March 23, 2011
BREAKING NEWS: BOYCOTT OF ISRAEL VICTORY – Historic moment for movement to boycott of Israel
Check out: http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1523
Today, setting a worldwide precedent in the academic boycott of Israel, the University of Johannesburg (UJ) has effectively severed ties with Israel’s Ben-Gurion University (BGU).
This was after UJ’s Senate rejected a last ditch motion by pro-Israeli lobbyists to have two separate bilateral agreements – one with a Palestinian University and another with an Israeli University. UJ chose instead to uphold its previous Senate Resolution that required taking leadership from Palestinian universities. Palestinian universities unanimously rejected any collaboration with BGU (in any form) and have come out in full support of the the academic boycott of Israel. UJ chose to respect this.
UJ is the first institution to officially sever relations with an Israeli university – a landmark moment in the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israel campaign. Throughout the campaign, academics and international human rights activists have been anticipating this decision. This boycott decision, coming from a South African institution, is of particular significance. This has set a precedent and must start a domino boycott effect!
The movement to end ties with BGU was boosted by the overwhelming support given to the UJ Petition (www.ujpetition.com) – a statement and campaign in support of UJ academics and students who were calling on their university to end its apartheid-era relationship with BGU. As the UJ senate met today, over 400 South African academics, including nine Vice-Chancellors and Deputy Vice-Chancellors, had signed the UJ Petition.
Included in the list of supporters are some of South Africa’s leading voices: Professors Neville Alexander, Kader Asmal, Allan Boesak, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Barney Pityana and Sampie Terreblanche. South Africa’s popular cartoonist Jonathan “Zapiro” Shapiro, Nobel Laureate Desmond Tutu, Bishop Rubin Phillips, former Minister Ronnie Kasrils and leading social activist Zackie Achmat also backed the campaign.
Further, over 100 internationals began to lend their support, including several prominent international scholars: Professors Judith Butler, Vijay Prashad, Michael Burawoy, Wendy Brown, Ernesto Laclau, and acclaimed British author, John Berger.
Today UJ has made history by upholding and advancing academic moral integrity. Palestinians, South Africans and the international academic and solidarity community celebrate this decisive victory in isolating Israeli apartheid and supporting freedom, dignity and justice for the Palestinian people. UJ now continues the anti-apartheid movement – against Apartheid Israel.
Also check out Ben-Gurion University Fact Sheet (below)
Taken from UNIVERSITY OF JOHANNESBURG PETITION website at http://www.ujpetition.com.
March 23, 2010
March 14, 2011
The following article is taken from the Association for Civil Rights in Israel
Abdallah Abu Rahmah to Be Released Today
Abdallah Abu Rahmah. Photo by Oren Ziv, Activestills
Abdallah Abu Rahmah, Coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee, will be released today, 15 March 2011, after 15 months in a military prison – for organizing nonviolent demonstrations.
Abu Rahmah was arrested on 10 December 2009. On 11 October 2010, Abu Rahmah was sentenced to 12 months imprisonment including time served, which would have him released from prison on 18 November 2010. Following the military prosecution’s appeal, he was kept in jail on the order of the Military Court of Appeals – which directly contradicts Israeli High Court jurisprudence on the issue, which stipulates that only in the most extenuating of circumstances is a prisoner to be kept under arrest after his term has been served. During court sessions, the military prosecution has stated that it wishes to “make an example” of Abu Rahmah.
Following his arrest, Abu Rahmah has garnered the public support of the international official community, as well as the human rights community. His case exemplifies a range of core violations of the freedom of protest of Palestinians living in the West Bank. These violations include major limitations on Palestinians’ ability to plan and organize protests of any kind, harsh crowd dispersal measures taken by the Israeli Security forces at protests in real-time, targeted arrests of protest leadership and cynical use of the military court systems for political purposes – namely to quash any resistance or civil disobedience in the West Bank.
Below is a letter, written by Abdallah Abu Rahmah while he was in prison. The letter was read on stage during the Human Rights March, 10 December 2010.
“A year ago tonight, on International Human Rights Day, our apartment in Ramallah was broken into by the Israeli military in the middle of the night, and I was torn away from my wife Majida, my daughters Luma and Layan, and my son Laith, who at the time was only 9 months old.
As the Coordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements, I was convicted of “organizing illegal demonstrations” and ‘incitement.’ The ‘illegal demonstrations’ refer to the nonviolent resistance campaign that my village has been waging for the past 6 years against Israel’s Apartheid Wall, which is being built on our land. I find it strange that the military judges could call our demonstrations illegal and charge me for participating in and organizing them, after the world’s highest legal body, the International Court of Justice in The Hague, has ruled that Israel’s wall in the Occupied Territories must be dismantled. Even the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the wall’s route in Bil’in is illegal.
Despite the occupation’s constant incitement to violence, in Bil’in we have chosen a different path. We have chosen to protest nonviolently together with Israeli and International supporters. We have chosen to carry a message of hope and real partnership between Palestinians and Israelis in the face of oppression and injustice. It is this message that the Israeli occupation is attempting to crush through its various institutions, including the military courts.
In the year that I have spent in prison, the military has carried out dozens of night raids in Bil’in, with the purpose of removing those involved in the popular struggle against the occupation. In 2010, children in Bil’in and throughout the West Bank are still being awakened in the middle of the night to find guns pointed at their heads.
My eldest daughter, Luma, was 9 years old when I was arrested. She is now 10. After my arrest, she began going to the Friday demonstrations in our village. She always carries a picture of me in her hands. The adults try to look after her, but I still worry about my little girl. I wish that she could enjoy her childhood like other children, that she could be studying and playing with her friends. But through the walls and barbed wire that separate us, I hear my daughter’s message to me, saying: ‘Baba, they cannot stop us. If they take you away, we will take your place and continue to struggle for justice.’ This is the message that I want to bring you today – from beyond the walls, the barbed wire, and the prison bars that separate Palestinians and Israelis.”
To learn more about ACRI, check out their website: http://www.acri.org.il/en/
“WORKING AROUND AMERICA”:
A NEW STRATEGY ON ISRAEL/PALESTINE
February 13, 2011
Last Friday’s vote in the UN in which the US refused to follow the other 14 members of the Security Council in condemning Israel’s ongoing settlement project – including, it should be noted, such traditionally pro-Israel stalwarts as Britain, France and even Germany and India (for whom Israel is the #2 supplier of arms, as it is with China) – revealed with international isolation into which the US has fallen. Without being pollyannish over the human rights records of the other members of the Security Council, human rights does, nevertheless, motivate the foreign policy of many countries of the world, if only because to be seen respecting human rights has become a standard of national legitimacy. Israel’s blatant violations of international law threaten the consensus upon which the international order rests, even if it is upheld in the breech.
The Security Council vote show that this is not true for the United States, whose perceived cultural and legal exceptionalism rests upon a rapidly eroding economic and military hegemony. The very message of the American vote – that we do not see ourselves subject to international law and human rights; we set the policies and rules, not the UN or international courts – sends a chill down the spine of people everywhere, especially those, such as the peoples uprising in the Middle East or those in Burma, the Congo, China and in American prisons, who cannot revolt yet hold out hope that struggles for human rights will eventually each them.
The American vote sent yet another, more concrete message: the United States simply cannot deliver on a just peace in Israel/Palestine. Assuming that Obama, Gates, perhaps Clinton and certainly Petraeus “get it,” that they understand that Israel’s occupation is unsustainable and only isolates the US in the international community, then how does one account for the American vote? The explanation given, that turning to the UN will somehow “undermine” a non-existent “peace process,” is laughable and persuaded no one. The answer, of course, is Congress. Structurally, not because of policy or will (though contempt for international law plays its role), the American Administration cannot resolve the conflict because the overwhelming majority of Congress, in both houses and both parties, feel they must be unwaveringly and uncritically “pro-Israel” if they are to be re-elected (even though this is patently mistaken; only 7 percent of Jews polled after the 2010 elections identified Israel as a decisive issue in their vote).
Unlike other foreign policy issues, Israel has become a domestic American issue. A candidate for office, even in a state such as Nevada, Iowa or Maine with few Jews or Christian fundamentalists, must often stake out a more “pro-Israeli” position than his or her opponent before getting on to even local issues. The strategic funding and political support (or the threat of withdrawing them) of candidates in both parties by AIPAC and the clout of the Christian Right in the Republican Party is matched by the influence of Pentagon defense contractors, who keep members of Congress in line by arguing that any cut in the billions given to Israel and, by extension, to the other countries in the region (totaling some $125 billion over the next decade), will cost jobs in their states and districts. Indeed, Susan Rice’s vote in the Security Council cannot be explained in any way except as a capitulation of vital American interests to “pro-Israel” forces and manufactured perceptions on the part of the Administration and Congress alike.
Faced with the spectacle of an almost totally isolated US, why should any of us cling to the American default strategy of the past 44 years, whereby the United States is seen as the sole and ultimate arbitrator of the conflict? And in particular, why should the Palestinians? If the US cannot actually deliver on a just peace for structural reasons, and yet insists on an absolute monopoly over any “peace process,” the time is long overdue to develop a “working around America” strategy. Let’s look at the world beyond the US:
- At least ten countries in Europe seem to be moving towards unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state within the ‘49/’67 borders; Cyprus did so a couple weeks ago. In fact, public opinion favoring the Palestinians is far in advance of the foot-dragging governments. Efforts to mobilize public opinion there should be redoubled, although much work needs to be done in the extremely conservative pro-American/pro-Israel states of Eastern Europe, which, Slovenia aside, hold the rest of the EU back on this issue.
- Most Latin American countries have already recognized a Palestinian state within recognized borders, although they have also accepted Israel as become the first non-Latin American country to sign a trade agreement with Mercosur, the region’s emerging common market. Given strong sympathies of Latin American peoples towards the Palestinians, vigorous campaigns calling for stronger government actions and BDS are called for.
- Turkey has become a lead player against the Occupation in the Middle East and internationally, while the fundamental changes sweeping the Arab world signal a fundamental shift in relations to Israel and the US – and perhaps a more critical and active role for the Arab League and the possibilities of mobilizing the wider Muslim world. Here, ironically, pressure has to be put on the Palestinian Authority to be more pro-active. It deserves credit for bringing the anti-settlement resolution before the Security Council despite strong US pressures, but Abbas’s refusal to bring a Palestinian declaration of independence within recognized borders before the UN in the end neutralizes the recognition accorded the Palestinians by Latin American and other countries.
- South Africa, recently made a member of the BRIC group of countries, is capable of taking a more active role on this issue given its expressed support for the Palestinian cause, and could play a leading role in mobilizing other African states.
- Russia recently reaffirmed its recognition of a Palestinian state, although it does not seem eager to confront the US in an American “sphere of influence.” China and India have yet to play a major role – in part because Israel is the #2 arms supplier to both countries. But certainly in India and other countries of Asia much more could be done to mobilize both the peoples and their governments.
The UN vote demonstrates the great potential in organizing beyond the US, although it remains to be seen whether the PA is capable of pushing its case beyond the confines of American patronage, or having the courage to do so. Until now it has failed to mobilize and harness its greatest ally – us, the peoples of the world, the international civil society. Still, with or without the PA, the grassroots should pursue the next phase of the struggle: refocusing our efforts on a “working around America” strategy. Eventually the US will have to realize that its growing isolation is simply too great a price to pay for supporting an unsustainable occupation, or it will be left in the dust.
(Jeff Halper is the head of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org>.)
The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions is based in Jerusalem and has chapters in the United Kingdom and the United States.
Families forced out as army occupies Jerusalem rooftop
Jillian Kestler-D’Amours, The Electronic Intifada, 18 February 2011
The sound of heavy boots stomping up five flights of stairs resonated throughout the entire apartment building on a recent night as the Israeli military headed towards their post on a roof in the embattled neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem.
“There may be clashes [between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers], but it doesn’t mean the army has a right to take over the house,” said Abid Abu Ramuz, a Palestinian father of four, as his children quickly moved towards their front door to catch a glimpse of the soldiers.
Dressed head-to-toe in combat gear — including face coverings, thick helmets and gloves — and wielding machine guns, two Israeli soldiers kept their heads down as they made their way to the locked door leading out onto the roof.
“If we want to do laundry, we have to do it in the stairway. Only a technician can go up [to the roof] now, and only with a permit from the police,” Abu Ramuz explained.
For at least five months, Israeli military has been stationed on the roof of Abu Ramuz’s building — which houses a total of 69 persons from seven separate families, as well as a mosque — in the heart of Silwan’s Baten al-Hawa neighborhood.
One month ago, Abu Ramuz said, the soldiers invited him to a Jerusalem area police station and offered him two options: they would either “pay [him] for renting the roof, or they would go to court and [get a permit to] use it for free.”
He told them to go to the court. And, as of 7 February, the Israeli military received permission from the Israeli Ministry of Defense in Tel Aviv to use the building’s rooftop as their lookout base until August 2012.
“The Israeli people don’t know where they are sending their children. Their children are behaving in bad ways,” said Abu Ramuz, as a loud bang resounded from overhead.
“Every day,” he said, sighing, as he pointed his index finger up towards the roof.
The residents of the building are presently appealing the ministry’s decision to grant the soldiers unlimited access to their roof. In the meantime, however, the constant harassment and attacks continue unabated.
“Everything is hard. My daughter is going through her [high school final] exams at school and the soldiers are playing all night [on the roof]. She can’t sleep,” Abu Ramuz told The Electronic Intifada.
“I filed a complaint today because yesterday they were playing with a stone until 4am. I’ve complained many times. But the soldiers tell me that I can move if I don’t like the situation.”
Daily clashes and military harassment in Silwan
The Israeli military says it has justified its takeover of the roof of Abu Ramuz’s building because of regular clashes that occur between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers, police and settler security guards in the area — and because it offers them a unobstructed view of most of Silwan.
Abu Ramuz explained that at least three Israeli soldiers are on the roof of the building at all times, day and night, and that they are constantly making noise, cutting off residents’ access to electricity and water and sometimes even throwing dirty water or urine onto people walking in the street below.
“It’s winter so the children are staying inside. During the summer it will be more difficult because the children will be outside and they will have nowhere to play. It’s going to be a disaster here in the summer,” the 43-year-old said.
At least four windows in Abu Ramuz’s home remain broken as a result, he said, of Israeli soldiers shooting tear gas canisters and rubber bullets at his home from the street below.
“The broken windows are all from gas and rubber bullets. I’m not getting new windows because I know they’re just going to break it again,” Abu Ramuz said.
Sitting just outside Jerusalem’s Old City walls, the Palestinian village of Silwan is at the foot of the third holiest site in Islam, the Haram al-Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary, which is known to Jews as the Temple Mount.
In recent years, the neighborhood has undergone a large-scale takeover by far-right Israeli organizations that are largely supported by the Israeli government and Jerusalem municipality.
A seven-floor illegal Israeli settlement called Beit Yonatan — which was built in 2004 by extreme right-wing settler group Ateret Cohanim, and which even the Israeli state prosecutor has said needs to be vacated as soon as possible — is also only a few meters away from where Abu Ramuz and his neighbors live.
Intense clashes erupted in the Baten al-Hawa area shortly after resident Samer Sarhan was shot and killed by an Israeli settler security guard last September. Since then, Israeli police and soldiers have routinely arrested residents — especially children — on the suspicion of throwing stones.
The situation deteriorated even further in early January 2011, when an Israeli soldier on the Baten al-Hawa rooftop urinated in front of a Palestinian woman who was trying to hang her laundry there.
During the clashes between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers that ensued, the military forgot a crate of tear gas grenades and other ammunition on the rooftop, and it ended up in the possession of Palestinian youth.
Palestinian residents quickly returned the weapons, yet police and other Israeli security forces conducted nighttime raids and arrests in response to the embarrassing misstep.
From this point on, residents of the building have been banned from accessing the roof.
Children traumatized by military presence
According to building residents that agreed to speak to The Electronic Intifada, children living in the building have exhibited signs of trauma as a result of these sustained attacks, including bed-wetting, loss of interest in school and even a fear of leaving their homes.
“My children are afraid to leave the house. [My four-year-old daughter] is afraid to go to school,” explained Muhammadeia, a mother of six children between the ages of 1 and 13, from her living room.
“It’s very, very hard. My children are always shouting, crying and choking when the soldiers shoot tear gas. I have to close the windows all the time,” she added.
Nasrine Fakouri, a Palestinian mother of five children who lives on the third floor of the building, echoed that sentiment.
“My children used to get perfect grades and they started failing. They’re not even going to school,” explained Fakouri, adding that she was forced to quit her job as a secretary at a local hospital in order to take care of her children, who are now too afraid to leave the house even to go play outside.
Fakouri’s 13-year-old son Hamzi missed the past week of school because he had to undergo surgery as a result of a sound grenade that exploded too close to him.
“They’re not willing to let us live like normal kids,” Hamzi said quietly, on the couch in his living room. “I tell [my siblings] not to be afraid and to keep their heads high.”
Fakouri added that the most difficult aspect of the situation is having tear gas thrown into her home.
“The gas is killing us here. The soldiers even throw gas down the stairwell. I tell [the children] to hide, to use onions on their face to relieve the stinging, and to be very careful,” she said. “Why do the [Israeli] settlers have so many guards while we don’t have anyone? No one is protecting our children.”
Forced out of Silwan
Fakouri said that after months of living in a near-permanent state of fear, her family now has no choice but to leave their home.
“I don’t think I will be able to come back to Silwan. Never,” she said, sitting next to nine packed cardboard boxes that were stacked in front of her livingroom window. “I don’t want to come back. Nobody should live here. It’s horrible.”
Fakouri explained that her family would soon be moving to Jabel Mukaber, a neighborhood in the southern part of East Jerusalem in the direction of Bethlehem. She said that she is afraid that the Israeli military or police will take over the apartment once they leave, however.
She added that she lost a child during her fifth month of pregnancy last year because of what she said was the overwhelming stress incurred by constant Israeli military harassment.
“I’m pregnant again and I don’t want the same thing to happen,” Fakouri said. “We want to leave but we also feel sad about the neighbors that have to stay and deal with it. We just want a peaceful and quiet life and to be able to raise our children.”
Abid Abu Ramuz, for his part, said that despite owning his apartment, he and his family would also likely be forced out because of the Israeli military.
“I don’t want to leave the house, but if the situation continues, I might have to for the sake of my children,” he said. “I’ll have to leave. This is what they want. They want everybody to just leave.”
“I hope [this interview] will get to everybody in the world and that people will start doing something about it,” Abu Ramuz added. “This would not be allowed anywhere else in the world. This is a crime.”
Originally from Montreal, Jillian Kestler-D’Amours is a reporter and documentary filmmaker based in occupied East Jerusalem. More of her work can be found at http://jilldamours.wordpress.com.
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Posted By Stephen M. Walt on Foreign Policy on Sunday, February 20, 2011
Last Friday the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council Resolution condemning Israel’s continued expansion of settlements in the occupied territory of the West Bank. The resolution didn’t question Israel’s legitimacy, didn’t declare that “Zionism is racism,” and didn’t call for a boycott or sanctions. It just said that the settlements were illegal and that Israel should stop building them, and called for a peaceful, two-state solution with “secure and recognized borders. The measure was backed by over 120 countries, and 14 members of the security council voted in favor. True to form, only the United States voted no.
There was no strategic justification for this foolish step, because the resolution was in fact consistent with the official policy of every president since Lyndon Johnson. All of those presidents has understood that the settlements were illegal and an obstacle to peace, and each has tried (albeit with widely varying degrees of enthusiasm) to get Israel to stop building them.
Yet even now, with the peace process and the two-state solution flat-lining, the Obama administration couldn’t bring itself to vote for a U.N. resolution that reflected the U.S. government’s own position on settlements. The transparently lame explanation given by U.S. officials was that the security council isn’t the right forum to address this issue. Instead, they claimed that the settlements issue ought to be dealt with in direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians, and that the security council should have nothing to say on the issue.
This position is absurd on at least two grounds. First, the expansion of settlements is clearly an appropriate issue for the security council to consider, given that it is authorized to address obvious threats to international peace and security. Second, confining this issue to “direct talks” doesn’t make much sense when those talks are going nowhere. Surely the Obama administration recognizes that its prolonged and prodigious effort to get meaningful discussions going have been a complete bust? It is hard to believe that they didn’t recognize that voting “yes” on the resolution might be a much-needed wake-up call for the Israeli government, and thus be a good way to get the peace process moving again? Thus far, all that Obama’s Middle East team has managed to do in two years is to further undermine U.S. credibility as a potential mediator between Israel and the Palestinians, and to dash the early hopes that the United States was serious about “two states for two peoples.” And while Obama, Mitchell, Clinton, Ross, and the rest of the team have floundered, the Netanyahu government has continued to evict Palestinian residents from their homes, its bulldozers and construction crews continuing to seize more and more of the land on which the Palestinians hoped to create a state.
Needless to say, the United States is all by its lonesome on this issue. Our fellow democracies — France, Germany, Great Britain, Brazil, South Africa, India, and Colombia — all voted in favor of the resolution, but not the government of the Land of the Free. And it’s not as if Netanyahu deserved to be rewarded at this point, given how consistently he has stiffed Obama and his Middle East team.
As these commentators recognize, the real reason for Obama’s misguided decision was the profound influence of the Israel lobby. Indeed, few observers have missed this simple and obvious fact. One can only conclude that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton’s repeated claims that they are “friends of Israel” and devoted to its security are nothing more than empty, politically expedient rhetoric. Whatever they may say, the policies they are pursuing — including this latest veto — are in fact harmful to Israel’s long-term future. The man who declared in Cairo on June 4, 2009 that a two-state solution was “in the “Israel’s interest, the Palestinians’ interest, America’s interest, and the world’s interest” must have changed his mind, because his actions ever since have merely hastened the moment when creating two viable states will be impossible (if that is not already the case). Then remember what former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in 2007, “if the two-state solution fails, Israel will face a South African style struggle for political rights.” And “once that happens,” he warned, “the state of Israel is finished.”
If Obama were a true friend of Israel, in short, he’d be doing whatever he could to keep it from expanding its ruinous occupation and making the Zionist vision unsustainable. And given that Congress remains hopeless on this issue, he could have shown he was a true friend by instructing his U.N. Ambassador, Susan Rice, to vote for the resolution, as a diverse array of foreign policy experts had suggested. He would also have devoted some portion of his first two years in office to explaining to the American people why some “tough love” was needed on both sides (i.e., not just the Palestinians), and he would have recruited America’s democratic allies in a genuine effort to bring the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a fair and stable end. Had he done these things, most Americans would have supported him. Instead, his lame actions are just enabling the occupation, and for the most cynical domestic political reasons (like safeguarding his re-election prospects in 2012). Even worse, he did it at a moment when the Arab world is in ferment, and when the voice of the Arab street is beginning to be heard. But instead of aligning itself with international law, basic principles of justice, and its own stated position, the Obama administration caved. Again.
If the United States hopes to be on the right side of history, it is time to start thinking about what its policy should be when everybody finally acknowledges that “two states for two peoples” is no longer a practical possibility. This is going to happen sooner or later, and anyone who is still advocating for a two-state solution at that point is going to sound like an ignorant fool. Not because of the flaws in that option, but simply because it will be impossible to implement. What alternative solution will the president and secretary of state support then? Ethnic cleansing? A binational, liberal democracy in which all inhabitants of Israel/Palestine have equal civil and political rights? Or permanent apartheid, in the form of disconnected Palestinian Bantustans under de facto Israeli control? That awkward reality may not be apparent while Obama is president (which is probably what he is hoping), but it will be a damning legacy to leave to his successor, as well as a tragedy for two peoples who have already known more than their share.
Postscript: Some readers may think I am being too defeatist here, and they might cite in evidence Bernard Avishai’s New York Times Magazine essay detailing the alleged “near-miss” peace talks between Olmert and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. Avishai’s account portrays the two leaders as close to a deal and suggests that it would not be that hard to resurrect a similar deal today. It’s an interesting article, but there are at least four problems with his optimistic account. First, Olmert was the lamest of lame ducks by 2008, because he was due to be indicted on corruption charges and everyone knew it, so the talks themselves were something of a side-show. Second, even had this not been the case, it is by no means clear that Olmert could have sold the Israeli public on the proposed deal. Third, it is not even clear that the two sides were that close to an agreement, given Olmert’s insistence that Israel could not withdraw from Ariel and Maale Adumim (two settlement blocs that thrust deep inside the West Bank). Fourth, and probably most important, political trends in Israel are headed the other way (among other things, Avigdor Lieberman wasn’t foreign minister back then), which makes the Olmert/Abbas talks even less relevant. For excellent critical responses to Avishai’s piece, see Noam Sheizaf, Matthew Taylor, and Ilene Cohen.
By Ruaridh ArrowDirector of Gene Sharp – How to Start a Revolution
In an old townhouse in East Boston an elderly stooped man is tending rare orchids in his shabby office. His Labrador Sally lies on the floor between stacks of academic papers watching him as he shuffles past.
This is Dr Gene Sharp the man now credited with the strategy behind the toppling of the Egyptian government.
Gene Sharp is the world’s foremost expert on non-violent revolution. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages, his books slipped across borders and hidden from secret policemen all over the world.
As Slobodan Milosevic in Serbia and Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine fell to the colour revolutions which swept across Eastern Europe, each of the democratic movements paid tribute to Sharp’s contribution, yet he remained largely unknown to the public.
Despite these successes and a Nobel Peace Prize nomination in 2009 he has faced almost constant financial hardship and wild accusations of being a CIA front organisation. The Albert Einstein Institution based on the ground floor of his home is kept running by sheer force of personality and his fiercely loyal Executive Director, Jamila Raqib.
In 2009 I began filming a documentary following the impact of Sharp’s work from his tranquil rooftop orchid house, across four continents and eventually to Tahrir square where I slept alongside protesters who read his work by torchlight in the shadow of tanks.
Gene Sharp is no Che Guevara but he may have had more influence than any other political theorist of his generation.
His central message is that the power of dictatorships comes from the willing obedience of the people they govern – and that if the people can develop techniques of withholding their consent, a regime will crumble.
For decades now, people living under authoritarian regimes have made a pilgrimage to Gene Sharp for advice. His writing has helped millions of people around the world achieve their freedom without violence. “As soon as you choose to fight with violence you’re choosing to fight against your opponents best weapons and you have to be smarter than that,” he insists.
“People might be a little surprised when they come here, I don’t tell them what to do. They’ve got to learn how this non-violent struggle works so they can do it for themselves.”
To do this Sharp provides in his books a list of 198 “non-violent weapons”, ranging from the use of colours and symbols to mock funerals and boycotts.
Designed to be the direct equivalent of military weapons, they are techniques collated from a forensic study of defiance to tyranny throughout history.
“These non-violent weapons are very important because they give people an alternative,” he says. “If people don’t have these, if they can’t see that they are very powerful, they will go back to violence and war every time.”
After the Green uprising in Iran in 2009 many of the protesters were accused at their trials of using more than 100 of Sharp’s 198 methods.
His most translated and distributed work, From Dictatorship to Democracy was written for the Burmese democratic movement in 1993, after the imprisonment of Aung San Suu Kyi.
Because he had no specialist knowledge of the country he wrote a guide to toppling a dictatorship which was entirely generic. But Sharp’s weakness became the strength of the book allowing it to be easily translated and applicable in any country of the world across cultural and religious boundaries.
The book caught fire figuratively and literally.
From Burma word of mouth spread through Thailand to Indonesia where it was used against the military dictatorship there. Its success in helping to bring down Milosevic in Serbia in 2000 propelled it into use across Eastern Europe, South America and the Middle East.
When it reached Russia the intelligence services raided the print shop and the shops selling it mysteriously burned to the ground.
The Iranians became so worried they broadcast an animated propaganda film on state TV – of Gene Sharp plotting the overthrow of Iran from The White House.
President Hugo Chavez used his weekly television address to warn the country that Sharp was a threat to the national security of Venezuela.
After recent allegations of vote rigging in her home country of Gabon, supermodel and activist Gloria Mika travelled to Boston to meet Sharp.
“I felt like I was going to meet the main man in terms of non-violent resistance in the world,” she says. “It was important because some of the Gabonese were talking about a violent option. They were saying, let’s go and kill some people and I was able to say: ‘Hang on guys there’s another option here.’”
The Serbs who had used his books as a theoretical base for their activities founded their own organisation called the Centre for Applied Non Violence (CANVAS), and alongside their own materials have carried out workshops using Sharp’s work in dozens of other countries.
When I met Srdja Popovic the director of CANVAS in Belgrade in November he confirmed that they had been working with Egyptians. “That’s the power of Sharp’s work and this non-violent struggle,” he says. “It doesn’t matter who you are – black, white, Muslim, Christian, gay, straight or oppressed minority – it’s useable. If they study it, anybody can do this.”
Photocopies in Arabic
By the time I arrived in Tahrir square on 2 February many of those trained in Sharp’s work were in detention. Others were under close observation by the intelligence services and journalists who visited them were detained for hours by the secret police. My own camera equipment was seized as soon as I landed.
When I finally reached one of the organisers he refused to talk about Sharp on camera. He feared that wider knowledge of a US influence would destabilise the movement but confirmed that the work had been widely distributed in Arabic.
“One of the main points which we used was Sharp’s idea of identifying a regime’s pillars of support,” he said. “If we could build a relationship with the army, Mubarak’s biggest pillar of support, to get them on our side, then we knew he would quickly be finished.”
That night as I settled down to sleep in a corner of Tahrir square some of the protesters came to show me text messages they said were from the army telling them that they wouldn’t shoot. “We know them and we know they are on our side now,” they said.
One of the protesters, Mahmoud, had been given photocopies of a handout containing the list of 198 methods but he was unaware of their origins. He proudly described how many of them had been used in Egypt but he had never heard of Gene Sharp.
When I pointed out that these non-violent weapons were the writings of an American academic he protested strongly. “This is an Egyptian revolution”, he said. “We are not being told what to do by the Americans.”
And of course that is exactly what Sharp would want.
Ruaridh Arrow’s film, Gene Sharp: How to Start a Revolution, will be released in spring 2011
By Ruaridh ArrowDirector of Gene Sharp – How to Start a Revolution
21 February 2011 Last updated at 05:42 ET
“Doing a short-term deal on settlements to restart direct talks
is desperate and wrong” – Mary Robinson
16 November 2010
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Members of the eminent global group, The Elders, have today called on the United States and the rest of the international community to insist on an end to all Israeli settlement activity.
They have issued their call in response to reports that the United States’ government has asked Israel to extend a 90-day partial moratorium on settlement activity in return for a package of diplomatic and security incentives.
The Elders’ chair Desmond Tutu said:
“This news breaks my heart. What is Washington thinking? Settlements are illegal; they contravene UN Security Council Resolution 242 and violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. The resumption of direct talks cannot be based on one side negotiating its way out of an important question of international law.”
Former Irish President Mary Robinson, who led a delegation of four Elders on a trip to Middle East last month, said:
“We heard repeatedly across the Arab world that the United States is no longer seen as an honest broker: Washington is perceived to be too close to Israel. This effort to do a short-term deal on settlements to restart direct talks is desperate and wrong. It betrays international law and the entire family of nations – not to mention the Palestinians.”
Dr Gro Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway, joined her fellow Elders in appealing for an end to all settlement activity:
“During the Oslo process in 1993 Israel promised to stop settlement expansion pending the outcome of final status negotiations. This deal sends us backwards instead of towards a sustainable long-term solution.”
In addition to concern about negotiations on settlements, the Elders called for the human rights of Palestinians living under occupation to be protected and that property confiscations, evictions and deportations be stopped.
Former United States President Jimmy Carter said:
“The mistreatment of Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem is a gross violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This abuse cannot be condoned by the international community.”
They also sought to draw attention to thousands of Palestinians incarcerated in Israeli prisons in breach of the Geneva Conventions, including hundreds of children under 18.
The lasting security of the state of Israel and its people can only be achieved through compliance with international law, allowing them to live in peace and security alongside Palestinians who enjoy the same benefits in a state that is viable and contiguous.
About The Elders
The Elders are an independent group of global leaders, brought together by Nelson Mandela in 2007, who offer their collective influence and experience to support peace- building, help address major causes of human suffering and promote the shared interests of humanity.
The Elders are Martti Ahtisaari, Kofi Annan, Ela Bhatt, Lakhdar Brahimi, Gro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Jimmy Carter, Graça Machel, Mary Robinson and Desmond Tutu (Chair). Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kyi are honorary Elders.
الموقع الإلكتروني: www.theElders.org
صفحة الحكماء على الفيسبوك: www.facebook.com/theElders
صفحة الحكماء على تويتر: www.twitter.com/theElders
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