December 6, 2012 § 1 Comment
On the evening of November 29th, 2012 the Bethlehem streets became increasingly raucous as we continued to watch through the United Nations General Assembly on the upgrade of Palestine’s status from non-member “entity” to non-member “state.” By the time of the third post-vote speech, we couldn’t handle it anymore and took to the streets by car in order to survey the action. Festive, but not overly so – traffic filled the roads, horns honked, youth hung from the windows with the Palestinian flag or the iconic kuffiyeh flapping in the wind.
Earlier, a very symbolic screening of the UN bid was projected onto the Wall. I heard from one bystander that an Israeli soldier sitting in the watchtower above the crowd opened his window to take a photo at the spectators below – an unheard of interaction. Images of Ramallah’s central square were filmed by all local and international news channels, but circulating reports claimed that a significant portion of the attendees were civilian police or government employees. In Bethlehem, the Palestinian Authority security forces were on the streets primed to restrain potential demonstrations – as usual during politically charged moments – carefully keeping out of sight from Israel’s Wall (and the soldiers stationed in the turrets) that winds through the Northern portions of the city.
Despite being pleased with the symbolic victory, massive international support and receiving deserved attention, the Palestinians I spoke to exuded a restrained excitement conditioned by experience.
November 29, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The potential of Palestine becoming a United Nations non-member observer state, but a state, nonetheless, is eliciting a similar feeling of excitement in the West Bank that local elections produced here in October (on a slightly larger scale, mind you). Both moments pose opportunities for change and a cause for celebration, but are illegitimate representations of Palestinians’ will – a play at politics that undercuts fundamental rights.
Mahmoud Abbas’ pursuit of UN upgrades last year and today, representing both the PLO and PA, deepens a binary Oslo-ization begun in the 1990s. The deeply faulty process towards ‘statehood’ forgoes Palestinian self-determination by dispossessing Palestinian refugees originating from Israel proper (the vast majority of 6.8 million refugees) and Palestinian citizens of Israel (1.5 million). Secondly, pursuing statehood risks further institutionalizing the pseudo-sovereignty that has become the status quo within the West Bank and Gaza Strip – Israel will continue to partition the West Bank into enclaves of PA jurisdiction while extracting resources, transplanting its settler population and perpetuating the structural and naked violence of occupation; as was witnessed last week, the people of Gaza will continue to live under siege and a constant threat of violence.
November 18, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Hebron’s old city (H1 and H2) is one of the most obvious manifestations of Israel’s apartheid system. In cities such as Nazareth, Yaffa, Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Beer al Saba (Beer Sheva) institutionalized racial segregation may not seem apparent. In Hebron, racism is in-your-face blatant.
On saturday 10 November, Israeli soldiers secured the old city streets of Hebron for settlers who took part in what is a weekly tour. Brona McDonald recorded the audio of a speech delivered by a settler tour guide to dozens of Hebron settlers and their visitors (not always Israeli, and often Jewish-American visitors). The full-text of the tour guide’s speech is transcribed at the end of this post.
According to a report, the leading Rabbi of the Israeli Shas party gave a speech in Hebron 8 days after the speech documented below, on 18 November, during which he said: “The IDF must learn from the Syrians how to slaughter and crush the enemy,” referring to the war on Gaza.
Five Israeli settlements have been built in the West Bank city of Hebron, currently home to approximately 500 settlers. 2000 Israeli Defense Soldiers guard these settlers. In addition to 500 settlers and 150,000 Palestinians living in the city, Hebron is home to the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) – a site holy to Jews, Muslims and Christians. In 1929, 59 Jews were massacred in the city by Palestinians. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 Palestinian Muslims in prayer.
Today, the city is divided in half by illegal settlements whose residents have transformed the spatial orientation of the city and, along with the Israeli soldiers, are purveyors of daily structural and direct violence.
November 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Farid Esack’s open letter to the Palestinian People is painted across the Segregation/Apartheid/Separation Wall in Palestine. His letter and the video below provide the inspiration for the title of this blog. In “the writing’s on the Wall,” I will post my publications and writings focusing on human rights, spatial justice and decolonization.
“My dear Palestinian brothers and sisters,*
I have come to your land and I have recognized shades of my own. My land was once one where some people imagined that they could build their security on the insecurity of others. They claimed that their lighter skin and European origins gave them the right to dispossess those of a darker skin who lived in the land for thousands of years. I come from a land where a group of people, the Afrikaners, were genuinely hurt by the British. The British despised them and placed many of them into concentration camps. Nearly a sixth of their population perished.
Then the Afrikaners said, “Never again!” And they meant that never again will harm come unto them with no regard to how their own humanity was tied to that of others. In their hurt they developed an understanding of being God’s chosen people destined to inhabit a Promised Land. And thus they occupied the land, other people’s land, and they built their security on the insecurity of black people. Later they united with the children of their former enemies — now called “the English.” The new allies, known simply as “whites,” pitted themselves against the blacks who were forced to pay the terrible price of dispossession, exploitation and marginalization as a result of a combination of white racism, Afrikaner fears and ideas of chosen-ness. And, of course, there was the ancient crime of simple greed.
I come from apartheid South Africa.
November 1, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I have previously participated in Movember, typified by revelry and narcissism. The quotation below written by Frederick Engels is, in many ways, a superior motivator to the supposed good-will of the month’s event.
Of gallant gentlemen far and wide.
Brave soldiers faced their country’s foes
In brown or black mustachios.
So, in these times of martial glory,
Moustaches are obligatory.
Philistines shirk the burden of bristle
By shaving their faces as clean as a whistle.
We are not philistines, so we
Can let our mustachios flourish free.
Long life to every Christian
Who bears his moustaches like a man.
And may all philistines be damned
For having moustaches banished and banned.
October 23, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The olive harvest is a, “key economic, social and cultural event for Palestinians,” stated OCHA’s 2012 report on the annual harvest published Tuesday 16 October. The report iterated Israel’s obligation to protect Palestinians and their property while ensuring accountability when attacks occur.
In an overwhelming majority of cases, Israel has done neither.
Settlers cut down or set fire to over 870 trees during the first week of the 2012 olive harvest.
The Israeli NGO Yesh Din found that of 162 filed complaints of settler attacks since 2005, only one has led to an indictment of a suspect. Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld called the findings, “inaccurate and out of date.”
On Monday, however, a report published by the AIC catalogues the increasing intensity and frequency of settler violence in the West Bank from May to August 2012 demonstrating the, “reality that Palestinians have no one to turn to for physical protection and legal recourse.”
OCHA estimates that there are 12 million olive trees in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt), mostly in the West Bank. In total, the olive oil industry makes up 14% of the agricultural income for the oPt (1.4% of GDP) and supports the livelihoods of approximately 80,000 families, says OCHA. One third of all Palestinian women working are employed in the agricultural sector.
October 21, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Saturday’s municipal elections in the West Bank are a step in the process before holding national elections. However, the Palestinian Authority is not likely, or politically able, to unilaterally decree presidential elections as it did with local polls. Analyst Majed Nassar explains the local elections as an attempt to reaffirm the Palestinian Authority’s legitimacy and postpone Presidential elections that might unseat the traditional power-holder. Furthermore, Saturday’s vote furthered the geo-political divide between the West Bank and the Gaza Strip while discouraging reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.
Hamas has boycotted local elections that concluded Saturday evening in the West Bank and prevented voting within the Gaza Strip where it governs.
Elections were held in 93 West Bank towns and villages as candidates in another 179 localities were appointed unopposed. The Associated Press reported that Fatah won local council majorities in six towns, but lost in five others to independents and leftist parties such as the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP). Preliminary results indicate that Fatah won Hebron while losing Nablus, Jenin and Ramallah, the seat of Mahmoud Abbas’ government. Hebron’s voter turnout was 33.7%, reflecting the tangibility of Hamas’ call for a boycott in the pro-Hamas city, reportedMa’an. The Central Elections Commission will release official results later on Sunday.