Now writing for PolicyMic

I’m excited to announce that I will now be writing for PolicyMic, “an online political platform that promotes high-quality political discussion amongst young thinkers.” PolicyMic is still in beta, but I’m really impressed with what I’ve seen so far. You can check out my article “Netenyahu Institutionalizes Settlers’ Price Tagging Policy” on the site or read PolicyMic’s brochure here.

Since it’s March 15th, the day of Palestinian Unity, I also want to call attention to Fadi Quran’s article, which was published on PolicyMic last week, “On Shuhada Street, a Non-Violent Rap Global Revolution in Palestine?“. Fadi and others have been working to bring the democratic revolution to Palestine — calling for unity and an end to the occupation — and I wanted to wish them, and all the Palestinian youth, the best today.

The Palestine Papers and the Road “Home”

With The Palestine Papers on my mind, I start my journey “home” from “work” in al-Ram, on the other side of the separation wall. I climb on the Palestinian taxi and we drive along the road lined with grim realities on both side; to the left massive concrete blocks and agonizing graffiti block our view, on the right ghostly shops ravaged by the separation wall’s presence stand counting the days.

Picture of the wall in Al-Ram before it was sealed off from the rest of Occupied Jerusalem. Photo Credit: Newsifact.com

Qalandia checkpoint—I get off the bus, press past children selling black market goods for a quarter or two, squeeze between the metal human corrals and gates built by Jews, x-ray myself and my bags with Tel Aviv technology and prove that I’m a “legal” human being to teenagers with M16s.

Once validated, I escape to the safety of a Palestinian bus with Israeli license plates. I pay my ticket fare to the “Arab-Israeli” driver, slip on my headphones and try to disappear into Fairuz. We start making our way towards Jerusalem, past the same concrete blocks that cast shadows on the other side–on this side the wall is empty and silent. Passengers divert their gaze as we make our way past the Israeli checkpoint guarding the illegal Jewish settlement of Givat Zeev, the new light rail cutting through occupied East Jerusalem, the demolished Shephard Hotel in Sheik Jarrah… until we reach Damascus gate.

Now at the junction, waiting for a green light at the cross walk where settlers and Palestinians freeze, up the hill across the former green line, huffing and puffing I make it to the Israeli Interrogation Center a block from my house. I pull out the keys to my tiny apartment on Yaffa Street kiss them unconsciously and drag them across the iron prison fence. Past the coffee shop packed with American-Jews drinking cocoa, into the alley lined with Jerusalem’s best bars and up the stairs to apartment 18.

Here, the road “home” is never easy.

Round Up: If it weren’t for +972 we’d think there were no leftists left

“Its got to get worse before it gets better,” a South African filmmaker told me this summer as he shared his experience of apartheid South Africa with me. At the time, I didn’t quite see the wave of “worse” coming, but now I think its fair to say — it’s here.

Since we rung in the New Year there’s been nothing but a new wave of bad news (or perhaps good news) gracing the blogosphere. Starting with the IDF killing Jawahar Abu-Rahma, a non violent Palestinian activist from Bi’lin, and Mohammad Dragma, a 21 year old unarmed Palestinian from Tubas, the situation has quickly worsened. If it weren’t for the critical information and commentary that the tireless journalists and activists at +972 magazine provided, I (as well as many others) may have thought we were alone in being outraged. Instead, +972 and the slew supportive facebook comments from Palestinians and internationals alike has made me realize that even though we “leftists” are few, we’re mighty — and we are breaking official sources’ (like the IDF and the Israeli government) monopoly on “news.”

As Virgina Wolf wrote at the end of Three Guineas, “We are not passive spectators doomed to unresisting obedience.” May we carry these words until the end of this madness.

Here’s a round-up of how leftists are being rounded up by none other than our beloved country.

IDF Tries to Spin Bil’in Death

Yesterday the IDF held a select press conference for their favorite bloggers and journalists to address the death of Jawahar Abu-Rahmah, the activist who died of tear gas inhalation fired by the IDF in Bi’lin. Noam Sheizaf did a brilliant job of dissecting the IDF’s version of the event.

Activist’s Home Searched

This morning one of the activists arrested over the weekend for protesting the killing of Bi’lin activist, was greeted by Israeli Police Special Patrol Unit who demanded to search the activists home. According to +972, the police did not have a search warrant and the activists denied their entry.

Israel is handling this protest as an attack committed against the United States. The US State Department, however,  does not view the protest as an attack. Asked yesterday by AP reporter Matt Lee for a comment, US State Department spokesman PJ Crowley stated clearly that the protest was not an attack on the US. Video link starting from minute 22:30:

Human Rights Activist and Film Director Targeted

An Israeli nonprofit called “The Legal Forum for the Land of Israel” wrote a letter to the Israel Broadcasting Agency that Ta’ayush activist and independent filmmaker Nissim Mossek should have his work censored because of his participation in “extremist” politics. You can read the article and letter published by Mairav Zonszein.

Witch Hunt Committee Established

This Knesset passed a decision to establish a parliamentary committee of inquiry to “examine the activities of Israeli organizations involved with the collection of information about soldiers and follow their funding sources”. Of course, this proposal brough forth by none other than MK Fania Kirshenbaum from Yisrael Beiteinu.

Israeli NGOs Respond

The New Israel Fund responded in a Haaretz article by stating, “The political persecution of human rights group causes great damage to Israel across the world, and that is precisely what will lead to the delegitimization [of Israel] and the representation of it as a McCarthyite state in which a witch hunt is taking place.”

B’Tselem, one of the targeted organizations, issued the following statement this evening:

We are proud of our work to promote human rights in the Occupied Territories, which is conducted legally and with complete transparency. Persecution and attempts at silencing will not stop us. In a democracy, criticism of the government is not only legitimate – it is essential. B’Tselem calls on all members of Knesset to hold an informed debate on the information provided by human rights organizations, instead of harassing and smearing those who dare to question and criticize.

It is absurd to claim that a committee of enquiry with no real powers can uncover information unknown to the Israeli Registrar of Non-Profits. The purpose of the inquiry is not to establish the facts, they are well known. B’Tselem’s list of donors is available online. Our financial reports are available at the office of the NGO Registrar, which just recently issued B’Tselem a Certification of Proper Administration. Therefore, it is clear that the motive behind the investigation is an attempt to hinder our work through smears and incitement.

If the Members of Knesset who supported this decision genuinely care about Israel’s international standing, they should stop promoting parliamentary initiatives that will only cause it to plummet even further.

And since I must end on a lighter note, please watch this clip from Aretz Nehederet, a satirical Israeli television show (or the Israeli version of Jon Stewart). It captures the mainstream discourse in Israel so well, you might as well forget about your next vacation to the Holyland.

Riot Material

Its two days into the new year and my heart is aching–well perhaps screaming.

Saturday, after a demonstration of nearly a thousand people in Bi’lin, we lost Jawaher Abu Rahma, 36, who died from the inhalation of tear gas fired by IDF soldiers outside the Occupied Palestinian West Bank village of Bil’in. In response, hundreds of people demonstrated in Tel Aviv and a group of activists returned the American manufactured weapons used in the Occupied Palestinian Territories to the American embassador.

Then, this morning, Israel bombed Gaza and Israeli soldiers killed a 21 year old Palestinian in cold blood at a checkpoint outside of Nablus (no longer a story on the front page of Haaretz or Ynet). When I walked into work, this was the first thing my colleague mentioned–not happy new year. It didn’t leave my mind all day and now, in the evening, in Jerusalem, I’m distressed at how few Israelis are aware of this atrocity. I’m going to try to not take too much out on my neighbor, who last night told me that I shouldn’t be upset about the Gaza War because “Israel is the most moral army in the world.”

This is the post that I wrote about the Gaza War that I’m still waiting to be approved by Huffington Post and a call from Gaza Youth that I’m republishing in solidarity. If most of the human rights activists in Israel weren’t exahusted from the weekend or sitting in jail, I’d be looking for the nearest riot to attend.


A Former Supporter of the Gaza War Reflects, in Shame

 

It was two years ago, when Israel launched the Gaza War, or “Operation Cast Lead” as the Israeli military calls it, that I had an Israeli experience Birthright didn’t prepare me for–trauma. Even though I was a peace activist my whole life–organizing demonstrations against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at age sixteen–during the Gaza war, like many in the Israeli peace camp, I became pro-war.

Boxed up in my tiny Tel Aviv apartment, I struggled to understand how my life could go on as normal while blood was running through the streets of Gaza,  just one hour away. For hours I glued myself to the news via television, radio and internet — looking for a way to touch the trauma, to become a victim of the war machine. The IDF warned, that for the first time ever, Hamas missiles could reach Tel Aviv — I cursed my south Tel Aviv apartment and wondered why I didn’t pay higher rent to live up north. At any moment, a missile could land on our house and we would be like the Israelis in Sderot, suffering from shock, shrapnel wounds and property loss — thank G-d I was renting.

A few days after the war started, I had to go out of the house. I had to go to this office and that office, pay this and that bill. I had to, as many of my Israeli friends said, “go on with my life.” But the war wouldn’t let me go — there was no normal life to be had. In every car and shop, the radio and television blared with images of army generals and angry journalists, who were locked out of Gaza and could only stand on hill tops overlooking plumbs of smoke. Every once in a while, we caught a glimpse of a mother lying over the body of her child. A father standing in front of his demolished house — the coffin of his family. In every office I visited, a distraught family member sat behind a desk on the telephone speaking to her or his loved one, who was putting on his uniform and heading to war. The city was suddenly filled with soldiers, carrying heavy bags on their backs and expressions on their faces. The Tel Aviv bubble had been penetrated.

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Photo by Wassam Nassar

When I returned home, I closed the big medal door on my bedroom window, which doubled as a bomb shelter. I posted myself in front of the television, keyboard on my lap and started writing. Many of my posts (which I removed later) reached levels of deep distress and hysteria. A few of my Israeli and American friends tried to  help me break through the fear and see how cruel and inhumane “Operation Cast Lead” was — I couldn’t hear a damn thing.

Months later, when I returned to the United States, I started to recognize how absurd my state of mind had become. When a military plane crossed over my college campus, I thought it was Iran. When students brought up the war, I accused them of being anti-Semitic.  And most notably, at my graduation ceremony, in a crowded auditorium I heard someone speaking Arabic and I immediately thought I was going to be the next victim of a terrorist attack. I was traumatized.

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Photo by Wassam Nassar

This mild experience of the war, for someone so new to Israel — at home, safe in Tel Aviv — just touches on how manipulative fear is. For Jews (Israeli and non-Israeli alike), whose identity is so deeply defined by fear of the “other” — from the stories of Purim and Chanukah warning against assimilation, to historical tragedies like the Spanish Inquisition, Pogroms and the Holocaust — our fear continues to serve as a justification for brutal retaliation. Rest assured, we were victims. But wake up, we aren’t any longer.

When I returned to Israel, I started looking for a way to keep my fear in check. I looked for a community that could weather the war storms and not let fear flood us with nationalistic tendencies where we forget what “nation” we’re really apart of, the human one. During the Gaza flotilla raid, an event which only posed danger to Israel’s reputation, I became critical of how quickly journalists picked provocative language and published round-ups and articles, like “‘Lynch,’ ‘Attack’ and ‘Massacre’ – Shooting Down Words in International Waters,” to try to de escalate the fear and nationalistic tendencies that were rising. These posts connected me to a group of thoughtful journalists, most notably two Israeli photojournalists and former soldiers, who travelled regularly to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). They invited me to join them in Nabi Saleh, and slowly I started a journey of recognizing and breaking down my fear of the “other.”

This journey included living in the OPT for six months. During this time, the people that I formerly only saw in the media as “terrorists” vanished. Not because Israel’s endless “security” measures have repressed them, because the security fence has stopped them or all terror cells have been cleaned out — but simply because today 99.9% of Palestinians do not believe that terrorism is the way to freedom.

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Photo by Wassam Nassar

But what about that 0.01%? The dozens of families that I came to know from Hebron, Bethlehem, Ramallah, Nablus and Jenin all had one striking thing in common: at least one or more of their family members was killed or imprisoned by the IDF. There is strong evidence that most “terrorists” have a prior history of violent encounters with the IDF that resulted in an immediate family member being killed or in some cases the attacker her/himself being injured or arrested (see statistical analysis here). And yet, even though Israel continues to collectively punish the entire Palestinian population for the violence of a few, Palestinians recognize something the Israeli government and most American-Jews do not yet understand — violence breeds violence and war will never lead to peace and security.

Now, two years after I shamefully supported the War in Gaza, the murder of 1400 people who have every right to hate and desire revenge, I am sure that I know who the terrorists were and who supported them–it was my democratically elected government, it was my military and it was me. Gaza, I am so sorry. You should not forgive me, or us, but perhaps if I work for your freedom, one day we will be able to reconcile. Until then, all my love.

Gaza’s Youth Manifesto for Change

I was inspired by this post that I found on facebook today. Its inspiring, especially considering that Israel bombed Gaza again today, during the two year anniversary of the Gaza War.

Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community! We want to scream and break this wall of silence, injustice and indifference like the Israeli F16’s breaking the wall of sound; scream with all the power in our souls in order to release this immense frustration that consumes us because of this fucking situation we live in; we are like lice between two nails living a nightmare inside a nightmare, no room for hope, no space for freedom. We are sick of being caught in this political struggle; sick of coal dark nights with airplanes circling above our homes; sick of innocent farmers getting shot in the buffer zone because they are taking care of their lands; sick of bearded guys walking around with their guns abusing their power, beating up or incarcerating young people demonstrating for what they believe in; sick of the wall of shame that separates us from the rest of our country and keeps us imprisoned in a stamp-sized piece of land; sick of being portrayed as terrorists, homemade fanatics with explosives in our pockets and evil in our eyes; sick of the indifference we meet from the international community, the so-called experts in expressing concerns and drafting resolutions but cowards in enforcing anything they agree on; we are sick and tired of living a shitty life, being kept in jail by Israel, beaten up by Hamas and completely ignored by the rest of the world.

There is a revolution growing inside of us, an immense dissatisfaction and frustration that will destroy us unless we find a way of canalizing this energy into something that can challenge the status quo and give us some kind of hope. The final drop that made our hearts tremble with frustration and hopelessness happened 30th November, when Hamas’ officers came to Sharek Youth Forum, a leading youth organization (www.sharek.ps) with their guns, lies and aggressiveness, throwing everybody outside, incarcerating some and prohibiting Sharek from working. A few days later, demonstrators in front of Sharek were beaten and some incarcerated. We are really living a nightmare inside a nightmare. It is difficult to find words for the pressure we are under. We barely survived the Operation Cast Lead, where Israel very effectively bombed the shit out of us, destroying thousands of homes and even more lives and dreams. They did not get rid of Hamas, as they intended, but they sure scared us forever and distributed post traumatic stress syndrome to everybody, as there was nowhere to run.

We are youth with heavy hearts. We carry in ourselves a heaviness so immense that it makes it difficult to us to enjoy the sunset. How to enjoy it when dark clouds paint the horizon and bleak memories run past our eyes every time we close them? We smile in order to hide the pain. We laugh in order to forget the war. We hope in order not to commit suicide here and now. During the war we got the unmistakable feeling that Israel wanted to erase us from the face of the earth. During the last years Hamas has been doing all they can to control our thoughts, behaviour and aspirations. We are a generation of young people used to face missiles, carrying what seems to be a impossible mission of living a normal and healthy life, and only barely tolerated by a massive organization that has spread in our society as a malicious cancer disease, causing mayhem and effectively killing all living cells, thoughts and dreams on its way as well as paralyzing people with its terror regime. Not to mention the prison we live in, a prison sustained by a so-called democratic country.

History is repeating itself in its most cruel way and nobody seems to care. We are scared. Here in Gaza we are scared of being incarcerated, interrogated, hit, tortured, bombed, killed. We are afraid of living, because every single step we take has to be considered and well-thought, there are limitations everywhere, we cannot move as we want, say what we want, do what we want, sometimes we even cant think what we want because the occupation has occupied our brains and hearts so terrible that it hurts and it makes us want to shed endless tears of frustration and rage!

We do not want to hate, we do not want to feel all of this feelings, we do not want to be victims anymore. ENOUGH! Enough pain, enough tears, enough suffering, enough control, limitations, unjust justifications, terror, torture, excuses, bombings, sleepless nights, dead civilians, black memories, bleak future, heart aching present, disturbed politics, fanatic politicians, religious bullshit, enough incarceration! WE SAY STOP! This is not the future we want!

We want three things. We want to be free. We want to be able to live a normal life. We want peace. Is that too much to ask? We are a peace movement consistent of young people in Gaza and supporters elsewhere that will not rest until the truth about Gaza is known by everybody in this whole world and in such a degree that no more silent consent or loud indifference will be accepted.

This is the Gazan youth’s manifesto for change!

We will start by destroying the occupation that surrounds ourselves, we will break free from this mental incarceration and regain our dignity and self respect.  We will carry our heads high even though we will face resistance. We will work day and night in order to change these miserable conditions we are living under. We will build dreams where we meet walls.

We only hope that you – yes, you reading this statement right now! – can support us. In order to find out how, please write on our wall or contact us directly: freegazayouth@hotmail.com

We want to be free, we want to live, we want peace.

FREE GAZA YOUTH!

The Fire We Kindled – Alison Carmel Ramer

Photo from The Political Assistant

 

In the wake of being burned by my facebook “friends” and family over criticizing Israel during one of the most horrific natural disasters in the nation’s history, I am going to try to rekindle my ability to articulate my compassion for our crazy little country. Because you have to understand, I love Israel – no, not the nation of Israel, for I do not love nations, but I have a love for all the life that is on this land; the Jews, Muslims and Christians, the God fearing and the unbelievers, the plants and the animals, the flowers and the cacti–all of them.

And yet as I emphasize my humanity, the essential life I share with all human beings, I will not deny that we are living in an unequal world. There are power dynamics at play, and with all power comes responsibility. As Utah Phillips, an American labor organizer, once said, “The Earth is not dying – it is being killed. And the people who are killing it have names and addresses.”

So when I hear people asking the question, “Who started the fire?” Our answer should not be about the Druze or the Jews, who were smoking argeela or nargeela on Mount Carmel. No.

Our answer should not be that it doesn’t matter, “Right now we just need to come together and put the fire out.” No. Someone is responsible for this.

If you hold an Israeli ID, you are responsible for kindling the flames long before there was smoke in the forest.

If you have the ability to vote, but didn’t — you’re more responsible for the fire than the people who did – because at least they tried to change something in this “Jewish Democracy”.

If you are Jewish in Israel, today you have more “power” and privilege than anyone else in this land. So whether you voted or not – you are even more responsible. Yes.

For years the smoke from the shoah has been blinding you, the Jews. Yes, it has been blinding us. Our preoccupation with maintaining the occupation led us to spend billions of dollars, hours and resources on electing people who want to build insecurity fences and risk the lives of our youth protecting fire starting, water-stealing settlers.

But I’m not going to blame it all on the Jews. No.

Because there is someone more responsible than the Jews. His name is Eli Yishai, and he is the Minister of Interior. As Noam Sheizaf wrote in “Israel’s deadliest fire ever: Eli Yishai must go,” he  is directly responsible for drying up the fire department’s funds and the money allocated to all the people in this land – Israeli and Palestinian alike – about the real threats we are facing– from land (earthquakes), water and fire.  Yes, there is someone who is responsible for this – but it is not the Druze.

So as our hearts beat heavily, as we witness the cold, blue sentiment of “national disaster” rushing through our veins, let’s not reach for the familiar cloak of victimhood. Let’s not act as we do in wartime and blind ourselves to cindering self critique. Let’s come together and struggle to breathe in the little oxygen we have left here, so perhaps next time, when people are screaming FIRE before the flames (article written by Aviv Lavie in Maariv), we’ll be responsible enough to stand up and put it out.

Twenty-Three Injured and House Occupied in Weekly Demonstration in Nabi Saleh

Nabi Saleh, Occupied Palestinian Territories — This week the Israeli Army and the Border Police invaded Nabi Saleh and violently tried to repress Palestinian and international civilians who demonstrate weekly against the confiscation of their land by the nearby settlement, Halamish. According to Palestinian sources from the village, twenty-three people were injured, five members of the village taken to the hospital and three of them stayed in the hospital over night. Two soldiers were also injured when they were hit by stones (4:28).

The Israeli Army invaded the village before the afternoon prayer and demonstration began. While international supporters were gathering in Bassam Tamimi’s house, one of the leader’s of the Popular Struggle, the Israeli Army started to surround the house. “I was outside hanging laundrey when the soldiers started surrounding my house. I started shouting at them to go away when one of them came up to me and sprayed pepper spray right in my face,” said Nariman Tamimi.

Since the Israeli Army was surrounding the house and had occupied the main intersection, the international supporters and several leaders of the Popular Struggle could not reach the tree at the top of the village where the rest of the demonstrators were gathering. As they left the house, the Israeli Army — joined by the Border Police — started firing tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets and plastic covered steel bullets directly at demontrators.

Once some of the demonstrators reached the road to the spring, Naji Tamimi sat down in the road to non-violently object to the Isreali Army. As you can see in this video, one of the soldiers thew tear gas directly at Naji (00:48). A few minutes later, after he attempts to speak with the soldiers and returns with a few supporters to sit peacefully in the road, a Border Police officer comes up and sprays him directly in the face with pepper spray (3:00).

Later in the demonstration, after demonstrators started throwing stones, a soldier was injured by a stone that hit his face (4:28). Like demonstrators, soldiers also were injured by tear gas inhilation (5:30) before they occupied a house (the same house that the occupied the week before) in order to shoot tear gas and bullets from a high point in the village (6:07).

This week the Tamimi Press continued to send out press releases and photographs from the demonstration. You can view the album that they published on facebook here.

Removed YouTube Video of Israeli Soldiers Dancing in Hebron

Just as a new YouTube video of IDF soldiers dancing in Occupied Hebron started to go viral, the creator of the video removed it from YouTube. Luckily, I was in the middle of writing a post about the video and was  able to capture the video online.

Using song, dance and humor in conflict zones is a topic that I will definitely be further exploring. Perhaps the IDF soldiers were inspired by the US soldiers in Iraq who recently published their a remake of a Lady Gaga’s “Telephone.” What do you think about the video?


Alison Avigayil Ramer is a freelance journalist, entrepreneur and communications consultant who specializes in using the internet to engage people in peaceful political dialogue. If you would like to hire Alison for consulting or donate to her real and virtual reporting efforts you can send a donation to her through paypal.

Also free to join the lively, peaceful conversation here, on facebook or subscribe to receive Alison Avigayil’s Peace Dispatches via email.

Cultural Boycott? Recent Cancellations by International Musicians Spur Debate in Israeli Public

While I love posting my work here on my blog, I’m also working on getting guest posts up around the web. My latest piece, that I wrote with Ronnie Gross, covers the reaction that Israelis are having to the cultural boycotts that Santana, Costello and the Pixies have decided to participate in by canceling their performances in Israel. The article is published at Jewlicious and you can read it here.

Thousands Protest the Occupation and Flotilla Raid Across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

To mark 43 years of Israeli occupation, Israelis and Palestinians held protests throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories this weekend. While many of these protests were planned in advance, many organizers and the IDF did not know what to expect since the Gaza Flotilla Raid has heightened emotions across all sects of Israeli and Palestinian society — Arab, Jewish, left and right etc.

Saturday, June 5th 2010

Tel Aviv

The prime minister drowns us all. We need to row to peace.

15,000 – 20,000 left-wing people peacefully protested the Israeli occupation and the “Gaza Flotilla Raid” in Tel Aviv (notice how the name of the Wikipedia article has now changed from “Gaza Flotilla Crash” to “Gaza Flotilla Raid”).  They were also joined by 200 – 300 right-wing people who came to oppose the left-wing protesters and support the occupation.

The number of protesters surprised many of the protest’s organizers who estimated that no more than 3,000 people would attend. “I thought that because of the flotilla incident that moderate leftists would not turn out, but I was very surprised,” said one of the organizers, Itamar Broaderson.  “Instead, because of the flotilla more people came.”

While the protest is held annually to mark the beginning of Israel’s occupation, when the Gaza Flotilla Raid happened, the organizers changed the title of the protest from “Protest Against 43 Years of Occupation” to “The government cannot sink us. We will continue rowing for peace.”

Several right-wing protesters spit on left-wing protesters and one person threw a smoke grenade. At the end of the protest, right-wing protesters attacked 81 year old leftist activist Uri Avneri, the head of Gush Shalom, and the police had to escort Avneri to his car.

The protest was organized by several left-wing organizations and parties including Meretz, Peace Now, Gush Shalom, Hadash and Physicians for Human Rights among others.

Friday, June 5, 2010

Nebi Saleh, Occupied Palestinian Territories

I went to Nebi Saleh with photojournalists Mati Milstein, Ben Kelmer and blogger Lisa Goldman. Seasoned blogger Noam Sheizaf was also there and I liked the way that he summed up the history of the village in his post about a series of demonstrations yesterday:

The Palestinians of Nebi Saleh try to regain access to a tiny pond that was taken over by settlers from the nearby Halamish settlement. As usual, the weekly demonstration started with a march toward the pond, which was stopped on the village’s main street by the Army. Then came some stone-throwing by several of the Palestinians, to which the soldiers responded with tear gas.

The weekly protest began with young village members blocking the main road into the village where the IDF enters with stones and lighting tires on fire. Less than five minutes later, the IDF arrived and closed the road for several hours.

The villagers (accompanied by no more than ten young international activists) marched down the hill slowly and cautiously and eventually exchanged stone throwing for tear gas.

Other than the journalists, Ben Gurion University professor of Chemistry Eyal Nir was the only person who came from the villagers’ protest to speak with the army. After several minutes of shouting passionately at the army to leave the village, Nir was taken into an army jeep for insulting a soldier with a racial slur (see pictures below).

When the IDF was shooting tear gas, more than one canister landed in a nearby house. After the tear gas exploded, a woman came out of the house and gagged repeatedly on top of the roof. There was no damage to the house, since the window was already broken from similar incidents.

I spoke with one of the village leader who along with his wife, who serves as a medic, monitor the young village protesters. He explained to me a bit of the village history = 1 family, 400 people and a culture of resistance. I took some pictures of the resistance art they’ve made and several of the women and children who stand on their porches weekly for the past six months protesting the settlers take over of their spring (see below). He also told me that the night before, three young villagers had been arrested in the middle of the night, after last week’s protests.

At the top of the hill in a small community building, several middle aged men debated their protest strategy hotly. They decided to call the protest off for the day because they said a woman in Gaza had been killed. Photojournalist Mati Milstein informed the IDF of their decision, resolving the conflict for the day.

Bil’in

At the weekly protest in Bil’in, Palestinian protesters constructed a model of the Gaza flotilla and were met with the usual tear gas. See the video here.

Highway 443

Hundreds also marked 43 years of occupation on highway 443 where demonstrators protest Palestinians’ limited access to the highway which runs through the west bank.

Tab for the Day:

This reporting took over 8 hours of work plus food and fuel. I rode in a car, which I cannot afford, shot pictures on a $1,000 camera and wrote this story on a $2,000 computer. Please do your part to support independent journalism in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Also free to join the lively, peaceful conversation here, on facebook or subscribe to receive Alison Avigayil’s Peace Dispatches via email.

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“Lynch”, “Attack” and “Massacre” – Shooting Down Words in International Waters

Words

The first post I wrote after I heard the news that 10 activists had been killed and several soldiers wounded on the flotilla headed for Gaza, was about how the media uses language to describe conflict. The headlines on the television, radio and web were all so drastically different. The words being used too accusatory too quick.

Everyone, from the IDF and traditional media, to independent journalists, bloggers and commentators must think critically about the words they are using. These are the words that will forever be found on the web, will be carried by friends, co-workers and family members and written into our collective histories.

Here is a roundup of other journalists calling us to be wise with words:

Sources

It is also critical that we look at sources. Currently, the majority of raw (or trimmed) video circulating online, is coming from the Israeli Defense Force itself (they learned about YouTube during the last war in Gaza). While some journalists are waiting to be deported in Ben-Gurion airport, according to Reporters Without Borders another 60 – 100 journalists that were on the flotillas are still being held by the Israeli army.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that the Al Jazeera crew that was aboard the flotilla, including correspondent Abbas Nasser and cameraman Isaam Zaatar, was expelled yesterday.

Reporters Without Borders is aware of 16 journalists being held at Be’er Scheva detention centre. They are Svetoslav Ivanov and Valentin Vassilev of Bulgaria’s BTV, Muna Shester of the Kuwait News Agency, Talat Hussain of Aaj TV, Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty of the Sydney Morning Herald, Mario Damolin of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, David Segarra of teleSUR, Ayse Sarioglu of Taraf, Murat Palavar and Hakan Albayrak of Yeni Safak, Sümeyye Ertekin, Ümit Sönmez and Ersin Esen of TVNET and Ashwad Ismail and Samsul Kamal Abdul Latip of Astro Awani.

In addition, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “Othman Battiri, a senior producer at Al-Jazeera who was on board the Mavi Marmara and released on Tuesday, told CPJ that soldiers confiscated Al-Jazeera’s cameras, tapes, satellite phones, and mobile phones.” However, one video was released by Al Jazeera’s journalists before they were censored and several accounts from Freedom Flotilla activists who are in Jordon now are starting to surface.

With this flood of information, we must choose our words wisely, check our sources twice and support the release of all journalists, video tapes, cellphones and cameras in hand.

Journalists are increasingly being censored in Israel — making independent reporting more essential than ever before. You can help “break the blockade,” if you will, by supporting independent journalism now. Contribute one time or become a monthly subscriber. Feel free to contact Alison Avigayil for further details.

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