Llamada a la solidaridad internacional: ¡Libertad a Raja Eghbarieh!

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(This call is also available in English)

El 11 de septiembre de 2018,  Raja Eghbarieh fue arrestado desde su casa en Umm Al-Fahm, en 1948 Palestina. Su detención fue dos veces renovada y la fiscalía israelí anunció que lo imputarían el jueves 20 de septiembre. Según las audiencias durante la prisión preventiva, todos los “delitos” del camarada Eghbarieh son sus mensajes en su página de Facebook, que según la acusación israelí contienen “incitación a la violencia”. El camarada Eghbarieh explicó en el tribunal que todos sus mensajes son una expresión de una resistencia política legítima a la ocupación israelí y a los crímenes de guerra. La fiscalía declaró que solicitarán su detención por un período ilimitado hasta el final del juicio.

El camarada Eghbarieh es un miembro veterano del movimiento palestino de izquierda, Abnaa Al-Balad (“Hijos de la  tierra”). Fue el primer secretario general del movimiento y sigue siendo uno de sus principales líderes.

El arresto y la condena de Raja Eghbarieh es parte de un modalidad  de agresión  continua del estado sionista contra la libertad de expresión y la organización de los árabes palestinos, también aquellos que formalmente tienen la ciudadanía israelí. Mientras que los activistas son interrogados y arrestados regularmente, en los últimos años vemos un intento orquestado de erradicar el marco de las organizaciones políticas y los movimientos sociales árabes. Comenzó con el Movimiento Islámico, declarado fuera de la ley en noviembre de 2015. Muchos de sus miembros  fueron arrestados y sentenciados a prisión por delitos tales como organizar oraciones en la mezquita Al-Aqsa. Esta modalidad continúa con el ataque a la Alianza Democrática Nacional (Balad), ya que muchos de sus activistas fueron interrogados y hay una demanda constante entre los partidos sionistas para evitar que participe en las elecciones de la Knesset (parlamento israelí).

El movimiento Abnaa Al-Balad, que representa una línea más de izquierda y radical , boicoteó las elecciones a la Knesset, siendo perseguido muchas veces, y sus líderes y activistas fueron víctimas de arrestos y detención administrativa. Ahora la detención del camarada Eghbarieh apuntaría al derecho de expresar posiciones nacionales palestinas en Internet.

La solidaridad internacional es urgente y es la forma más importante de defensa del escaso margen de actividad política para los palestinos en Palestina de 1948, que se suponía que disfrutarían de “la única democracia en el Medio Oriente”. Los políticos israelíes y la opinión pública están abandonando cualquier apariencia de democracia, ya que todos los partidos sionistas compiten para promover el concepto colonialista de un estado “solo judío”. La opinión pública árabe es vista con desprecio por las autoridades israelíes.

El hecho de que Israel puede realizar todos éstos crímenes, se debe al apoyo constante de las potencias occidentales, que le suministran armas, dinero, acceso preferencial a los mercados e impunidad legal. Todos estos privilegios se otorgan en base a la mentira de que Israel es una democracia.

Para las organizaciones de izquierda y los demócratas sinceros, hay una razón especial para defender y apoyar a Abnaa Al-Balad. Este movimiento nunca se retiró del llamado palestino original para el establecimiento de un estado democrático secular en toda Palestina, para todos sus habitantes y como un marco para permitir el regreso de todos los refugiados palestinos. El ataque a Abnaa Al-Balad demuestra que el estado sionista, con todo su poderío militar, siente temor ante la sola idea de una solución democrática en Palestina.

¡Libertad a Raja Eghbarieh!

¡Fuera las manos de Abnaa Al-Balad!

¡Libertad para el pueblo palestino!

Raja Eghbarieh poster - Spanish & Arabic

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Call for international solidarity: Free Raja Eghbarieh!

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(This call was also published in Spanish)

On September 11, 2018, Raja Eghbarieh was arrested from his home in Umm Al-Fahm, in 1948 Palestine. His detention was remanded twice and the Israeli prosecution announced that they will file indictment against him on Thursday, September 20. According to the remand hearings, all of comrade Eghbarieh “offences” are his posts on his Facebook page, which the Israeli prosecution claims contain “incitement”. Comrade Eghbarieh explained in court that all his posts are an expression of a legitimate political resistance to Israeli occupation and war crimes. The prosecution declared that they will request his detention for an unlimited period until the end of the trial.

Comrade Eghbarieh is a veteran member of the left Palestinian movement, Abnaa Al-Balad (“Sons of the Country”). He was the movement’s first general secretary and is still one of its main leaders.

The arrest and sentencing of Raja Eghbarieh is part of a pattern of a continuing onslaught by the Zionist state against the freedom of expression and organization of the Arab Palestinians, also those that formally carry Israeli citizenship. While activists are interrogated and arrested on regular basis, we witness in the last years an orchestrated attempt to root out the framework of political organizations and social movements. It started with the Islamic Movement, which was outlawed in November 2015. Many of its members were arrested and sentenced to prison terms for such offences like organizing prayers in Al-Aqsa mosque. It continues with the Attack on the National Democratic Alliance (Balad), many of its activists were interrogated and there is a constant demand between Zionist parties to prevent it from participating in the Knesset elections. Abnaa Al-Balad, representing the line of the radical left and boycotting the Knesset, was persecuted many times before, and its leaders and activists were victims to arrests and administrative detention. Now the detention of comrade Eghbarieh seems to target the very right to express Palestinian national positions on the internet.

Demo in front of Hadera Court - Free Raje - Sunday 16 Sept 2018

Part of the vigil in front of the Hadera court at the time of the remand hearing, September 16

International solidarity is urgently required and is the most important form of defense of what little that was left of the thin margin for political activity for the Palestinians in 1948 Palestine, that were supposed to enjoy “the only democracy in the middle east”. Israeli politicians and public opinion are abandoning any semblance of democracy as all Zionist parties compete in promoting the colonialist concept of a “Jewish only” state. Arab public opinion is viewed with contempt by the Israeli authorities. But it is still the fact that Israel is able to perform all its crimes due to its consistent support from the western powers, which supply it with weapons, money, preferential access to markets and legal impunity. All these privileges are given based on the lie that Israel is a democracy.

For leftist organizations and sincere democrats there is a special reason to defend and support Abnaa Al-Balad. This movement never retreated from the original Palestinian call for the establishment of a secular democratic state in the whole of Palestine, for all its inhabitants and as a framework to enable the return of all Palestinian refugees. The attack on Abnaa Al-Bald proves that the Zionist state, with all its military might, is still afraid of the very idea of a democratic solution in Palestine.

Free Raja Eghbarieh!

Hands off Abnaa Al-Balad!

Freedom to the Palestinian People!

For more information on the case, comrade Eghbarieh and Abnaa Al-Balad – read here.

For solidarity news, visit the “Free Raja Eghbarieh” Facebook page.

Free Raja Eghbarieh!

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Update – September 16, 2018

The Israeli court in Hadera remanded the detention of comrade Raja Eghbarieh until Thursday, September 20, based on the declaration of the prosecution that by this date they are going to present an indictment against him.

Dozens of members of Abnaa Al-Balad and supporters from the Arab Palestinian public demonstrated in front of the Hadera court at the time of the remand hearing – condemning the detention of Eghbarieh as political persecution. They promised that all the oppressive measures by the Israeli regime will not silence the legitimate Palestinian resistance against Israeli Apartheid.

Free Raja Eghbarieh!

On Tuesday morning, September 11, while Israel was celebrating the Jewish New Year, the Israeli police raided the home of Raja Eghbarieh, one of the leaders of the Abnaa Al-Balad movement, in Umm Al-Fahm. They searched the house, confiscated documents, smartphones and computers, and carried Eghbarieh with them. On the next day he was brought before a remand judge in the Israeli court in Hadera. The police representatives clarified that they were interrogating him for his posts on Facebook. They said they have already waged a “covert investigation” for a long time and now want to carry on while he is under detention. They claimed that some of his posts consisted “incitement to violence” and “support for a terrorist organization”.

Raja Eghbarieh in Hadera court

Raja Eghbarieh in Hadera court

The defense lawyers claimed that all of Eghbarieh’s posts were, naturally, public. They said that he was already interrogated for seven hours and admitted publishing all the posts on his Facebook page. He explained during his interrogation that all his publications are legitimate expression of political opposition to Israel’s occupation and repression against the Palestinian people. They said that there is no reason to remand his detention, even if the state wants to indict him on the charges against his pronunciations.

The judge refused to accept documented evidence that the 67 years old detainee was suffering from several serious medical conditions or to consider any terms of release on bail. In the end she remanded his detention until Monday, September 17.

The Limits of Israeli Democracy

On Thursday, September 13, Adalah, the legal center for Arab minority rights in Israel, filed an appeal in the District Court in Haifa. Some twenty supporters and relatives of Eghbarieh, accompanied by four lawyers, gathered in the small hall of Judge Mazen Daoud.

Hassan Jabareen after Raja court appeal in Haifa

Adalah Lawyer Hassan Jabareen after his appearance in the appeal in Haifa

Attorney Hassan Jabareen, founder and general director of Adalah, presented the defense arguments. Hearing him you could easily be carried away and believe that we all live in a democracy, that the right for free speech is a sacred right, and nobody is arrested just for publishing his criticism against government policy on Facebook. The decision of the judge from Hadera was surely a mistake that contradicts both the law and the practice in the courts.

On the other side, representing the police was a uniformed officer named Barakat. To Jabareen’s claim that (almost) nobody is arrested just for posting on Facebook he answered with a long list of names and file numbers of people that were arrested for long periods before and after indictment for just that. For one of the names of his list he emphasized that the accused was a young man with no precedents, unlike Eghbarieh who is an influential political leader. Hearing the list of those arrested just for posting on Facebook, Jabareen could not stop himself but interrupted the officer: “They are all Arabs! Are there no Jews posting sharp words on Facebook?”

The Presumption of Dangerousness

The Israeli “law enforcement” apparatus maintains, in practice, a different legal system for Jews and Arabs. But most laws are formally worded in a general way – not conditional on the religion or nationality of the accused. One crucial way to sort things out is called in the legal system “the presumption of dangerousness”.

The decision whether to hold a suspect or an accused in detention can rely on any of several justifications. One of the most common of them is how “dangerous” the accused is. In the general case this supposed dangerousness should be tested on individual basis. In some cases even murderers were released on bail pending trial. But for offences “against state security” there is a blanket all-embracing “presumption of dangerousness” that allows the state to keep the accused for infinite time in prison until the end of the trial even if the supposed offence itself is very light. The long detention periods constitute a major pressure on the accused to agree to a plea bargain that in many cases will take them out of prison earlier than the trial itself could last.

One main argument of Jabareen in the appeal was that this “presumption of dangerousness” doesn’t apply for offences that are based on political expression. The judge rejected this claim.

The hearing was set for 15:00. After an hour or so of arguments, the judge said he will give his decision later on the same day. He received a CD from the police with “materials” – supposedly posts from Eghbarieh’s Facebook – to look at. It was almost 20:00 when he finally announced his decision. He rejected the main claims of the appeal, but accepted two minor claims. First, he agreed with the police that some of the interrogation steps require that the accused will be in detention – but not much of it. He agreed with the appeal that the remand judge in Hadera had to consider alternative measures to full detention, like house arrest. Based on these he shortened the detention period by one day, and it is now set till Sunday, September 16.

On Sunday the police may agree to release Eghbarieh or ask for another remand.

Who are Abnaa Al-Balad?

Abnaa Al-Balad (“Sons of the Country”) is a left political movement that is active between Palestinians in the territories that were occupied by Israel in 1948. To understand the roots of this movement one should understand the special history of those Palestinians that were left under Israeli rule after the 1948 Nakba in which most Palestinians were expelled and hundreds of towns and villages destroyed. It was a society under trauma, and for the first 18 years they lived under direct military rule.

In the initial period after the Nakba the only political party that was active within this section of the Palestinian population was the Israeli Communist Party. This communist party supported the basic claims of Zionism for a “Jewish state” but wasn’t Zionist itself and took an active role in defending the daily rights of the Arab Palestinian population. The first attempt to build an Arab Nationalist party, Al-Ard movement, was crushed by Israeli oppression. Abnaa Al-Balad movement, which started in the late sixties and gradually organized from local groups into a political movement, was the first movement that succeeded to resume systematic Palestinian political struggle after the Nakba.

In the eighties Abnaa Al-Balad went through deep divisions, much of them around the issue of participation in the Israeli Knesset. Finally the movement adopted a Marxist ideology and took the position of boycott of the Knesset. In spite of constant government persecutions and internal divisions Abnaa Al-Balad succeeded to keep its position as one of the recognized political movements in the Palestinian political map within the 48 areas. It is the smallest of just four movements that have grassroots organization and participate in leading Palestinian struggles, cooperating and competing with the Islamic Movement, the Communist Party and Balad. It was never registered under the Israeli law but was not outlawed either.

Abnaa Al-Balad defines itself as a Palestinian movement, promoting national identity, relating to Palestinian and wider Arab politics and rejecting integration in Israeli politics. It can claim major success in restoring the Palestinian identity of the Arab population after the Nakba and in setting the political agenda on several issues like creating wide consensus around the right of return. In addition to boycott of the Knesset it is mostly characterized by its consistent support for the establishment of one secular democratic state in the whole of Palestine.

Who is Raja Eghbarieh?

Raja Eghbarieh is the most significant leader in the history of Abnaa Al-Balad. The movement actually started in Umm Al-Fahm in 1969 as a local club that took part in municipal elections. In the eighties, as leader of the movement’s youth, he led the opposition to the traditional leadership that wanted to take part in Israeli elections and had an important role in adopting the leftist orientation. In the beginning of the first intifada, in December 1987, after a stormy general strike within 1948 Palestine, Eghbarieh, with some 10 other leaders of the movement, was put under administrative detention for six months.  After the first national conference of the movement, in 1990, he was elected to be its first general secretary.

After the Oslo Agreement, Abnaa Al-Balad wanted to build a wider front of Oslo opponents and skeptics. Eghbarieh led the discussions and negotiations that culminated in the establishment of the “Balad” party, the election of Azmi Bishara to head it and the participation of Balad in a common list with “the democratic front” in the 1996 Knesset elections.

In 1998 Abnaa Al-Balad abandoned her partnership in Balad and struggled to rebuild its independent public presence. But it soon split into a “pragmatic” faction led by Eghbarieh and a more “hardline” faction led by Muhammad Kana’aneh. After a long process of rapprochement the movement was officially reunited in 2012 with no single major leader.

For all this period Eghbarieh was not only a political leader within his movement but also represented it in different bodies that united the 1948 Palestinians in struggle against Israeli racism and oppression, mostly the “higher follow up committee”. In this role he had made important contributions as part of the united leadership of the Palestinian masses in many crucial struggles.

Silencing Palestinian Voices

Throughout the discussion of the appeal in the Haifa court, one precedent was repeatedly mentioned. It was the trials, past and present, of the leader of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ra’ed Salah, who also happened to be from Umm Al-Fahm. The police representative didn’t shy of stressing the political aspects of the trials – in both cases, he claimed, the accused are political leaders whose words carry influence with the public. He didn’t mention any post by Eghbarieh that is calling for violence, but he stressed his positions that “oppose the state of Israel” and the fact that “he writes many posts and receive many likes and shares”.

Sheikh Raed Salah in court

Sheikh Ra’ed Salah in court – endless persecution

Not only the Islamic Movement and Abnaa Al-Balad are persecuted. In the last few years Balad is also constant target to interrogations, detentions and trials. Many speakers for Israel’s government and Zionist parties express their intention to prevent Balad from entering the Knesset again.

After the recent ratification of the Nationality Law, which officially declares Israel as an exclusive Jewish state, there was a wide call in Palestinian circles to reconsider the usefulness of Arab participation in the Knesset.

Just as the Israeli state is using its heavy hands to silence any form of Palestinian political expression, the very same repression proves to the population at large and to the world the basic claims of those very same voices: that Israel is not a democracy but a colonialist system based on Apartheid and ethnic cleaning.

 

The Political Program of the Campaign for One Democratic State in Historic Palestine

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PREAMBLE

(This program is also available in Arabic & Hebrew)

In recent years, the idea of a one democratic state in all of historic Palestine as the best solution to the conflict has re-emerged. It started gaining increased support in the public domain. It is not a new idea. The Palestinian liberation movement, before the catastrophe of 1948 (the Nakba) and after it, had adopted this vision, including the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The PLO abandoned this idea in the framework of the diplomatic negotiations at the late eighties that led to the Oslo agreement of 1993. The Palestinian leadership hoped that this agreement would enable the building of an independent Palestinian state on the territories that Israel occupied in 1967. But on the ground Israel has strengthened its colonial control, fragmenting the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza into isolated cantons, separated from one another by settlements, checkpoints, military bases and fences.

The two-state solution, which is basically an unfair solution, is clearly dead. Israel buried it deep under its colonial settlement policies in the territories that were supposed to become the independent Palestinian state. Israel has imposed a single repressive regime that extends over all the Palestinians who live in historic Palestine, including those with Israeli citizenship.

In view of these dangerous developments, and, more important, based on the values of justice, freedom and democracy, we contend that the only way to achieve justice and permanent peace is dismantling the colonial apartheid regime in historic Palestine and the establishment of a new political system based on full civil equality, and on full implementation of the Palestinian refugees’ Right of Return, and the building of the required mechanisms to correct the historical grievances of the Palestinian people as a result of the Zionist colonialist project.

On this background, many activists and groups, Palestinians and Israelis, have recently initiated the revival of the one-state idea, proposing differing models of such a state, such as a bi-national state, a liberal democratic state and a socialist state. They are all united, however, in their commitment to the establishment of a single democratic state in all of historic Palestine, as an alternative to the colonial apartheid regime that Israel has imposed over the country from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan River. A similar regime was toppled by the joint struggle of black and white South Africans under the leadership of the ANC in 1994.

The goal of this political program, as formulated by the One Democratic State Campaign (ODSC), is to widen the support for this solution among the local populations, Palestinian and Israeli alike, as well as among the international public. We call on all those in the world who struggle for freedom and justice to join and support our struggle against this apartheid regime and for the establishment of a democratic state free of occupation and colonialism, based on justice and equality, which guarantees a better future for the next generations and real peace in all of historic Palestine.

 The Political Program

  1. A Single Constitutional Democracy. OneDemocratic State shall be established between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River as a state belonging to all its citizens, including the Palestinian refugees. All citizens will enjoy equal rights, freedom and security. The State shall be a constitutional democracy, the authority to govern and make laws emanating from the will of the people. All its citizens shall enjoy equal rights to vote, nominate candidates for any post and take part in the country’s governance.
  2. Right of Return, of Restoration and of Reintegration into Society. The single democratic state will fully implement the Right of Return of all Palestinian refugees and their descendants, those who were expelled in 1948 and thereafter, whether living in exile abroad or currently living in historic Palestine, including those with Israeli citizenship. The State will aid them in returning to their country and to the places from which they were expelled. It will help them rebuild their personal lives and to be fully reintegrated into the country’s society, economy and polity. The State will do everything in its power to restore to the refugees their private and communal property and/or compensate them.
  3. Individual Rights. No State law, institution or practices shall discriminate among its citizens on the basis of ethnic identity, national or cultural belonging, or on the basis of color, gender, language, religion, political opinion, property or sexual orientation. The state will grant all its citizens the right to freedom of movement and the right to reside anywhere in the country. The state will guarantee to all the citizens equal rights in all levels and institutions and will guarantee free thought and freedom of opinion. Alongside religious marriage the State will provide civil marriage.
  4. Collective Rights. Within the framework of a single democratic state, the Constitution will also protect collective rights and the freedom of association, whether national, ethnic, religious, class or gender. Constitutional guarantees will ensure that all languages, arts and cultures can flourish and develop freely. No group or collectivity will have any privileges, nor will any group or collectivity have any control or domination over others. The Constitution will deny the Parliament the authority to enact any laws that discriminate against any community, be it ethnic, national, religious, cultural or class.
  5. Normal procedures of obtaining citizenship will be extended to those willing to immigrate to the country.
  6. Constructing a Shared Civil Society. The Stateshall nurture a vital civil society comprised of common civil institutions, in particular educational, cultural and economic.
  7. Economy and Economic Justice. Our vision seeks to achieve social and economic justice. Economic policy must address the decades of exploitation and discrimination which have sown deep socioeconomic gaps among the people living in the country. The income distribution in Israel/Palestine is more unequal than in any country in the world. A State seeking justice must develop a creative and long-term redistributive economic policy to ensure that all citizens have equal opportunity to attain education, productive employment, economic security and a dignified standard of living.
  8. Commitment to Human Rights, Justice and Peace. The Stateshall uphold international law and seek the peaceful resolution of conflicts through negotiation and collective security in accordance with the United Nations Charter. The State will sign and ratify all international treaties on human rights and its people shall reject racism and promote social, cultural and political rights as set out in relevant United Nations covenants.
  9. Our Role in the Region. The ODS Campaign will join with all progressive forces in the Arab world struggling for democracy, social justice and egalitarian societies free from tyranny and foreign domination. The State shall seek democracy and freedom in the Middle East, so that the rights of the region’s peoples and citizens will be guaranteed and its many communities, religions, traditions and ideologies shall be respected. That should include respect for the peoples’ right to struggle for equality and freedom of thought. Achieving justice in Palestine will contribute measurably toward these goals and the aspirations of the region’s peoples.
  10. International responsibility. On a global level, the ODS Campaign views itself as a part of the democratic and progressive forces striving for an alternative global order that shall be pluralistic and sustainable, more just, egalitarian and humanistic and free of exploitation, racism, intolerance, oppression, wars, colonialism and imperialism. This new world order will be based on human dignity and respect for the people’s rights to freedom and just distribution of resources and will provide a healthy and sustainable environment.

 

The Campaign for One Democratic State – political and organizational perspectives

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(The following report appeared first on Mondoweiss. Earlier versions of this report were published in Arabic and Hebrew).

[Photo credits: Pictures are courtesy of Ashraf Abdelfattah]

A New Guy on the ODS Block

Over the last year a new One Democratic State (ODS) initiative, striving to restore Palestinian rights and bring a just solution to the more than a century long bloody conflict, held a series of meetings and consultations. The initiating group is diverse, bringing together academics and activists, veterans of the struggle and members of the new youth movements, Arabs and Jews. For technical reasons the initiative is currently concentrated “within the green line” – those parts of Palestine that Israel took control of already in 1948. For the time being, the organizers distinguish the new initiative under the acronyms ODSC – standing for ODS Campaign.

The new initiative hasn’t yet even publish its initial political program, which is subject to prolonged process of consultations in an attempt to form a broad church of supporters of the ODS idea, with different political backgrounds and different views about the detailed structure of the future state. It might be a signal for the growing interest in ODS that it has already ignited some interest and lively discussion.Shefa3amer meeting 23 June 2018 1 hall

In late June the group’s steering committee held its second official meeting in Shafa’amer near Haifa, and decided to open it to the media even as basic issues were still under discussion. The fledgling movement’s 50 organizers, Arabs and Jews, adopted a political program ahead of the official launch coming this Fall. The program was adopted in Arabic but its publication was delayed until parallel Hebrew and English versions will be ready.

In the meantime, the following report about the meeting’s contents gives an initial opportunity to look in detail at the political perspectives of some of those behind this campaign, based on my notes taken during the meeting and coverage by Omar Dalasha, which first appeared on the website “Arab 48.”

The meeting dealt with a number of theoretical and political issues, as well as practical steps to place the idea of a democratic solution in the center of political discourse, and to create an alternative consciousness against the reality of partition, colonialism and ethnic cleansing.

An old new idea

Awad Abdelfattah, one of the founders of the new initiative and who previously served as general secretary of “The National Democratic Alliance” (a Palestinian party active in 1948 Palestine, AKA as “Balad”), opened the discussion. He started with the historical background and current efforts toward the proposed solution:

“This idea we present today is not new. Our initiative to revive the program is neither the first nor the only one. We are building on the intellectual heritage of the previous initiatives and on the values ​​of freedom and ethics that this solution represents. But we also begin with a critical reading of previous attempts, which failed to take off and become an influential public movement.”

Abdelfattah added, “the illusion of a two-state solution proved to be completely unrealistic, in view of the dominance of the colonial apartheid regime against our people, and with it the ideas of division and separation based on injustice were discredited. Against this background, and relying on the principles of justice, we are working to renew the discussion of the one-state solution and bring it back to the fore.”

He explained that the founders do not believe that the current moment is revolutionary, the relationship of forces are not favorable and there is no easy way to change this. On the contrary, the Palestinian people are now going through one of the most difficult periods in the history of their struggle. He said,

“We are living in a period of confusion and uncertainty, not only because of the inability to change the situation due to the skewed balance of power, but also in the absence of a vision and a lack of a clear definition of the goals of the struggle around which the Palestinian people can unite. Against this backdrop, there is a growing tendency to adopt an alternative based on the desire for freedom and a humanistic approach that can re-emphasize the components of the strength of the Palestinian struggle, based on moral dimensions, the struggle for the rights of a people suffering under a racist colonial regime, not a struggle over defining borders.”

Abdelfattah emphasized the presence of Jews who oppose the colonial apartheid regime in Palestine and believe in one state. They are a key element in the initiative’s leadership. He said that their participation enhance its credibility.

Part of the initiative’s mission is to formulate a new pattern of cooperation between Arabs and Jews in the struggle – instead of co-existence, co-resistance is needed.

What have we done so far?

Abdelfattah reviewed the activities that took place since the first preparatory meeting on April 21, 2018 (a report about this meeting is here). At that time a number of working groups were established according to topics: media, a committee for organizational affairs and youth, and a committee to promote the discussion on issues of principle.

“We held many meetings with potential Arab and Jewish activists and supporters,” he said, adding, ”By reaching out we have witnessed that many people are undergoing a process of change in their approach to the solution. We must redouble our efforts, be creative and invest more thought.”

He explained that choosing the name “campaign” instead of “movement”—although the goal is to become a movement later—stems from the need and desire to include other Palestinian and Palestinian-Jewish groups, as well as activists who support this solution,

“We maintain flexibility, openness, and acceptance of different opinions, on the condition that everyone agrees with the idea of ​​a single democratic state. We believe that the insistence on issues that need not be decided now and the attempt to create ideological consensus on both large and small issues are among the reasons that some previous movements failed to grow. We do not want to remain a small movement, without influence and torn by internal disagreements or paralyzed by stagnation and narrow mindedness.”

“This is a patriotic democratic liberation project that requires years of hard work, in which generations unite, in a determined and continuing struggle to reach a free homeland and free people who believe in justice and equality,” Abdelfattah concluded, “A more conscious, freer young generation will emerge from the joint action, with a deeper understanding of the ideas of democracy and liberation.”

A Palestinian initiative that Jews are joining

Historian Ilan Pappe, a member of the founding committee, spoke about the prospects for promoting the idea in Israeli society. At the beginning of his speech, Pappe told how he was invited on May 15 to present at the United Nations the perspective of the solution of one democratic state. The representatives of Israel, the United States and Saudi Arabia boycotted the meeting, and the Palestinian ambassador, who attended it, not only did not support the proposed solution but also attacked it, out of loyalty to the two-state solution.

This event represents the problems we encounter when the official representatives of the Palestinian people – in both the international community and the Knesset – oppose the proposed solution.

Shefa3amer meeting 23 June 2018 2 speakers

Some of the speakers in the meeting, right to left: Ilan Pappe, Awad Abdelfattah, Mahmoud Miari, Muhammad Younis

“On this background,” Pappe continued, “there are special importance and influence to the fact that this is a Palestinian initiative to which Jews are joining. The fact that Palestinians adopt the plan of one democratic state based on equality will influence opinions on the Israeli street. Being a Palestinian initiative gives it a moral and ideological weight,” he said, continuing,

“We speak a lot about the balance of material forces, but we confront this skewed balance with the moral balance of power between the original inhabitants of the country and the settlers’ society. Creating an artificial parallelism between the two sides, as if there are peace camps on both sides, meeting in the middle of the road, doesn’t help this process. When the program of one state will appear as a new stage of the Palestinian liberation movement, it will also produce new opportunities to mobilize supporters within Jewish society.”

Pappe also discussed the difficulties in enlisting from Israeli society,

“We are talking about abolishing the preferential regime and the privileges that the Israelis enjoy at the expense of the original residents, and the settlers will not easily or voluntarily give up these privileges. For this it is necessary to change the balance of power from within, through a popular movement, as well as through external pressure, such as that applied by the boycott movement, the BDS. The success of the boycott movement is an important experience to build upon. In its beginnings many people argued that calling for a boycott would prevent dialogue and harm the opponents of the occupation in Israeli society. The experience proved the reverse – the boycott is also a form of dialogue in which Israelis are told that they must change. Even discussing the boycott, like discussing one-state, opens up many opportunities.”

Pappe also mentioned the alternative culture that develops among the younger generation – a culture that is much more open to anything that moves away from the institutional consensus and is willing to explore other possibilities,

“We started the initiative about a year ago, during which we met and talked to various people in Israeli society and witnessed a growing willingness to hear and accept the idea, even now that there is still no significant political movement working to advance this solution. In the wake of every additional publication about the movement, more people – Palestinians and Jews – are calling to join. If we succeed in forming an organized framework that will adopt the idea, that will work to abolish the regime of racial segregation, to waive the privileges and to live together on the basis of the principles of justice, the supporting circles will expand. The idea now exists and develops as an ideological stream rather than as a movement or an organized force. It is necessary to build an organized, strong and influential public movement, which can provide a framework for utilizing the potential support for the idea. This potential will expand further due to the lack of a political solution in the horizon, especially as it will become evident that the political deadlock might lead to disasters and exact new price in blood.”

The youth protest movements and the one-state

Muhammad Younis, an activist in Herak Haifa and a member of the founding committee, spoke about the political context in which current youth movements in Palestine develop and operate. He relied on the experience, among other examples, of the movements that organized the recent demonstrations in Haifa in support of the March of the Return in the Gaza Strip,

“The vast majority of young people tend to support the idea of ​​a single state rather than a two-state solution, but most have no organizational connection to this idea,” he said. “The various parties in historic Palestine failed to create a broad consensus around a unifying Palestinian national project. Palestinian youth today were born in a period dominated by the Oslo Accords and grew in the shadow of the division between Palestinian people in the two sides of the Green Line and between those in Palestine and the refugees out of the country. In addition, it is becoming ever clearer that the so called ‘peace process’ leads nowhere and that the ‘two-state solution’ failed. We grew up as a youth when everyone was talking about a two-state solution and we were educated on this idea. In view of the failure of this solution and the absence of an alternative, or the lack of proper presentation of an alternative, we are witnessing a general state of frustration from political activity.”

In these conditions different youth movements developed. Those movements were also influenced by the Arab revolutions, where the youth had a central role in their awakening and at the beginning of their path, before the regimes and external forces turned them into destructive civil wars. Those movements went through several important stages. One of their peaks was the movement against the Prawer plan to uproot the Palestinian residents of the Naqab. The youth movements also played an important role in organizing support for the hunger strikes of the Palestinian freedom prisoners. Recently we witnessed the march of return in the Gaza Strip, and how a supportive movement developed in Haifa and Ramallah. This last experience succeeded to forge unity in struggle, goals and slogans among various parts of the Palestinian people and raised it to a new level.”

Significant support for the right of return among the Jewish public

The last speaker was Eitan Bronstein Aparicio, founder of Zochrot and currently active in the “De Colonizer” organization. Both movements work among the Jewish public to promote awareness of the destroyed Palestinian villages and recognition of the rights of the refugees. He presented the results of public opinion surveys on the attitude toward the right of return initiated by “De Colonizer” and conducted by a professional survey institute. These results appeared in a book he published recently, together with Eleonor Merza-Bronstein, named “Nakba in Hebrew: a political journey.”

The first survey was conducted in March 2015. The main result surprised the survey’s initiators: More than 20 percent of the respondents, all Jewish residents of Israel, expressed support for the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. Bronstein explained that the result of 20 percent support consists of summing the number of those who chose one of two possible answers, unconditional support or support provided it doesn’t harm the current residents. The poll’s initiators wanted to ensure that the results were real and repeated it in March 2017. This time the result was even more positive – 27 percent supported the right of return, conditionally or unconditionally. Support was higher among young people and among secular Jews.

In order to be more certain that the respondents indeed understood the meaning of the right of return, De Colonizer repeated the survey once again in April 2017. This time the pollsters were required to explicitly explain to the respondents that the right of return meant that more than 7 million Palestinians could choose to exercise this right. In this poll, support for the right fell to 16.2 percent.

Bronstein noted that support for the right of return among Jews in Israel can be considered surprisingly high, since no Israeli party supports this right and in light of the official propaganda that always tries to frighten the public from the right of return and say that its implementation means the liquidation of the Jews or at least their expulsion from the country.

Bronstein concluded that the Israelis’ position toward the right of return can be changed, and for this purpose we need a will and determination to build a democratic alternative.

Open discussion

After the presentation, an open discussion took place lasting over an hour and a half.

The discussion dealt again with the 10-point political plan of the initiative, which has already been discussed and amended through several previous meetings, and this time was brought for approval. It was clarified that the program was not intended to answer all the questions, but rather to create a broad basis within which activists and organizations coming from different political traditions and from different ideologies could work together. The common denominator is the commitment to fight against all forms of oppression, overcome past residues through the return of the refugees, abolish all oppressive mechanisms, and create an open democratic society in which everyone will enjoy full rights where there is systematic action to close social gaps and create a just society.

Much of the discussion was devoted to the right form of building the movement with regard to the existing gaps—wide gaps in power and consciousness—between Palestinian Arab society and Jewish society in Israel. Many varied opinions were expressed. For most of us, just thinking about building a joint movement is a new political experience that requires redefining concepts and dealing with questions that are easy to ignore in routine political work. Finally, it was decided that these issues, like many others, required an in-depth and systematic discussion that would accompany us over the coming months and years.

Decisions and practical measures

Despite the need for further discussions, the proposed political plan was adopted for the current period as the basis to act upon and expand the movement.

We have set ourselves the goal of working toward a broad conference in the autumn, after more people and groups will join the campaign. This conference will also be an opportunity to re-discuss the political program and update it based on the contributions of new participants and accumulated experience.

The participants also decided to continue the construction of the subcommittees, to include new members and to continue organizing meetings of activists, informational lectures and community discussions.

Why the poet Dareen Tatour was convicted of incitement?

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Detailed analysis of the verdict exposes the ingrained racism of Israel’s injustice system

(The following article appeared initially in Mondoweiss. It is also available in Hebrew)

On May 3, 2018, exactly two and a half years after the indictment was filed against her, Dareen Tatour, a Palestinian poet from Reineh in the Galilee, was convicted of three counts of “incitement to violence”. For one of the three publications she was also convicted of “supporting a terrorist organization”.

Judge Adi Bambiliya-Einstein’s hall at the Nazareth Magistrate’s Court was full of supporters of Tatour and representatives of the Arab and Hebrew media. The judge usually sternly and resolutely conducts the hearings. In the past she even addressed the audience directly to explain how the tiresome and lengthy procedure she is conducting is entirely intended to bring out truth and justice. But this time, just when justice was supposed to come out, she announced in advance that the verdict was long and therefore she would read only a small part of it, and that little she murmured in a low voice barely audible in the hall. Only once did she raise her voice, when she quoted a precedent-setting ruling praising the importance of free speech. Finally, when she reached her conclusions, she mentioned only the section numbers in which she convicted the defendant and hurried out of the courtroom. We had to wait for the written version of the verdict to be handed over to Attorney Gaby Lasky who explained to us the meaning of the verdict: conviction on all charges.

The plea for punishment was heard on May 31. The prosecutor sought to impose on Tatour a prison term of between 15 and 26 months, more than any other defendant who was tried for similar offenses. The sentencing is expected to be issued on July 31. In the meantime, I went back to reading the verdict in order to try to understand on what grounds Tatour was convicted, even though in all the publications of which she was accused there was neither any call for violence nor support for any organization waging armed struggle against Israel.

There is no innocent Arab

The affair of the poet Dareen Tatour began with a series of mistakes.

On October 9, 2015, at a central bus station in Afula, a woman named Israa Abed, who was holding a knife, was mistakenly suspected of intending to carry out an attack. She was shot by soldiers and security personnel. The picture of the wounded Israa lying on the floor of the station was published by Dareen Tatour as the background picture for her Facebook page. Next to her was a profile picture with the inscription “I am the next martyr” – a picture used by many activists to protest the ease with which innocent Palestinian civilians are repeatedly killed by settlers, the occupation army and the Israel Police.

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Dareen’s profile picture: I’m the next martyr. First published in July 2014 in protest of the burning alive of martyr Muhammad Abu Khdeir

A screenshot of the Facebook page with a picture of Israa Abed and the inscription “I am the next martyr” was transmitted by an anonymous source to the Nazareth police, who interpreted it as if Tatour intended to carry out an attack. In a pre-dawn semi-military operation, the police, accompanied by a Border Police force, raided Tatour’s house and arrested her without a search order or detention warrant. She was held for hours in a police car in the yard of the police station in Nazareth, while the policemen were insulting her and bragging of having caught “a terrorist”. In the first interrogation, that same morning, she was accused of “threatening to harm others and threatening the security of the state”.

The interrogators quickly understood that Tatour was not planning to carry out any attack. But, instead of releasing her and sending her home, they began a strenuous investigation of her two Facebook pages, her YouTube channel, her blog and all the material on her computer and on her phone. Given that Tatour is a poet, photographer and tireless writer, who responded in real time to many events, the fact that they did not find any statement beyond the norm is noteworthy. But what did not appear in the texts themselves was added by the interrogators with their interpretation. Finally they chose one poem and two Facebook statuses and, on November 2, 2015, filed an indictment.

An important part of the indictment and the court hearings relates to the period in which the publications appeared – early October 2015. In the indictment, the prosecution stresses that during that period “many attacks were carried out against Israeli Jewish citizens”. They claimed that Tatour’s publications should be interpreted, against this background, as a dangerous call to carry out attacks. Tatour, in her police interrogations and her testimony in the court, mentioned that at the same time many other things also happened: innocent Arab citizens were targeted; there were many restrictions preventing Muslims from praying at the Al-Aqsa mosque; there was a surge in popular Palestinian struggle. She showed in detail how her publications explicitly relate to these events and constitute a legitimate protest.

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Israa Abed just before she was shot by Israeli soldiers in the Afula central bus station. Dareen said she watched the video and was sure that Israa didn’t attack or threaten anybody.

In summing up the defense case, showing that the harm to innocent people was a tangible danger that characterized the period and justified Tatour’s warning/protest, Lasky noted that at that time many prominent Israeli officers, ministers and politicians publicly called to shoot to kill both suspects and terrorists. She continued to list two cases: the lynching of an Ethiopian citizen named Haftom Zarhum, who was mistakenly suspected of involvement in a terrorist attack at the central bus station in Be’er Sheva on October 18 and an incident on October 21, 2015, in which an ultra-Orthodox guard named Simcha Hodadatov was shot dead in Jerusalem after being mistakenly suspected by soldiers.

It is no coincidence that, according to the dominant Israeli narrative, these are the only two cases of killing innocents at a period when scores of Arab citizens were fatally shot. In these two cases, the mistake in identification was clear – the casualties were not Arabs. The concept of an innocent Arab victim is simply not recognized in “Israeli speak”. If an Arab is hurt in any circumstances, the system makes sure to prove his guilt in retrospect. The same is true of Tatour herself – who warned against this system and became a victim of it. Because she was unjustly suspected and hurt, the entire system mobilized to prove her guilt in retrospect.

Three criminalized words: Intifada, Qawem, Shahid

The entire conviction revolves around Hebrew interpretation of three Arabic words that appear in the texts published by Tatour: Intifada, Qawem and Shahid.

The word “intifada” – shuddering – is used in various historical contexts to describe popular struggles against oppression. The judge criminalized the usage of this word by citing a ruling from Israel’s “Supreme Court” which discussed the case against the leader of the Islamic Movement, Sheikh Ra’ed Salah. The judge quotes this ruling at length, coming at end to the final conclusion: “This term has become a generic name for a violent Palestinian uprising… Any reasonable person will easily see that this is how this term is perceived by everyone…” (The verdict, page 200 of the trial’s protocol). Thus, the Israeli courts claim to be the final arbiter not only of matters of Israeli law, but also on the Arabic language. Moreover, they go under our skin and claim to know what we all think and what we understand when we hear the term intifada.

Tatour used the word “qawem” (resist) in her poem and in the tag of one of her posts. Is it forbidden to oppose government policy? In her police interrogations, the trial and the verdict, the police, the prosecution and the judge acted to prove that this was not legitimate resistance. In the absence of any call for violence in the statements published by Tatour, they tried to fill the gap with the desired violence by claiming that she had published a violent video in which you can see clashes between stone throwing Palestinian youth and soldiers firing at them. They also claimed that Tatour was responsible for the possible reactions of anyone who might see her publications, not only reasonable readers.

The Arabic word “shahid”, meaning “martyr”, has a simple Hebrew translation that is parallel to it in many ways – “halal” (חלל). In both languages this word can be used both for victims of disaster, war or occupation and for those who died in other tragic circumstances. Nevertheless, the interrogators, the prosecution and the judge insisted on using the Arabic word “shahid”. They consistently attribute to this word an aggressive meaning that doesn’t exist in Arabic.

During the trial, the defense provided extensive explanations, including by the expert witness Dr. Yoni Mendel, on the customary use of the title “shahid” for victims of the occupation. The fact that a Palestinian who was killed during a violent action against the occupation is also known as Shahid refers to the fact that he was killed, not to the violent action he carried out. The same is true with the Hebrew word “halal”, as IDF casualties are called “halalim” regardless of what they did, or did not do, before their death. Contrary to this evidence, the judge finally concluded that in fact this was a word with two different translations / meanings: “innocent victim” or “a terrorist”. Much of the verdict, as we shall see below, is based on this misconception and on the argument that Tatour’s statements about “martyrs” refer to “suicide terrorists” and would be understood as such by her readers.

The video and the poem

The first factual clause in the indictment, after the introductions, is the publication of the poem “Resist My People, Resist Them“. Its translation into Hebrew, which was done by a policeman from the Nazareth police, appears in full in the indictment. In order to attribute to the poem a violent character, which is not found in the words themselves, the prosecution turned to the manner in which the poem was published: On YouTube, Tatour reads the poem’s lyrics to the background of a video showing clashes between Palestinian demonstrators and occupation soldiers in the village of Silwad in the West Bank.

Tatour explained in her testimony in court that these are typical images of the reality of the occupation to which we are all routinely exposed for decades. The prosecutor tried to escalate the violence in the video. She repeated in the indictment, during the hearings and in her summaries the claim that the video contained “violent acts, including masked individuals throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the security forces and various disturbances.” The defense in its summaries noted that, throughout the video, no Molotov cocktails can be seen.

The judge’s reference in the verdict to the content of the video characterizes the approach of many judges who spent their best years in the prosecution and still operate from the same approach. First she cites the indictment in its entirety, including the Molotov cocktails. Later, when she describes the video with her own words, she omits the Molotov cocktails without mentioning the prosecution’s mistake. Instead, she demonstrates creativity and tries to fill in the lacunae in her own language, portraying the violence in the video as particularly grave. She writes:

“A video that is entirely violent, with masked men throwing stones not only by their hands, but also by using various means that look like ropes, intended to extend the range and increase the intensity of the damage. You see burning tires, burning of an Israeli flag, throwing stones at an army jeep, IDF soldiers filmed running after a suspect and unable to catch him, a woman arguing with IDF soldiers, IDF soldiers standing in front of demonstrators, and rioting.” (The verdict, p. 186 of the trial’s protocol).

It can be understood that, by her method, a woman who argues with soldiers is also an expression of violence and rioting…

Interpretation of the poem

During the trial, it seemed that the prosecutor gradually understood that there was a problem with an indictment based on a poem. In her cross examination of defense witnesses she began to put in doubt whether it was indeed a poem. In her summaries, the prosecutor has consistently refrained from naming it by the explicit word “poem” and has consistently used alternative phrases such as “the text accompanying the video.”

The judge, on the contrary, decided to take on the task of interpreting and judging poetry heads on. She diligently and meticulously printed side by side, line by line, the two translations that were submitted to her: the translation of the policeman and the alternative translation of the professional translator, Dr. Mendel, which was provided by the defense. After a detailed comparison of the two translations, the judge concluded that there is no substantive difference between them and that she prefers to base herself on the professional translation of Dr. Mendel. But, in practice, she uses the words of Dr. Mendel, while taking them out of context, in order to attribute to the poem the opposite meaning of what was written in the expert opinion he presented to the court.

Dr. Mendel, based on extensive research he has conducted on that subject, presented to the Court the phenomenon of non-translation of words from Arabic to Hebrew, and the subsequent demonization of their meaning in the Hebrew discourse. In this context he explained the line in the poem “Follow the convoy of martyrs”. He stated that the translation given by the policeman “and follow the convoy of shahids” is a clear example of the distortion of meaning created by non-translation. In the Hebrew connotation, the term shahid was demonized and might be mistakenly understood as a “suicide bomber”. From all of Dr. Mendel’s opinion, the judge adopts only his comment related to the misinterpretation that might be given to this line in the poem by the Hebrew readers of the mistranslation. On this basis she states that the defense witness:

“explicitly noted that he does not dispute that it was written in the poem, in literal translation: “Follow the convoy of “shahids””, a phrase that can be understood as “a call by the poet to go out and attack Israelis, and thus become a shahid and join terrorist-shahids who harmed Israelis” (the verdict, p. 190 of the trial transcript).

In this way Mendel’s explicit warning of wrong translation (actually of non-translation) leading to erroneous interpretation is used as justification for adopting this misinterpretation.

In the course of the police investigations and her testimony in the court, Tatour made it clear that the martyrs that are mentioned in her poem are… the same martyrs that are explicitly mentioned in the poem itself: the children who were burned for no reason (Muhammad Abu Khdeir and Ali Dawabsha), Hadeel al-Hashlamoun who was shot at an army checkpoint in al-Khalil (Hebron) – all victims of the occupation and the settlers’ terror.

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Hadeel al-Hashlamoun was shot in an army checkpoint in al-Khalil.

The judge, in her decision to interpret the line “Follow the convoy of martyrs” as incitement to violence, expands her authority from legal matters into the depths of poetry. She states that it is impossible that the martyrs mentioned in line 11 in the poem are in any way related to those innocents – as those are mentioned in a completely different place, in lines 15-26 of the poem! On the contrary, the judge decided that the martyrs are clearly “suicide bombers”, although there is no mention of such actions in the poem or in the accompanying video. But bloody terrorists are always everywhere in Israeli consciousness wherever Palestinian resistance is mentioned. Finally, although the martyrs in line 11 are not related to the victims in line 15 and on, the opposite connection clearly exists, as the judge writes:

“A reasonable person who looks into the poem will immediately understand that the words: “They burned the children without a reason and they sniped Hadeel in public” were intended to increase the incitement, to explain, motivate and justify the acts of the uprising to the settlers’ robbery, to follow the shahids, and to tear the agreement” (the verdict, p. 192 of the trial’s protocol).

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Baby Ali Dawabsheh with his parents. They were all burned to death by Israeli settlers. The judge said that commemorating them in the poem could only be for incitement to violence.

After all, as is clear to every reasonable Israeli, it is impossible that a Palestinian poet would sincerely cry for the victims of her people or aspire to prevent further victims – any mention of them, of course, is only for incitement.

Finally, in the summary of the convicting decision about the poem, the judge states:

“This is a poem that includes a call to follow the convoy of “shahids”, a word associated with perpetrators of murderous attacks on ideological grounds, as well as with martyrs and victims. The connotation in the poem was clarified.” (ibid, p. 202).

Here the judge closes the circle of guilt – from the violence that does not exist in the poem itself through the stone throwing in the background clip to the inevitable conclusion… “perpetrators of murderous attacks”!

Israa Abed and the next martyr

A particularly Kafkaesque trap was the accusation in “incitement to violence” based on the publication of an image of Israa Abed lying on the floor of the central bus station in Afula after she was shot, as the background image for Tatour’s Facebook page, alongside a profile picture with the writing “I am the next martyr”. In her interrogations, Tatour recounted how she kept looking at the video showing the moment Israa was shot and was convinced that she was not going to attack anyone. Tatour and other activists used the writing “I am the next martyr” to protest against unjustified killing – from the time of the murder of the young Muhammad Abu Khdeir in Jerusalem in July 2014 and the subsequent murder of Kheir Hamdan by Israeli police in Kafr Kana in November 2014. The meaning is simple – when Arabs are killed indiscriminately, each one of us can be a victim.

In practice, indeed, barely a day has passed since Israa Abed was suspected and shot, and suspicions fell on Dareen Tatour – precisely because of the publication of Israa’s picture and the protest writing. Luckily Tatour was not shot but detained. However, after it became clear that this was a false suspicion, the legal authorities began to carry out a legal “confirmation of killing”.

Fortunately, Israa Abed herself survived the shooting. Even before the indictment was filed against Tatour, an indictment was filed against Abed, in the same court, attributing to her the possession of a knife and threats, but not assault and no intention of carrying out an attack. This did not prevent the police officers, who testified in court, from claiming that Tatour had published the picture of “the terrorist.” Even in her summaries, the prosecutor reiterated her claim that what Tatour knew at the time of the publication of the picture was that Abed “came to stab Jews”, because that was what was claimed at the time in the Israeli media. Again, the prosecution demands monopoly over everyone’s consciousness – as if Tatour must believe the lies of the Israeli media and not what she saw in the video documenting the events.

The judge, like Alexander the Great at the time, solved this Gordian knot with a sword. She removed Israa Abed from this case also, claiming that the link between the publication of her picture and the inscription “I am the next martyr” was not proven. On the other hand, she reiterated her position that Tatour uses the word “shahid” in the sense of “suicide bomber” and therefore determined that the publication of the status “I am the next martyr” in itself constitutes incitement to violence.

How was “support for a terrorist organization” added?

During the trial we spoke with lawyers who know the “rules of the game” in the Israeli legal system. Almost no one expected that Tatour would be acquitted, no matter how unfounded the charges against her. Anyone who tried to be optimistic said that the judge, in an attempt to show some balance, might acquit Tatour at least from the charge of “supporting a terrorist organization.” This accusation is based entirely on the following status, published on Facebook, as it was translated to Hebrew in the indictment:

“Allah Akbar(*) and praise his name… The Islamic Jihad movement declares in a statement the continuation of the Intifada across the West Bank… continuation means expansion… That is, to all Palestine… And we have to begin inside the Green Line… To the victory of Al-Aqsa and we declare it a general Intifada…#Resist”.

(*)The indictment – while translating this quote into Hebrew – leaves “Allahu Akbar”, meaning “God is Greater”, in Hebraized Arabic.

Apart from a minor inaccuracy in the translation (“loyalty” to al-Aqsa, not “victory”), there was no dispute about the publication itself. Tatour explained that she had copied this status from some site because of her support for the popular struggle for the right to pray in the Al-Aqsa mosque, a struggle that was expanding at that time into what she thought deserved the name intifada. She did not attach much importance to the mention of Islamic Jihad. Taking into account the prosecution’s method to attribute a violent character to any type of Palestinian struggle, it is clear how this status is interpreted as incitement to violence. But “Islamic Jihad” is only mentioned as a matter of fact as someone who called for an intifada in the West Bank, as opposed to “us” who have to wage a struggle within the Green Line. So where is the support here?

Dareen at home july 2018 photo by Yoav H 3

Dareen at home – still under house arrest, waiting the final sentencing on July 31. Using the time to write more poems.

Two experienced police interrogators who repeatedly interrogated Tatour about this short status asked her only about the call for intifada, and did not attribute to her any support to “Islamic Jihad”. Only when the interrogation material reached the State Attorney’s Office for the preparation of an indictment, somebody up there decided to convert the case into a “state security” affair by adding the clause about “support of a terrorist organization”. Among other things, the addition of this section helped to extend the detention of Tatour until the end of the legal proceedings, and hence her transfer to house arrest with electronic bracelet, her forced deportation from the area and all the abuse that she has undergone in the past three years as a “danger to state security”.

In her attempt to justify the conviction and cover for the lack of evidence in the text that Tatour published, the judge not only interprets the text, but also rewrites it in her language in a way that is fundamentally different from the original:

“The perpetrator publishes a publication in the name of a murderous terrorist organization, Islamic Jihad, a publication that is not simple but calls for an all-out intifada in all of Palestine, including the Green Line, with the organization’s name at the top of the message” (the verdict, p. 206 of the protocol).

To make this even clearer, the judge even repeats it again.

“A murderous terrorist organization declares in a declaration of a general intifada within the Green Line – and the accused supports the organization by way of distributing the declaration”. (ibid)

Not by mistake

Tatour was mistakenly suspected and the entire investigation into her case began from this mistake. But her conviction is not a mistake. She was clearly identified as a proud Palestinian Arab who resists her oppression and the oppression of her people. For this she was convicted.

Identifying and understanding the Arab, men and women, the ability to expose her or his hidden thoughts and dark intentions, is the specialty of every “reasonable” Israeli. It begins with children’s literature, when we read in the children’s adventure novels Hasamba lines like “the Egyptian officer picked up the phone viciously and smiled cruelly.”

Even if ostensibly everything the Arab does is to distort his face in pain when the Israeli soldier steps on his neck, the system will always be able to identify his hidden aggressive intentions.

 

Palestinian Queer activists in Haifa call to boycott the pride events in the city

(The following declaration was published today (June 22, 2018) on social networks. You may also read the original in Arabic.)

Palestinians and opponents of colonization in Haifa and beyond,

We call on you to boycott the pride events in our city, Haifa, for there is no pride in occupation. Our pride is in our liberation.

For many years, our city faces many projects of “co-existence” that aim to change its features. The municipality with the help of Israeli capital brutalizes our city and its neighborhoods. It demolishes houses in Wadi-al-Salib neighborhood, aiming to convert it to amusement parks and showrooms for “artists”, on the ruins of the memory of the martyrs and refugees displaced from our beloved city. The municipality strangles and suffocates what is left of Wadi al-Nisnas and al-Halisa neighborhoods and it is working to impoverish the population by cutting off vital services in those neighborhoods turning them into slums. Many other neighborhoods face the same fate resulting from policies of impoverishment and demolition.

Despite these atrocities, Haifa municipality is trying to promote the city as a city for coexistence, love, peace, pluralism and acceptance. This is not but a lie that aims to wash the blatant colonial essence of the Haifa municipality, for there is no “love” in the continuing attempts to erase and eliminate us, there is no “peace” in our impoverishment and displacement, there is no “pluralism” in our separation and restriction in our stricken neighborhoods and there is no “acceptance” in its response to our latest stand with our people in Gaza. This approach is not surprising because this was and still is and will continue to be the practices of the Zionist colonization in Palestine.

Haifa municipality, as part of the occupation government, organizes every year pride events across occupied Palestine, in a move that is called by Palestinian and international anti-colonization activists as “Pink Washing”. Through these policies, the municipality uses gay rights showing itself as the benevolent saver of the oppressed. Even though its main goal is to benefit economically – through profit from gay tourism – and politically, hoping to cover its crimes against Palestinians including Palestinian queers.

We refuse these policies, and we encourage you to not participate in the upcoming pride events, to not promote it, and to actively boycott it as a rejection of the manipulation of our destiny.

Palestinian Queer activists in Haifa

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Queer graffiti in Ramallah

Despite Police brutality, the Demonstrations in Haifa continue

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Palestinian political youth activists in Haifa call for a new demonstration under the title “From Haifa to Gaza” on Friday (1.6.2018) at 9:00 pm in the German Colony in Haifa. This demonstration calls for the end of the Israeli siege over the Gaza strip and for the implementation of the right of return for the Palestinian refugees to their houses, villages and cities. This demonstration will be held on the same day as a protest which will take place in Gaza under the slogan “From Gaza to Haifa.”

The slogans of the demonstration:

  • Break the Israeli siege over the Gaza Strip.
  • The right of return for Palestinian refugees.
  • End the fragmentation of the Palestinian people.

“In Haifa and Gaza, one struggle and one hope for liberation.”

Press Release

1 June 2018

In Haifa and Gaza, one struggle and one hope for liberation

Following the calls to demonstrate in Gaza on Friday, 1.6.2018, under the slogan “From Gaza to Haifa,” Palestinian political youth activists announced a demonstration in Haifa on the same day (at 21:00, in the German Colony). In their announcement, the organizers in Haifa emphasized the unity of the Palestinian hope and struggle for breaking the ongoing Israeli siege over the Gaza Strip and for the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their houses, villages and cities.

In the call to demonstrate, the organizers highlighted the fact that Palestinians have faced Israeli crimes for decades in all parts of historic Palestine yet even so the Israeli regime has still managed to divide the aspirations of the Palestinian struggle and it’s battle against this regime. They also stated that the planned demonstration aims to break the Israeli regime attempts to separate them as Palestinian citizens of Israel from their Palestinian people in the West Bank, Gaza and the diaspora: “They tried to rob us as people of our right to live in the future in unity with freedom and dignity… this demonstration is a step in the path of a united struggle and a united hope for liberation.”

The organizers explained that the need for a unified struggle is essential in light of the fact that all Palestinians are subject to the Israeli policies whether as citizens of Israel or residents of the Palestinian territory occupied in 1967. They added that these policies that include home demolitions, forced displacement and destruction of villages, confiscation of water and resources, restrictions on freedom of movement, extra judicial killings, and political repression, are all deeply rooted in the Nakba (Palestinian catastrophe) of 1948. They stated: “If we know that Israeli crimes are united against all of us, why do we accept a fragmented resistance against them?”

Violent attack on the Haifa demo 18 May 2018

The Herak Gaza solidarity demonstration in downtown Haifa on Friday, May 18, was brutally suppressed

The planned demonstration in Haifa is one of a series of peaceful demonstrations that took place in the city in the last few weeks following the Israeli massacre of demonstrators in Gaza. In the last demonstration in Haifa (Friday – 18.5.2018) the Israeli police responded with excessive violence and brutal assaults toward the demonstrators and arrested 21 of them. The detainees were subjected to physical and psychological violence during their arrest and in the police station, and seven among them received medical treatments in nearby hospitals.

 

Dareen Tatour and the Right of Return

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(The following article was first published in Mondowiess)

We were visiting poet Dareen Tatour in her house arrest in Reineh on April 17th, which is known here as “The Palestinian Prisoner’s Day”. Two and a half years after she was arrested for publishing a poem, Tatour is still under house arrest, waiting the verdict in her trial that is now set to be announced on May 3rd.

Darin_in_demo

Dareen Tatour in the Annual Return March

In these days Palestinians are protesting 70 years of ongoing Nakba. For Palestinians inside the “green line”, those that succeeded to stay on their land or near it after the 1948 ethnic cleansing, “The March of Return”, held at the same day that Israel celebrates its establishment, became over the last two decades the central yearly gathering to express their national identity and their aspirations for freedom and equality. This year we also witness a new initiative for mass non-violent struggle in the besieged Gaza Strip under the title of “the great march of return”. On every Friday since Land Day (March 30th), tens of thousands of Palestinians march toward the prison-walls that Israel had built all around them. Israeli army snipers shoot at them in cold blood, killing dozens and wounding thousands. Through these marches the Right of Return regained its natural place at the center of the Palestinian liberation struggle.

To see how Tatour’s story fits within the context of these contemporary events, I decided to interview her about her personal experiences with the Nakba and the struggle for “Al-‘Awda” – the return.

Dareen’s Granma and the Nakba in Safsaf

Are you a refugee yourself? I asked her. “No”, she said, “the Tatour family lived in Reineh long before the Zionists came to Palestine.”

So how did you become aware to the ethnic cleansing of 1948? I continued to ask. “Well, it all started with my grandmother.” She said. “She told me how they were expelled from Safsaf”.

Dareen and grandmother

Dareen and her Grandmother – remembering Safsaf

Safsaf was a Palestinian village northwest of Safed. On October 29, 1948, it was occupied by the Israeli army. After the villagers surrendered, the soldiers performed a massacre, shooting more than fifty bound villagers and throwing their bodies into a pit. Young women were raped and killed, including a 14 years old girl. The story of the massacre in Safsaf is recognized not only by Palestinian historians but also by Israeli sources. The Israeli army held an internal investigation but its results are still a state secret.

Dareen’s grandmother was 16 years old at the time of the occupation and was already married to a man from Al-Jesh, a nearby village. At the day of the occupation she was in Safsaf and witnessed the horrors of the massacre. She told Dareen how, before the mass shooting, when the soldiers were instructing people to gather in the middle of the village, she saw how they found two young women and a young men hiding in a cave. They shoot the three of them dead before her terrified eyes.

Most of the people of Safsaf, including the grandmother’s brothers and sisters, ended up as refugees in Lebanon and Syria, thrown into an ordeal of statelessness and suffering to which, after 70 years, there is still no end in sight. The grandmother joined her husband in Al-Jesh and stayed there, where Tatour’s mother was later born. Most of the people from Al-Jesh, after hearing about the massacre in Safsaf, also fled, so more relatives, also from the grandfather’s family, became refugees. Some of them, as a result of Israeli and/or Arab massacres in the Palestinian refugee camps, later found refuge in different European countries, but most of them are still in Syria and Lebanon.

Tatour never met her grandfather, who died when her mother was still a girl. But she is proud of what she heard about him from her grandmother. He was a revolutionary and took part in the organization of the great Palestinian general strike against the British occupation and against the Zionist colonization of Palestine, back in 1936. Later he took part in the revolution that lasted from 1936 till 1939, until it was bloodily repressed by the British army.

She felt very close to her grandmother, who was telling her about life in the lost paradise in Safsaf, as well as about the Nakba and the fate of the refugees. From here came her urge to write down the stories, to photograph whatever was left from people, memories and homes, and to devote her life to the Palestinian struggle for restoring lost rights.

Photographing, Oral History and Activism

Just as she finished high school, Tatour started documenting Palestinian life before the Nakba, interviewing old people, filming on video and writing down stories. She started by interviewing her own grandmother, but soon widened her effort and started looking for displaced people from any of the more than 500 villages and towns that were destroyed by Israel in 1948. She would accompany them to their destroyed villages, or go there herself to take pictures.

She published some of her documentary evidence in the “Palestine Remembered” site, as well as her own Youtube channel, Facebook, a blog and a dedicated site she established for this purpose, “ynbu3.com” (yanbu’a in Arabic means “water spring”). During her detention and later house arrest, prevented from any access to the internet, she lost contact with the service providers of the ynbu3 site and now the site is not accessible. She is afraid that the precious materials in it might have been lost, as well as many documentary evidence that she kept on her computer that was confiscated by the police.

In 1995, a few years before Tatour began her documentation effort, representatives from groups of displaced Palestinians from different towns and villages united to form “the national committee for the defense of the rights of the internally displaced Palestinians in Israel”. In 1998, on the 50th anniversary of the Nakba, they started the new tradition of “The Annual March of Return”. In the year 2000 the national committee established itself as an officially registered association.

Visiting destroyed village

Dareen organizing a visit to a destroyed Palestinian village – and taking videos

The activist of the internally displaced association discovered Tatour’s documentary efforts in Palestine Remembered and invited her to take part in a “guides’ course” that they held in order to expand their activities. Tatour joined the association and found another platform for her effort to perpetuate Palestinian memories. She combined the guidance of groups of visitors to the destroyed villages with documentary work – bringing old refugees to tell their memories to the visitors – and taking videos with their stories.

As the March of Return events evolved to draw tens of thousands participants, they now also include tents with special exhibitions. In the last marches before her arrest Tatour maintained her own tent, with an exhibition of more than 500 photos from the destroyed villages and towns, under the title “tell me about my village”.

She gave new dimension to the struggle to save the memories by using the Ynbu3 site to build connections between the internally displaced and refugees beyond the borders. Each side gave what the other missed. The people that stayed in Palestine could visit the sites of destroyed villages and send pictures. Refugees were contacting the site to request from local activists to find what remained of their houses or to send photos of the locations of endeared memories. The people in the refugee camps conveyed a treasure of precious memories and Tatour interviewed them by Skype and wrote their stories. She also helped to coordinate visits of refugees that now hold European passports to their destroyed villages. She produced three films about such “return visits” to the villages of Al-Damun, Al-Birweh and Tirat Haifa.

Wounded in Saffuriyya

While I was looking in Tatour Facebook page, which she is not allowed to do but everybody else can, I found her image lying in a hospital bed, visited by Knesset Member Jamal Zakhalka. She told me how she was wounded during the 2008 March of Return.

It was the 60th anniversary of the Nakba. On that year there was a surge of right-extremists’ and settlers’ incitement against the March of Return, which was held on the lands of the destroyed town of Saffuriyya, northwest of Nazareth. There was a very big Palestinian presence, with many families bringing kids of all ages to take part in the educational event. As the marchers were returning from the site of the gathering toward the parking, the police allowed a group of settlers to come close and throw stones at them. As some Palestinian youth tried to confront the settlers, a big police force, including special mass-oppression (“anti-riot”) units, some of them mounted on mighty horses, attacked the whole Palestinian public with tear gas, shock grenades and batons. The police weapons caused a wild fire in the dry vegetation, which put the participants in extra danger.

Dareen at hospital

Dareen in hospital – after being injured in Saffuriyya in the March of Return in 2008

There was havoc. Many people that didn’t expect such violence were confused and tried run away in all directions. Children were crying and many people lost contact with their relatives or friends. Tatour, armed with her professional camera, tried to stay calm and document the events. She still remembers the scenes of policemen beating whoever they could catch, sometimes stumping with their boots on their victims. She also vividly describes how people were wounded when the mounted police rode their horses into the crowd.

Suddenly she saw three children that lost contact with their parents and were stuck between two lines of the police, not knowing where to hide. She stopped filming and went there to help them. She succeeded to guide the children out of danger, but was caught herself between the police lines, and became direct target for their fury. Officially gas canisters and shock grenades should be shot in the air, but she remembers how the policemen were shooting them directly at her from close range.

She especially remembers one direct hit at her leg, and another shock grenade that hit her chest. She felt the burning heat of the iron and the force of the blow left her unable to breath. She fell on the ground. She remembers herself calling for help before she fainted and was evacuated by an ambulance to a hospital in Nazareth. She was hospitalized for one day before her situation stabilized.

Exactly 10 years later, on Friday, April 20, some twenty thousand Palestinians attended the 21st March of Return on the site of the destroyed village of Atlit, just south of Haifa. It was the third march in a row that Tatour missed due to her house arrest. Some Israeli politicians and Facebook racist activists demanded to abolish the march and threatened havoc if it will take place.  They didn’t show up. I just hoped that on the next year Tatour will be marching with us again.

How China is winning by playing its own game

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The media is full of news about the trade war that Trump is threatening to unleash against China. President Xi, on his side, is calling for calm and for everybody to play by the rules, but Chinese officials are threatening severe repercussion for everybody in case of a widening conflict.

What is it all about? Is it just that the US is upset about its uneven trade balance with China? Well, nobody forced it to buy Chinese goods… and loan money from China to finance its living beyond its means.China-vs-America-Dragon-arm-wrestling-Eagle

Recent reports by the US administration show that much more is at stake than just the trade balance. They complain about China’s industrial policy, its drive for innovation and development of local tech industry. Special wrath is reserved to China’s flagship international economic policy, titled “The Belt and Road Initiative” (BRI).

In fact, the USA administration and big companies understand, correctly, that by current trends they are losing fast on all fronts: technological leadership, economic power, world hegemony.

Uneven playing ground

Just for being fully transparent, I must admit that I’m not at all neutral in this battle of the US to save its hegemony. For me all the talk in western media about the US representing “freedom” or “liberal values” sounds as sheer hypocrisy. I would welcome any chance that this hegemony will be dented, not least because under USA hegemony the Palestinian people are doomed to stay destitute and enslaved forever. And I’m not blind to the old and new crimes of colonialism, imperialism and neo-liberalism all over the world.

Anyway – I hate war, but I find a lot of fun in the ideological war.

The last twist in the script is that the US and other western powers complain that they are losing in the economic competition against China because of the intervention of the Chinese state.

Well, until yesterday they told us that it is an absolutely objective fact of the science of economics that free capitalist competition is superior to state-managed economy. They would tell us dummies that state planning is not working, so we should give up any dreams of Socialism, and let private capital manage the economy for profit. They would swear that their ugly unjust profit is the only way that Humanity can have economic progress and hope that some material gains will reach all of us humble working people.

I would expect them to pity the poor Chinese people that their government is trying to manage their economy and will soon drive it into a wall…

But, no, they all run to populist Trump and cry for government intervention in order to save them from the economic success of the government-led Chinese economy.

How awful the Chinese government can be?

So, what is the Chinese government doing that is so unfair?

In the 2008 economic crisis, while US banks were busted by greedy bosses, the US government poured millions of taxpayers’ money to save the banks, and the western economies felt into long stagnation. Millions of Chinese workers lost their jobs in export industries. So the Chinese government gave special grants to hundreds of millions of poor peasants to buy electric appliances – to keep the factories working.

Last year the Chinese government’s intervention prevented a world cyclical economic crisis by reducing capacity in the coal and steel industries in a managed way instead.

On April 17th, 2018, the economist brought just another economic report from China that explains how its government intervention enabled it to overcome some obstacles and keep steady growth. Between the details I found one that seemed to me the best striking example why China’s economic model is so “unfair” that developed capitalist economies just can’t compete with it.

Remember the shocking reports about “ghost cities” in China that filled western media just a few years ago?

In a healthy capitalist economy, when supply outpaces demand, there is a “natural”, “healthy remedy”. It is called an economic crisis. Prices are falling, production is closed, until demand overcomes and prices and production rise again. In the meantime many workers lose their work, many productive forces are destroyed, and a lot of suffering takes place.

The economist’s reporter visited Wuhan, one of the so-called ghost cities, and found it full of life. He explains how the government of China intervened to solve the supply surplus in the housing market. The government bought millions of houses (all over the country) from constructors and gave them to poor people. Problem solved.

You can’t expect honest capitalist companies to compete with such unfair practices.