

    The BDS campaign itself has been constructed by Fatah in accordance with international law and collaboration with the state of Israel. This is why the Palestinian campaign has just called for boycotts of companies involved in illegal (in international law) development in contested territory in the West Bank – but will not call for a general boycott of Israel for such a call is itself illegal in international law.

    (It is interesting that the recent QCU motion calls for “consumer boycott of Israeli goods” which is illegal in international law but they still appeal to international law and its hypothetical 2 state solution)

    International law is not the solution, it is the problem.

    Until Hamas, an organisation proscribed by international law and frequently demonised by the BDS campaign, is included in the the peace process then there will be no peace.

    Until faithful Jews reject the power of Babylon in the holy land, there will be no peace. There is ample precedent for this in scripture.

  11. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement Against Israel, (being the subject matter of this discussion thread), is a modern movement based on International legal precedents relating to the international community’s outlawing of colonialism in the modern era. UN Resolution 3375 is of interest. Here is the full text of the resolution that deplores racial discrimination and likens the Zionist enterprise to South African apartheid:

    (Quote)
    3379 (XXX). Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination

    The General Assembly,

    Recalling its resolution 1904 (XVIII) of 20 November 1963, proclaiming the United Nations Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and in particular its affirmation that “any doctrine of racial differentiation or superiority is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous” and its expression of alarm at “the manifestations of racial discrimination still in evidence in some areas in the world, some of which are imposed by certain Governments by means of legislative, administrative or other measures”,

    Recalling also that, in its resolution 3151 G (XXVIII) of 14 December 1973, the General Assembly condemned, inter alia, the unholy alliance between South African racism and zionism,

    Taking note of the Declaration of Mexico on the Equality of Women and Their Contribution to Development and Peace, 1/ proclaimed by the World Con-ference of the International Women’s Year, held at Mexico City from 19 June to 2 July 1975, which promulgated the principle that “international co-operation and peace require the achievement of national liberation and independence, the elimination of colonialism and neo-colonialism, foreign occupation, zionism, apartheid and racial discrimination in all its forms, as well as the recognition of the dignity of peoples and their right to self-determination”,

    Taking note also of resolution 77 (XII) adopted by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity at its twelfth ordinary session,2/ hold at Kampala from 28 July to 1 August 1975, which considered “that the racist regime in occupied Palestine and the racist regimes in Zimbabwe and South Africa have a common imperialist origin, forming a whole and having the same racist structure and being organically linked in their policy aimed at repression of the dignity and integrity of the human being”,

    Taking note also of the Political Declaration and Strategy to Strengthen International Peace and Security and to Intensify Solidarity and Mutual Assistance among Non-Aligned Countries,3/ adopted at the Conference of Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Non-Aligned Countries held at Lima from 25 to 30 August 1975, which most severely condemned zionism as a threat to world peace and security and called upon all countries to oppose this racism and imperialist ideology,

    Determines that zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination. (Unquote)

    The resolution (3379) can be found here along with others of note:
    http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/30/ares30.htm

    As a footnote to this response to ‘Jude’ I encourage everyone to read Shlomo Sand’s book “The Invention of the Jewish People” which carefully dismisses the Zionist narrative/historiography used as a premise for the theft of Palestinian land (another sound reason for the BDS movement) and, perhaps importantly, the queries the validity of a racist, militarist ‘ethnic democracy’ in a modern era.
    http://www.inventionofthejewishpeople.com

  12. Duncan, while you’re on your high horse about Israel, please advise on the right of Anglo-Australia to exist when the indigenous population was not consulted? Let he who does not live in a colonialist glass house through the first stone.

    And please remember that there has been a continuous Jewish presence in Israel since the dispersal by the Romans, that many Palestinians are Jews, and that just as many Jews were expelled from the Arab nations as were expelled and/or chose to leave Israel. If there’s a right of return for some, there should be a right of return for all. Maybe, if you’re so keen for everyone to go back where they came from, how about starting the exodus back to wherever you came from? Or maybe you would be more comfortable seeking asylum from common sense in the Arab democracy of your choice. But please accept my apologies if “Duncan” is an Aboriginal name.

  13. BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS MOVEMENT AGAINST APARTHEID ISRAEL:
    I would like to pick up on some of the assertions made by Loewdabulla. I assume firstly that the pseudonym is an Islamicised play on the words ‘load of bullshit’ though I may, (hopefully), be mistaken.

    LOB principally attempts to scare us into the terrible prospect of university educated Americans rejecting US foreign policy vis a vis Palestine.

    Regarding US campus support for Hamas outweighing that found in Ramallah, any adept student of Middle Eastern politics would a). note the antipathy toward Hamas by West Bank factions such as Fatah because of their electoral defeat by Hamas in Gaza and b). The rare manifestation of true democracy manifested in an electoral process validated by international observers that occurred in Gaza in 2006.

    I am sure any politically aware US citizen would want the same outcome in the US.

    LOB accurately recounts facts that Israel attacked Gaza precisely because the ‘threat’ of a diplomatic solution was presented by the democratically elected party in Gaza. History has shown that Israel prefers military violence as a solution to ‘disagreements’ for the simple reason that it enjoys superior firepower unmatched by the limited means of the Palestinian people. (A clear indication of this fact is the extraordinary asymmetry of casualties in ‘Operation cast Lead’ – a name that hardly connotes an humanitarian ethos – between Israeli civilians and Palestinian. Cast Lead was an act of state sponsored terrorism widely condemned by the international community including the UN hence:
    THE BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS MOVEMENT AGAINST APARTHEID ISRAEL:

    Archbishop Desmond Tutu did in fact comment that the apartheid system in Israel was far worse than anything imposed on the Palestinian people. Nelson Mandela also supported this view.

    The question as to whether Israel has a right to exist should be considered in the light of the fact that the partition of Palestine was made under the auspices of the UN when no indigenous representative of the region was a member. The Arab states opposed partition, but that appears to be of no consequence in todays dialogue. The premise for the colonisation of Mandate Palestine by the Jewish diaspora was based on the biblical narrative of the exile widely exploited by the Zionist movement, and David Ben Gurion in particular, since disproved by archaeological findings. The ‘right of return’ to ‘Israel’, (a name given to the new state in 1948), while extended to any Jewish person anywhere in the world regardless of their perceived familial connection to the ‘promised land’ is denied to the Palestinian people who actually lived there for millennia, resulting in a refugee population of nearly 5 million stateless persons. Why should a displaced indigenous Palestinian population ‘forget’ injustice and the continued theft of their land and be expected to honour the usurper with recognition?

    I refer to the comment: ‘hardline activist thugs trying to intimidate anyone who dares to say something that they don’t like to hear’. In my experience this behaviour more resembles the actions of the lobby movement that influence foreign policy direction and funding donations to political parties aimed at outcomes favourable to Israel. The evidence for this is abundant and overwhelming yet when a wrongdoer points the finger there are three pointing back at him, (Hebrew proverb).

    What is also disturbing is the use of the swastika symbol to deface LOB’s event posters. While some critics of Israel’s ethnocentric apartheid system have likened it to an ethnic and cultural genocidal system similar to that of Nazi Germany, I object to the continued demonization of a symbol that has been sacred to many ancient civilizations, including that of the Hindus, many thousand times longer than the short lifespan of the Third Reich. The continued exploitation of the emotiveness of this symbol to the European mindset clouds its historical meaning and further distances investigation of the nationalism movements based on ethnic purity originating in the late nineteenth century which also gave birth to Zionism. What is more disgraceful is LOB’s conflation of sympathy for the souls who lost their lives in the death camps in Europe with sympathy for Israel, (while it continues the ethnic cleansing of historic Palestine), by implying that his critics or at least those who vandalized his posters are aligned with history’s most obscene manifestation of anti-Semitism.

    I dismiss LOB’s comments regarding the two state solution. There is no doubt that the two state solution has passed its use by date – Oslo destroyed that path due to Israel’s instantly reneging on its conditions and immediately imposing unacceptable and variant conditions rejected by the Palestinians – no control of borders – no control of airspace etc etc. The looming spectre of a bi-national state, (or worse for Israel a unitary democracy such as Australia), would deliver an Arab majority and destroy the concept of a ‘Jewish State’. The Arab majority would no doubt insist on a ‘right of return’ for displaced refugees and their families thus destroying the idea of an exclusively ‘Jewish ethnic democracy’. The term ‘ethnic’ is of course misleading since a considerable percentage of Israel’s citizens don’t qualify in terms of the state’s preferred ethnicity and many are the descendants of proselytes with no Jewish blood at all. The palestinian fellahin farmers are more closely related to the biblical inhabitants.

    I also find ironic LOB’s reference to a pro-Palestinian ‘Junta’ and the appeal to uphold democracy in the West Bank and Gaza. A ‘junta’ is by definition a military led government – a definition more appropriate in describing the Israeli Government. The PLO has on its own account been consistently criticised for its un-democratic position. Its new avatar the Palestinian Authority lost an election yet its head, Mahmoud Abbas, is engaging in talks in Washington without enjoying popular support from the Palestinian people. When Fatah lost the election in Gaza the Bush administration funded an attempted coup led by Fatah military strongman Mohammed Dahlan and led the international economic and political isolation of Gaza for its rebuttal of the intended status of all Palestine as a client state of the US under Israeli control.

    Again, LOB’s irony in referring to “Their hatred for Israel and what it stands for has blinded them to a point where they no longer care about the real interests of the Palestinians, namely the need to end the anarchy and lawlessness, and to dismantle all the armed gangs that are responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians over the past few years”.

    Pure rubbish and a classic tactic of hasbara propaganda which inverts victimhood, defines true victims as aggressors, and denotes the architects of Palestinian fatalities as being the Palestinians themselves. A simple analysis would yield the facts that Israel is ‘anarchic and lawless’ in ignoring jus cogens and de facto international legal obligations, and that not hundreds but thousands of Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the last few years – far in excess of the intranecine losses. Included amongst those unfortunates are countless women and children not defined as combatants under any interpretation of the Geneva Convention.

    I also think it is an impoverished technique to suggest that educated Americans ‘hate’ Israel. Perhaps it would be fair to say that educated Americans reject Israel’s assumed exceptionalism on the basis that no civilised nation can rightly enjoy it and remain civilised let alone a valid democracy.

    The old hobby horse is wheeled out once again: “The majority of these activists openly admit that they have never visited Israel or the Palestinian territories………..Arab and Jewish parents who wake up in the morning just want to send their children to school and go to work before returning home safely and happily”. This implies that no-one who has not visited Palestine can have a valid opinion – untrue. The aspiration to happiness of both ‘Arab and Jewish parents’ should be weighed carefully against the disparity between the two groups ability to actually achieve it, and the degree of control exerted over Palestinian ‘happiness’ by the ruthless occupation exerted by an Israeli military dictatorship.

    It is further understandable in that context that Palestinian textbooks allegedly don’t promote peace and coexistence ,(I haven’t seen one so I don’t know), since peace and coexistence is not the main goal. An independent Palestinian state is however, and any coexistence with a hostile occupying military force is anathema to that desired status. Resistance, written or otherwise, is understandable. Does any sane person actually expect the palestinian people to sing the praises of their oppressors?

    LOB wheels out the ‘Jihad’ bogeyman once again, suggesting that American campuses are hotbeds of Islamic fundamentalism. Any rigorous study of the concept of Jihad will inform the reader that it is not an available option for Ivy League Protestants/Baptists etc. The suggestion of the proliferation of Jihad in American universities, (or anywhere else for that matter), is nothing more than the hypocritical stoking of Islamophobia, a movement in the west alarmingly similar in its overtures to anti-Semitism, both of which are anachronistic and prejudicial fear-based mind-sets which have historically led to mass slaughters such as in Poland, Iraq, Bosnia and Palestine.

    LOB attacks us Australians off course – conscientious Australian objectors to Israel’s war crimes in Palestine are lumped in with this motley crew of suicide bombers and Jew haters – complete nonsense and unsubstantive, speculative mischief!

    LOB’s comments serve only one purpose and that is to encourage the reader to look beyond the calculated musings of professional Zionist journalists and check the facts for oneself and research the basis for the growing BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS MOVEMENT AGAINST APARTHEID ISRAEL.

    This movement has already been dubbed the ‘new anti-Semitism’ by those desperate to prevent Israel’s ‘uncontrollable descent into a pariah state’, (to quote Noam Chomsky – Hopes and Prospects), so beware the new generation of apologists and their weasel words………

    See http://www.byronbaycommunitymarket.com

  14. loewdabulla says:

    Given thaqt NO islamic state has any human rights whatsoever, idon’t think I’l be jumping on any meretricious bandwagons here.
    On Campus: The Pro-Palestinians’ Real Agenda
    by Khaled Abu Toameh
    March 24, 2009 at 6:45 am

    http://www.hudson-ny.org/424/on-campus-the-pro-palestinians-real-agenda

    Print Send Comment RSS Share

    During a recent visit to several university campuses in the U.S., I discovered that there is more sympathy for Hamas there than there is in Ramallah.

    Listening to some students and professors on these campuses, for a moment I thought I was sitting opposite a Hamas spokesman or a would-be-suicide bomber.

    I was told, for instance, that Israel has no right to exist, that Israel’s “apartheid system” is worse than the one that existed in South Africa and that Operation Cast Lead was launched only because Hamas was beginning to show signs that it was interested in making peace and not because of the rockets that the Islamic movement was launching at Israeli communities.

    I was also told that top Fatah operative Marwan Barghouti, who is serving five life terms in prison for masterminding terror attacks against Israeli civilians, was thrown behind bars simply because he was trying to promote peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

    Furthermore, I was told that all the talk about financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority was “Zionist propaganda” and that Yasser Arafat had done wonderful things for his people, including the establishment of schools, hospitals and universities.

    The good news is that these remarks were made only by a minority of people on the campuses who describe themselves as “pro-Palestinian,” although the overwhelming majority of them are not Palestinians or even Arabs or Muslims.

    The bad news is that these groups of hard-line activists/thugs are trying to intimidate anyone who dares to say something that they don’t like to hear.

    When the self-designated “pro-Palestinian” lobbyists are unable to challenge the facts presented by a speaker, they resort to verbal abuse.

    On one campus, for example, I was condemned as an “idiot” because I said that a majority of Palestinians voted for Hamas in the January 2006 election because they were fed up with financial corruption in the Palestinian Authority.

    On another campus, I was dubbed as a “mouthpiece for the Zionists” because I said that Israel has a free media. There was another campus where someone told me that I was a ‘liar” because I said that Barghouti was sentenced to five life terms because of his role in terrorism.

    And then there was the campus (in Chicago) where I was “greeted” with swastikas that were painted over posters promoting my talk. The perpetrators, of course, never showed up at my event because they would not be able to challenge someone who has been working in the field for nearly 30 years.

    What struck me more than anything else was the fact that many of the people I met on the campuses supported Hamas and believed that it had the right to “resist the occupation” even if that meant blowing up children and women on a bus in downtown Jerusalem.

    I never imagined that I would need police protection while speaking at a university in the U.S. I have been on many Palestinian campuses in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and I cannot recall one case where I felt intimidated or where someone shouted abuse at me.

    Ironically, many of the Arabs and Muslims I met on the campuses were much more understanding and even welcomed my “even-handed analysis” of the Israeli-Arab conflict. After all, the views I voiced were not much different than those made by the leaderships both in Israel and the Palestinian Authority. These views include support for the two-state solution and the idea of coexistence between Jews and Arabs in this part of the world.

    The so-called pro-Palestinian “junta” on the campuses has nothing to offer other than hatred and de-legitimization of Israel. If these folks really cared about the Palestinians, they would be campaigning for good government and for the promotion of values of democracy and freedom in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

    Their hatred for Israel and what it stands for has blinded them to a point where they no longer care about the real interests of the Palestinians, namely the need to end the anarchy and lawlessness, and to dismantle all the armed gangs that are responsible for the death of hundreds of innocent Palestinians over the past few years.

    The majority of these activists openly admit that they have never visited Israel or the Palestinian territories. They don’t know -and don’t want to know – that Jews and Arabs here are still doing business together and studying together and meeting with each other on a daily basis because they are destined to live together in this part of the world. They don’t want to hear that despite all the problems life continues and that ordinary Arab and Jewish parents who wake up in the morning just want to send their children to school and go to work before returning home safely and happily.

    What is happening on the U.S. campuses is not about supporting the Palestinians as much as it is about promoting hatred for the Jewish state. It is not really about ending the “occupation” as much as it is about ending the existence of Israel.

    Many of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials I talk to in the context of my work as a journalist sound much more pragmatic than most of the anti-Israel, “pro-Palestinian” folks on the campuses.

    Over the past 15 years, much has been written and said about the fact that Palestinian school textbooks don’t promote peace and coexistence and that the Palestinian media often publishes anti-Israel material.

    While this may be true, there is no ignoring the fact that the anti-Israel campaign on U.S. campuses is not less dangerous. What is happening on these campuses is not in the frame of freedom of speech. Instead, it is the freedom to disseminate hatred and violence. As such, we should not be surprised if the next generation of jihadists comes not from the Gaza Strip or the mountains and mosques of Pakistan and Afghanistan, but from university campuses across the US.”

    And, I would add, from Australia and the websites of some Australians. Like this one.

  15. South African study finds that Israel is practicing colonialism and apartheid in the Occupied Palestinian Territory

    AL-HAQ PRESS RELEASE
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
    REF.: 22.2009E
    4 June 2009

    For the past 15 months, Al-Haq has been involved in an extensive legal study that has culminated in the publication of a report entitled Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law.

    Funded by the South African Department of Foreign Affairs, the study was commissioned by the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa (HSRC). In early 2008, the HSRC assembled a team of scholars and practitioners of public international law from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Ireland, the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and Israel to examine the suggestion made in the 2007 report of eminent South African jurist John Dugard, in his capacity as UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, that Israel’s practices in the OPT had assumed characteristics of colonialism and apartheid.

    The resulting 300-page report—constituting an exhaustive review of Israel’s practices in the OPT according to definitions of colonialism and apartheid provided by international law—has been posted for public debate on the HSRC website, to be finalised for full publication in book form later this year. It will form the basis for a discussion at an upcoming HSRC conference, Re-envisioning Israel/Palestine, from 12-14 June 2009 in Cape Town, in which Al-Haq will participate.

    Findings of the study regarding colonialism

    Examining Israel’s practices in the OPT in relation to the prohibition of colonialism in international law—as set down in the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples (1960) and other legal instruments—the study concludes that:

    Five issues, which are unlawful in themselves, taken together make it evident that Israel’s rule in the OPT has assumed such a colonial character: namely, violations of the territorial integrity of occupied territory; depriving the population of occupied territory of the capacity for self-governance; integrating the economy of occupied territory into that of the occupant; breaching the principle of permanent sovereignty over natural resources in relation to the occupied territory; and denying the population of occupied territory the right freely to express, develop and practice its culture. […] Professor Dugard suggested that elements of the occupation resembled colonialism. This study demonstrates that the implementation of a colonial policy by Israel has not been piecemeal but is systematic and comprehensive, as the exercise of the Palestinian population’s right to self-determination has been frustrated in all of its principal modes of expression.

    Findings of the study regarding apartheid

    As the most egregious form of racial discrimination, the practice of apartheid is clearly proscribed by customary international law, and its prohibition is established as a norm of jus cogens. Article 3 of International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination prohibits the practice of apartheid. Subsequent legal instruments, primarily in the forms of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, developed the norm against the practice of apartheid and provide further elaboration of its definition in international law. The core element of the definition of apartheid is the systematic, institutionalised, and oppressive character of the discrimination involved, and the purpose of domination that it entails. This is what distinguishes the practice of apartheid from other forms of prohibited discrimination. Apartheid also inherently amounts to a denial of the right to self-determination. The precedent of South African apartheid in Namibia demonstrates that apartheid may be practiced by a state beyond its own borders.

    Israel has acted in violation of this prohibition in the OPT by establishing a system of racial domination over the Palestinians through its fragmentation of the OPT, and the creation of separate reserves for Jewish and Palestinian groups therein, which is buttressed by severe restrictions on the Palestinian rights to freedom of movement and residence. This system further encompasses institutionalised discrimination against Palestinians in favour of Jewish-Israeli settlers in the enjoyment of a panoply of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights, as well as a matrix of draconian security laws and policies which subject opponents of Israel‘s regime of domination to, inter alia, extrajudicial executions, torture and arbitrary detention. Central to the conclusion is the finding that the ‘inhuman acts’ detailed are being committed by Israel in the OPT do not occur in random or isolated instances, but as integrated and complementary elements of an institutionalised and oppressive system of Israeli domination and oppression over Palestinians as a group; that is, a system of apartheid.

    The study thus establishes Israeli state responsibility for the practice of apartheid in the OPT. Its scope did not extend to addressing individual responsibility for the crime of apartheid, one of a number of topics recommended for further study.

    Legal Consequences and Recommendations
    On the basis of the above findings, the report states that:

    The conclusion that Israel has breached the international legal prohibitions of apartheid and colonialism in the OPT suggests that the occupation itself is illegal on these grounds. The legal consequences of these findings are grave and entail obligations not merely for Israel but also for the international community as a whole.

    Bearing the primary responsibility for the illegal situation it has created, Israel is bound to cease its unlawful activity and dismantle the structures and institutions of colonialism and apartheid that it has created. Israel is additionally required by international law to implement duties of reparation, compensation and satisfaction in order to eliminate the consequences of its unlawful acts.

    Both Israel and the international community are bound to promote the Palestinian people’s exercise of its right of self-determination in order that it might freely determine its political status and freely pursue its own economic policy and social and cultural development. Third States are further bound under the principles of public international law to cooperate to bring to an end Israel’s practices of colonialism and apartheid, to abstain from recognising the illegal situations brought about by those practices, and not to aid or assist the maintenance of such illegal situations. States cannot evade these international legal obligations by hiding behind the independent personality of an international organisation of which they are members. Further, the responsibilities incumbent on Israel and third States are unconditional and unaltered by any political negotiations occurring at a given time.

    Towards the goal of further clarifying the issues addressed, the study concludes by recommending that an advisory opinion be sought from the International Court of Justice on the following question:

    Do the policies and practices of Israel within the Occupied Palestinian Territories violate the norms prohibiting apartheid and colonialism; and, if so, what are the legal consequences arising from Israel’s policies and practices, considering the rules and principles of international law, including the International Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid, the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples, UN General Assembly Resolution 1514 (1960), the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, and other relevant Security Council and General Assembly resolutions?

  16. Film: Return to Gaza says:

    Return to gaza

    Full poster at http://bushtelegraph.files.wordpress.com/2010/11/return-to-gaza.pdf

    Mon 29 Nov 2010 Return to Gaza – screening + Q&A

    Fresh from the Australian premiere at the Gold Coast Film Festival, Michael Weatherhead’s startling new film, Return To Gaza screens in Byron Bay.

    Return to Gaza features the well-known Australian musician Fetah Sabawi (Superheist, Jericco) who dreams of going back to Gaza to live.read more

  17. Let’s ignore the false claims proposed by Palestinian Holocaust denier Les Einhorn and steer the discussion back to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel, a movement gaining unstoppable momentum as we waste time addressing the complaints of those in denial of the truth.

    The BDS movement exists for very tangible reasons based on observed facts previously raised by the original media release, Gareth Smith and countless other reliable reports recent among which is the the UN Flotilla Report which can be found here: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrcouncil/docs/15session/A.HRC.15.21_en.pdf

    This report verifies the claim that Israel violated international law in boarding and attacking an aid ship Mavi Marmara. It includes descriptions of summary executions, theft of personal property including cash intended for Gazans, and inhumane treatment of detainees for which at least one IDF soldier has been jailed (for stealing and pawning laptops belonging to the ship’s company).

    These actions are mere trifles compared to the well documented and demonstrably appalling conditions imposed by Israel on the people of Gaza. A 2008 report from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) describes the situation in Gaza as an humanitarian crisis – a position denied by Israel’s government:
    http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2010/05/20105319333613851.html

    A cursory look at the UNRWA archives give oxygen to the claims of destruction of schools: “Gaza priorities, programmes and initiatives 2010”: http://www.unrwa.org/userfiles/2010042653732.pdf
    Adopt a school – a program designed to rebuild shools:
    http://www.unrwa.org/etemplate.php?id=638
    Gazan children traumatized:
    http://www.alarabiya.net/articles/2010/02/05/99435.html

    More disturbing still is the lobbying by Jewish American Zionist’s to curtail UNRWA spending in Gaza because of ‘Holocaust Denial’ in the school curriculum:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hamas–UNRWA_Holocaust_dispute
    This in light of the fact that 80% of Gazan’s are dependent on UN handouts which have actually halved since 1975!
    http://www.unrwa.org/etemplate.php?id=731

    Recently documents obtained from the Israeli government by human rights group Gisha demonstrate a deliberate policy of using the siege to starve Gaza’s inhabitants – (quote): “The documents reveal a deliberate policy by the Israeli government in which the dietary needs for the population of Gaza are chillingly calculated, and the amounts of food let in by the Israeli government measured to remain just enough to keep the population alive at a near-starvation level. This documents the statement made by a number of Israeli officials that they are “putting the people of Gaza on a diet”. And further: “The documents reveal that the state approved ‘a policy of deliberate reduction’ for basic goods in the Gaza Strip (section h.4, page 5*). Thus, for example, Israel restricted the supply of fuel needed for the power plant, disrupting the supply of electricity and water”. (unquote)
    http://rbefoundation.com/grouptopic.php?f=670&t=2955
    http://www.gisha.org/index.php?intLanguage=2&intItemId=1904&intSiteSN=113

    I have quoted published documentation above from reliable sources such as UNRWA, UN and in the last case the Israeli government itself. This is not propaganda and cannot be refuted by the Einhorns of this world. These documents irrefutably support Gareth Smith’s reporting of the facts and provide a clear moral basis for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel until it submits to international law.

    No amount of denial will alter the reality of the situation and each one of us has a moral duty not to allow Israel’s apologists to prevail in their attempt to cover up the physical and cultural genocide of the Palestinian people
    by Israel. If we do not resist it we are complicit in it.

  18. Gareth Smith says:

    Les Einhorn approached Workers’ Bush Telegraph (WBT) explicitly to stop my comments from being published. He did not engage with what I said at all but simply mounted an ad hominem attack behind my back….as he thought. His email was addressed to the blog and as such was a public comment; this has exposed a very familiar Zionist tactic. Zionists shun debate but rather seek to work behind the scenes making sure our media presents only what is acceptable to the Israeli government. Thus the ABC, for example, changed its mind from planning to screen “Hope in a Slingshot” to banning it. Mr Einhorn has tried it on with WBT and failed thanks to the integrity of editor Ian Curr. Has he sought to have my comments banned from other publications? For example, I cannot get a letter published in the Sydney Morning Herald so is the hand of Mr Einhorn’s mate Vic Alhadeff of the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies behind this or am I being paranoid?
    It’s worth noting that when I spoke out on Jonson Street in Byron Bay on December 10, 2009-Human Rights Day-I was threatened by two ex-Israel Defence Force soldiers. One told me that were we back in Israel and he had his gun he would kill me. He repeated this to astonished police officers who had been summoned because of my “offensive comments”. This event was published in the Byron Echo but not one letter was published from the Jewish community condemning this assault on free speech, not one beep out of Les Einhorn or Mr Alhadeff! My challenge to debate him on Gaza remains unanswered, so now he must either put up or shut up.

  19. Would it be appropriate, given Les Einhorn’s apparent unconditional support for a rogue state that breaches international statutes with impunity, to include his computer business in the boycott? I refer specifically to the sentence in the original media release that included the phrase ‘non violent, punitive resistance’. Surely, if Mr.Einhorn wishes to sweep Israel’s crimes under the carpet by declaring Gareth Smith’s comments to be erroneous, he should advance beyond the merely unapologetic posture of denial and simply refute the claims with undeniable evidence to the contrary. Simple denial in the public sphere is usually an admission of guilt. I applaud Gareth’s academic rigour, and demand nothing less from those pretending to meet his standards of research and personal ethics.

  20. Gareth Smith says:

    Israel Uber Alles!
    “To repress Palestinian resistance, a senior Israeli officer in early 2002 urged the army “analyse and internalise the lessons of… how the German army fought in the Warsaw ghetto”. Judging by Israeli carnage in the West Bank culminating in Operation Defensive Shield-the targeting of Palestinian ambulances and medical personnel, the targeting of journalists, the killing of Palestinian children “for sport” (Chris Hedges New York Times former Cairo bureau chief), the rounding up, handcuffing and blindfolding of Palestinian males between the ages of 15 and 50, and the fixing of numbers on their wrists, the indiscriminate torture of Palestinian detainees, the denial of food, water, electricity, medical treatment and burial to the Palestinian civilian population, the indiscriminate air assaults on some Palestinian neighbourhoods, the systematic use of Palestinian civilians as human shields, the bulldozing of Palestinian homes with the occupants huddled inside-it appears that the Israeli army followed the officer’s advice. When the offensive, supported by fully 90% of Israelis, was finally over, 500 Palestinians were dead (including more than 70 children) and 1,500 wounded more than 8,000 Palestinians detained in mass round-ups had been subjected to ill-treatment (and sometimes torture), more than 3,000 dwellings were demolished (sometimes with the residents still inside) leaving over 13,000 Palestinians homeless, while the already devastated Palestinian economy suffered more than $350 million in direct property losses.” Finkelstein, Norman G., Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict, second edition, Verso, 2003

  21. Gareth Smith says:

    Thanks to Henry di Suvero for suggesting a debate between Mr Einhorn and myself. For my part I gladly accept the prospect of debating Mr Einhorn and, with the exception of the following dates (Nov 29, Dec 1,6-16), I look forward to meeting him: Venue: The Southern Cross University room, Byron Community Centre. Time: 7pm. I shall forward this to Mr Einhorn just in case he fails to read it here.

  22. Henry di Suvero says:

    I know both Gareth Smith and Les Einhorn. Les finds Gareth’s statements offend the racial villification laws. His real complaint is that they are erroneous. The best way to expose error is to engage in discourse, in the free marketplace of ideas. Gareth invites Les to debate his statements in public. Les is very smart and has a wonderful voice. Gareth too, is very smart and also has a wonderful voice. It would be a great debate with a big turnout. I’m looking forward to Les accepting Gareth’s offer. Henry di Suvero, Byron Bay.

  23. anti-apartheid quote says:

    “… until the Israeli and Zionist movement is prepared to accept that Palestinians have a place in their (own!) country as equal citizens, there can be no peace – there should be no peace!

    The solution in South Africa was precisely NOT to accept separate black states, but to reject that “solution” for the lie that it was.” —Allan Boesak, Professor Extraordinaire at the University of Stellenbosch and Farid Esack, Professor at the University of Johannesburg.

  24. I write in support of Gareth Smith’s comments, which are quite capable of withstanding analysis, and further challenge Mr.Einhorn to pursue his allegations in the Australian legal system, or beyond.

    Perhaps a cursory study of the so called ‘racial vilification’ laws would reveal that criticism of Israel is not racist in any way for the simple fact that Israel is not an ‘ethnic’ entity.

    25% of its citizens are Arabs for example and ‘Israeli’ is not an nationality option on an Israeli identity card. Israeli, by definition, is neither a ‘race’ nor a nationality so we can put the racial vilification concept aside once and for all.

    On the other hand Israel deserves to be ‘vilified’ for its appalling record of breaches of a number of international legal instruments not limited to the Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, The Hague Convention, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United nations International Law of the Sea, The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflict to name but a few.

    If Les Einhorn wishes for his day in court, may I suggest the Hague?

    [ Editor’s note: for more info see
    Byron bay Community Market]

  25. Gareth Smith says:

    How long will it take Mr Einhorn to contact me first instead of making threats of legal action behind my back, after all we both live in Byron Bay?

    Why doesn’t he respond to my and Duncan Shipley-Smith’s letters on this topic in the Byron Echo?

    Clearly, Mr Einhorn feels threatened by a wider public becoming aware of Israel’s iniquitous behaviour, not just in Gaza but throughout the Palestinian Occupied Territories and in Israel itself.

    He threatens legal action against the Bush Telegraph but he ought to widen his scope and include such notables as Antony Loeweinstein, Justice Richard Goldstone, Richard Falk and Hedy Epstein.

    Take us all to court, Les, bring it on, we’d value the publicity!

  26. Hello Les,

    Please advise:

    1) Where is the inaccuracy you speak of?
    2) How am I the publisher?
    3) What legal action are you threatening?

    Ian Curr
    Nov 2010

  27. Les Einhorn says:

    This comment was originally addressed to Workers BushTelegraph (read by me on 14 Nov 2010).

    The author subsequently stated it was addressed to me personally and should not be published.

    Accordingly, I have removed the comment at Les Einhorn’s request.

    Ian Curr
    Editor
    Workers BushTelegraph
    25 Nov 2010

  28. loewdabulla says:

    The lone Arab soldier

    His best friends cut ties with him, his fiancé left him and he still gets cursed in the street. But Hisham Abu Varia does not regret becoming the first Arab-Israeli IDF officer. ‘You must give back to the country you live off,’ he says

    Yana Pevzner Published: 10.13.10, 20:26 / Israel News
    share

    Nothing appears unusual with the officer seated in the car on the way to Sakhnin. No one would guess that the redheaded man, a second lieutenant, is not your average soldier. Nothing can disclose the fact that Hisham Abu Varia is a Muslim and that we’re driving to his hometown.

    “Isn’t it a problem for you to enter the city with your uniform?,” I ask him, as we near the city’s entrance.

    On the last Land Day, 60,000 people attended a mass rally here and waved flags of Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah and assassinated commaner Imad Mughniyeh.

    “I come in here with my uniform and weapon and they respect me,” he answers. “I’m only afraid during Land Day and don’t do it. In my neighborhood, Wadi Safa, each person lives his life and has his own opinions. They can’t bear extremists.”

    Hisham Abu Varia was born 26 years ago to Khaled, a building contractor and Hania, a housewife – parents to 14 children. At the age of 10 he was already busy doing manual work, from fruit picking to construction work. After high school he worked for two years installing roofs. He gave his earnings to his parents who paid for his brother’s medicine studies in Russia.

    “I didn’t really have a childhood,” he says, not the least bit sentimental. “Now I’m making up for it. I allow myself to have fun.”

    The decision to join the army started as a child’s impulse. One of his brothers-in-law had been taking him to IDF ceremonies. Abu Varia loved looking at the soldiers standing neatly in rows and after seeing the tank exhibition in Rahat he decided he wanted to become part of the Israel Defense Forces. He was 23 at the time and worked as a teacher.

    Hisham was also inspired by one of his older brothers – the first of the family to join the army and among the few Arab-Israelis to complete three years of service. “He was a role model to me and many others because of his integrity and conviction to do what he thought was right. A brave man not influenced by other people’s opinions.” Sadly, Hisham’s brother died of a sudden heart attack a year ago.

    At his home we are greeted by Hisham’s father and one of his brothers. The mother, a diabetic who is still mourning the loss of her son, got out of bed to shake our hands as we entered the living room. On the room’s walls are pictures of the family and a hand-made embroidery showcasing the 99 names of Allah in gold letters.

    ‘Arabs influenced by radicals’
    “The army is the entry pass into the Israeli society,” Hisham explains. “The Arab sector thinks it’s second rate here, but to get privileges one has to give and not just receive. The state protects its citizens even if they don’t serve – my parents live off income support. You must contribute to the country you live off. What other country would have an Arab Knesset member, who is being paid by the state, promoting the interests of the Islamic movement and screwing the promotion of the sector it is supposed to represent?”

    Many people think the State discriminates against the Arabs.

    “The Arab sector is like a herd. It doesn’t think by itself and is affected by various radical movements. Most youngsters don’t have anything to do with themselves. They run around the streets, wasting their time and that’s only if they finished school. Service in the army is educating, it gives you structure, order – that’s what young people are missing here.”

    When I ask how his parents responded to his choice, Hisham’s father Khaled replies: “I pushed him to do it,” but Hisham corrects: “My father had reservations in the beginning, but I knew what I wanted. Most Arab enlisters sign up not in order to serve but because they are fed up with their lives. They have no clue what an army is,” he says and notes most drop out. “They didn’t expect it to be hard or either couldn’t handle the peer pressure.”

    Did you get harsh responses outside the family?

    “Not too many. Swears here and there, but mostly from kids. People here accept it and even ask my dad how to talk their kids into enlisting.”

    But while Hisham is being photographed his brother tells a different story. “It wasn’t easy for him. He was very close to dropping out six months into it. His best friends cut contact with him and the girl he wanted to marry left him,” he says and adds he wasn’t in favor of his brother’s choice. However, when Hisham decided that’s what he wanted, his brother stood by him. “A person must follow his heart,” he says. He then becomes quiet, smoking his cigarette. “Say, why don’t you do a story about our problems – how we live here, our difficulties, our deprivation?”

    ‘I Always wanted to learn Hebrew.’ Hisham in Sakhnin

    After the shoot is over Hisham says that the few Arabs who join the army take off their uniform before they enter the city. “I was also afraid at first. The Arab sector has a lot of potential in terms of enlistment but there are two obstacles: The Islamic movement and the social obstacle, the pressure from the environment. I also get looks in the street.

    “Three of my best friends, who went through school with me, turned their backs on me. It was too hard to bear. If the army made the whole sector enlist, many would do it, if not all.”

    Hisham’s parents set two conditions. “That if I join the army I won’t quit and that first of all I get my BA. So I went to study what you Jews don’t study and don’t know – Hebrew language,” he says laughing. “And Middle Eastern studies.”

    Why Hebrew of all languages?

    “Since the age of six I wanted to learn the language. I love it. I also know Aramaic,” he adds. “During officers’ course we were sent to guard communities in Shvut Rachel and were invited to take part in a Passover seder. The hosts had no idea of my background and there I was sitting at the table reading from the haggadah. When they realized who I was they stood up and applauded me.”

    This population is very hostile to the Arab sector.

    “They don’t hate the Arab-Israelis but those outside Israel who want to do harm. In any case I was brought up to respect any place I am a guest in. I came there for a military assignment and I performed it to the best of my ability.”

    And how did the soldiers welcome you?

    “Most of my company consisted of religious guys. At first they thought I was a Druze, and when I said I was from Sakhnin they were shocked and asked me what I was doing there.”

    What did you say?

    “That it was my right and that I was capable. I also gave a whole lecture about factions within Judaism. I studied up on the Hassidic movement and haredim for an entire week. It was very interesting. I got an honorary notation.

    ‘Life altering visit’
    Recently Hisham returned from a visit to Poland, where he toured the Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration camps. He became the first Arab-Israeli to visit Poland as part of an IDF program.

    “I knew the word Holocaust, I knew that the Nazis murdered Jews but nothing more than that,” he admits. “In Majdanek there was a moment I thought that all those involved in the Jewish-Arab conflict should come here to see what was done to the Jewish people and leave them alone.”

    In Birkenau, he says, he asked to pray in Arabic. “I had chills all over my body. I asked God to have mercy on all the victims. I didn’t expect what I saw there. An oven which was loaded with two men and a woman, because the woman had more fat, making it burn better.

    Crematorium in Auschwitz (Photo: AP)

    “I kept asking myself where was everyone? Where was the United States, the Arab countries? If the Germans had won the Arabs would have been murdered as well. I saw the photos of the victims and felt part of them. There was a Holocaust survivor with us who showed us where she was raped, where all her family had been murdered before her very eyes. She cried and we cried with her. It was a life altering visit.”

    Later in the day we visit Hisham’s close friend Ghaleb, owner of the peace restaurant in Sakhnin. “It’s natural in the sector that if someone goes to the army or the police he is viewed as a traitor,” he explains. “They might not tell it to your face but that’s what they feel.”

    Before we part ways, I ask Hisham about his plans for the future. “To reach the highest rank I can,” he answers without hesitation, “and the get my masters in anthropology. It’s because of the service. In the army everyone is equal, but there is no other place that gathers such different people with such different cultural backgrounds who still manage to live together. That’s what interests me the most.”

    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3968706,00.html

  29. Gareth Smith says:

    Film screening “Return to Gaza
    Byron Theatre 29th Nov
    Press Release – One Planet Films
    Award-winning documentary ‘Return To Gaza’ by local crew screens in Byron.

    Tickets: Ph 02 6685 6807, http://www.byroncentre.com.au or at the door.

    Producer, Chantal Denoux, 0419 808 808, CD@denouxfilms.net
    Director, Michael Weatherhead, 0412 637766, soultrek@bigpond.com
    Website, http://www.returntogaza.com
    Promotion, Duncan Shipley Smith, Electric Forest Productions’
    02 66882350


    Byron Shire to become sister city to Gaza?
    Byron Shire appears to have no sister city unlike Nimbin (Woodstock), Ballina (Ballina, Eire) or the Gold Coast (Dubai and 11 others!). Let us twin with Gaza.

    Gaza and Byron have some things in common: both are seaside towns, are densely populated (in Summer Byron township has around 1.6 million visitors while Gaza’s is 1.5 million year round) and a link exists between Gareth Smith, Byron resident and member of the Australian delegation to the Gaza Freedom March, December 2009. Byron has a strong tradition of humanistic and environmental concern with residents who have participated in peace, anti-uranium, and anti-coal protests and whale protection, for example.

    Gaza is the world’s biggest outdoor prison. It was battered by economic sanctions after the internationally supervised election returned Hamas and was then subjected to the Israeli blitzkrieg “Operation Cast Lead” which bombed schools, clinics, mosques, police stations, homes, water and sewerage treatment plants and electricity generating plants. 1,400 people were killed and countless more left injured and deeply traumatised (including about 40,000 children).

    The Israeli siege of Gaza has resulted in a chronic lack of medicines, clean water, building materials, school books etc-they need our help desperately! Gaza/Byron working together!

  30. Asalam’alaikom & hello 🙂

    Just letting everyone know that “Return to Gaza” is being shown at the Gold Coast Film Festival this weekend. The details are as follows:

    AUSTRALIAN PREMIERE of the controversial Documentary ‘RETURN TO GAZA’, at the Gold Coast Film Festival 2010

    WHEN: Sunday 14 November 2010 at 4.30pm
    WHERE: Australia Fair Birch Carroll and Coyle Cinemas

    FOLLOWED BY Q & A with main ‘cast’ and well known musician Fetah Sabawi (Superheist, Jericco) and Director Michael Weatherhead

    For more details please click on the link below.

    http://australiansforpalestine.com/31954

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VelHixUXcsE&feature=player_embedded]

    Kind regards

    Kathryn

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