Michael Riordon

the view from where I live


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Jerusalem bleeding

Al Quds.  Jerusalem.  Yerushalayim.  It is all of these, and it is bleeding.

President Trump performing at the western wall, Jerusalem

This week the US regime announced it would move its Israel embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  In so doing it becomes the first country in the world to buy the Zionist claim that Jerusalem is the ‘real’ capital of Israel, and to break the long-held international and UN consensus that Jerusalem cannot be the capital of Israel because it is illegally occupied.

No matter.  In return for enough cash and votes in the US, the people who run that imperial country simply gave away Jerusalem to the Israeli regime.

Of course it was never theirs to give.  Neither was Palestine when the former imperial power, Britain, gave it away 100 years ago to the Zionist movement.

In a 1917 letter to Lord Rothschild, a British Zionist leader, Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour declared: “His Majesty’s government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.”  And so it was done, at the stroke of an imperial pen.

This week’s equivalent assault by the US can only produce more of the same ‘benefits’ the British favour has been dispensing since 1917.  More lies, more ignorance, more hypocrisy, more hatred, more repression, more suffering, more violence, more death.

From western regimes, historically biased and/or fearful of the Israel lobby, the best we can expect are a few meek murmurings of ‘cause for concern,’ but no meaningful opposition.  As usual that will have to come from the rest of us.

As I see it, the most effective way to stand with the besieged Palestinians is through the international grassroots campaign to boycott, divest from and sanction the illegal occupier, Israel.  In short, BDS.

Here I offer impressions gleaned from my own travels in Palestine-Israel.  These generated a book, Our Way to Fight, about courageous Palestinians and Israelis fighting for a just peace in the battered land that many call holy.  From those same travels also emerged Deus Vult/God wills it, a short, pungent history of Jerusalem before, during and since the Crusades.

That article follows below.  A few fragments:

…Archeological findings suggest human habitation here for at least fifty centuries.  Some linguists believe the name Jerusalem, or Yerushalayim in contemporary Hebrew, was derived from the Jebusite (a tribe of Canaan) Ur-Shalem, which translates loosely as ‘City of Peace.’  The Arabic name for the city, Al-Quds, means “the holy.”  The faithful of three religions consider it holy, with the result that peace here has tended to be rather elusive.  By one historian’s count, Jerusalem has been destroyed twice, besieged 23 times, attacked 52 times, captured and recaptured 44 times….

…..The European invasion known as The First Crusade occurred in the last decade of the 11th century.  It was sparked by Pope Urban II in 1095 with a series of ferocious sermons across Catholic Europe, in which he denounced Muslims – or Saracens, as they were called at the time, a term that evoked both contempt and fear – as pagans, rapists, defilers of Christian holy places, and all in all “a race absolutely alien to God.”  At the launch of this vicious campaign for an invasion of Jerusalem, it is reported that a great roar went up from the assembled crowd: Deus vult!  God wills it!

An estimated army of 40 – 60,000 volunteers started out on the long march from Europe to Palestine.  Along the way, many Jews were massacred by the Christian zealots.  Probably now the victims would be called collateral damage.  Also enroute, many foot-soldiers died from hunger, disease or in battle, and many defected.  Some 12 – 15,000 survivors reached Jerusalem in early June, in the roasting heat of deep summer, to besiege the thick-walled, well-defended city.  At about midday on July 15, 1099, the Crusaders managed to break through a section of the northern wall east of Herod’s Gate, a short walk from the present-day Church of the Holy Sepulchre.

According to Crusader eye-witness reports, within two days nearly all the Muslims in the city were killed.  The Jews, who had lived at peace with their Muslim neighbours, sought refuge in their synagogue; the Crusaders burned them alive.  Fulcher, a chaplain and chronicler from Chartres, wrote thus of the Christian invaders’ motives: “They desired that this place, so long contaminated by the superstition of pagan inhabitants, should be cleansed from their contagion.”  Several reports describe a triumphal procession of nobles and clergy to the Holy Sepulchre, through streets that ran with blood – some said as deep as the ankle, some the knee.  Deus vult!  the Crusaders chanted along the way. God wills it.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Read on…. Continue reading


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Freedom Theatre under attack – again

In the early hours of March 19, Israeli soldiers took Mustafa Sheta from his home.  Sheta’s arrest came a few days before the Freedom Theatre’s annual General Assembly in Jenin.

Mustafa Sheta, Freedom TheatreThis is the latest in a long series of assaults by the Israeli occupation forces on personnel of the Freedom Theatre, a vibrant cultural centre in the Jenin refugee camp.

Thirty-five, father of three children, Mustafa Sheta is secretary of the Theatre’s board. He is also a researcher and journalist, with a well-known commitment to social and humanitarian activism. He works with the United Nations, and is currently studying for a Masters degree.  Recently he won an honours award and plans to pursue further studies in London, England later this spring.

“Since Mustafa joined the board last year he has been a tremendous resource for the theatre”, says Jonatan Stanczak, managing director of The Freedom Theatre. “His dedication, involvement and communication skills have meant a lot to us.  We are doing all we can to follow his case.  Until recently there was no information at all available but we just learned that there will be a court hearing in a few days.”

For more on Freedom Theatre programs, go here.

For a vivid portrait of the Freedom Theatre in action, see Our Way to Fight, chapter 2.


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Israel: the morning after

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu gestures to supporters at party headquarters in Tel Aviv

Two Jewish responses to yesterday’s elections in Israel.  Both are published on Mondoweiss, March 18, 2015.

Netanyahu won.  Now what?  Avigail Abarbanel.

Who can save Israel now?  Philip Weiss.

Avigail Abarbanel: “The message to those of us who support the Palestinians is to get ready to escalate our support. It is about to get very very tough.”

BDS: more than ever, the best chance for real change.

 

 


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“Israel has always been crazy”

Cutting through the white noise of relentless propaganda, impressive plain-speaking from Jewish psychotherapist Avigail Abarbanel, born and raised in Israel, now living in Scotland.  It’s her response to Phil Weiss’s editorial [Psst! Is Israel Going Crazy? in which Weiss details the bizarre source of recent photo-shopped Nazified images of Israeli leaders]. December 2, 2014, on Mondoweiss.

Avigail AbarbanelAvigail Abarbanel

“It’s not a big claim to fame but I have been saying for years that Israeli society is crazy.  I escaped from Israel largely because of that…

“Phil Weiss’s analysis  is correct except for one point, and that is that those sentiments he describes have always been there.  It’s not like it’s something new that just sprang up recently.  I have grown up with this all around me. I recognise the language. I was brought up (I was born in 1964) to believe that the ‘Arabs’ (the word ‘Palestinian’ was largely not used in my childhood) could not be trusted, that ‘they’ are not like ‘us’, that they are treacherous and would stab me in the back if I relaxed and trusted them. We were always kept apart from the Palestinian citizens of Israel, let alone the Palestinians living in the West Bank or in Gaza.

Gaza in fact was a symbol of a cursed, hellish place. When someone annoyed you, you said to them Lech le’Aza, ‘Go to Gaza’, the equivalent of ‘go to hell’. That was part of normal day-to-day Hebrew in my youth. Like I mentioned in the past, the first time I met a Palestinian as an equal human being was in Australia, in my early thirties…

“Without knowing it, I grew up with classic colonial rhetoric. Colonisers motivated by fear and possibly guilt, have always demonised the people they have hurt. For some people it is easier to inflict suffering if they don’t see the other as a fellow human being. Dehumanisation helps to reduce empathy and shut down the conscience. It is being done everywhere where there is injustice and abuse.

“The difference now is that that these largely informal but widespread social attitudes to the colonised have now found themselves back in power. Drunk with their newfound freedom, coming out of the shadows with no need to hide themselves any longer, free from the tyranny of worrying about ‘world public opinion’, they are out celebrating and feasting, politicians outdoing one another acting out and giving life to their most depraved, murderous fantasies. And they are out-of-control.  Continue reading


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War crimes

Day 19 of the Israeli attack on Gaza. The toll until now:

  • 928 Palestinians killed, 764 of them civilians, including 215 children and 118 women
  • 4,663 Palestinians wounded, mostly civilians, including 1,358 children and 932 women
  • 561 houses destroyed and hundreds of others extensively
  • thousands of Palestinian civilians forcibly displaced
  • Source: Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), a non-governmental organization based in Gaza City.

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-GAZAThe Israeli military assault also continues in the West Bank: Six Palestinians killed (on July 26) in West Bank protests against Gaza slaughter.

These war crimes could not continue without enablers, accomplices.

On July 23 the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) met in special session to consider the matter of war crimes, and decided “… to urgently dispatch an independent, international commission of inquiry, to be appointed by the President of the Human Rights Council, to investigate all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military operations conducted since 13 June 2014, whether before, during or after….”

The 47-member council voted 29-1 in favor of the resolution. 17 members (11 of them European) abstained. Only one country voted to oppose the commission of inquiry: the United States. (Neither Israel nor the Palestinians are members of the council.) Despite the US, the commission of inquiry will proceed.

For people of conscience who feel helpless to stop these war crimes, the international boycott, investment & sanctions (BDS) movement offers these suggestions for action.

 


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A desperate plea from an Israeli Jew

Via Jewish Voice for Peace:

“My name is Eran Efrati, I am Jewish, a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces, and a 7th generation Jerusalemite.

What I’ve seen in Israel over the last few weeks is beyond anything I have witnessed in my life.

Gaza under attack, July 2104                                Gaza under Israeli attack, July 2014.  Photo: The Times, UK.

I’ve seen terrified Palestinian children in Hebron and Halhul, sitting on the ruins of their homes.

I’ve seen Israeli mobs in the street chanting “death to Arabs” and pulling out Palestinian men from their stores to beat them as other Israelis stood idly by. I’ve seen Israeli soldiers lined up at the Gaza border, ready at a moment’s notice to invade.

And now, like you, I’ve seen the climbing death toll in Gaza, over 100 dead and some 500 injured – all by Israeli missiles, with no end in sight.

As much as it pains me to say it, I don’t think I can do a lot about it. But I believe you can.

North American voices – especially Jewish North American voices – are probably the most critical voices right now.  [MR: I would add that in the face of crimes on this scale, all voices of reason and compassion need to be heard wherever and however they can.]

We need you to tell Israeli politicians, the Israeli media, Israeli society, that you can’t support this attack. That you can’t support human rights violations. That you can’t support racism. That you won’t support the idea that Jewish lives matter more than Palestinian lives.

Join me and sign this Open Letter now—if they get another 10,000 signatures, Jewish Voice for Peace will take out ads in Haaretz and the Jewish Forward with our message.

We know the roots of this are long and deep. But the truth behind this latest assault is finally coming out: as J.J. Goldberg wrote in The Forward, the Israeli government lied, and created this situation.

For weeks, the government knew that the three kidnapped teenagers were dead.  But they instituted a gag order on the media, lied to Israelis and the world, and falsely claimed the mass arrests and collective punishment of Palestinians was all in the hopes of finding the teenagers alive.

In other words, their chosen response was to kidnap the mind of an entire country.

From the very beginning, this has been about punishing Palestinians. From the beginning, the government has been willing to manipulate and use its own people for that goal.

Overhead, I hear airplanes headed to Gaza all day long, and I know there’s nothing I can do to stop them. And now we all know the lengths they’ve gone to justify this attack, and how fully Israeli society has bought into it.  And I don’t think we can stop it from within.

But I think you can.

Please join me and sign this statement: We oppose the occupation, the bloodshed, the privileging of Jewish lives over others lives.

Reliable updates on the current Israeli assault on Gaza and the West Bank, here, and here.

For an inside look at how Palestinians and Israelis are resisting the occupation, check out Our Way to Fight.


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Love in struggle

Meet Taiseer from Akka (in Israel) and Lana from Jenin (in the occupied West Bank).

This week human rights advocates launched a remarkable new website — loveunderapartheid.com — to share stories of Palestinians struggling to maintain love and family relationships despite the many walls and boundaries imposed by Israeli apartheid.

Israel’s systematic discrimination and segregation of Palestinians, laws impeding Palestinian marriages, and the splitting of families by the apartheid wall and checkpoints have made love a challenge at best, and sometimes even a crime.

By afternoon on the first day, tweets using #LoveUnderApartheid had caused the hashtag to trend worldwide, joining Justin Bieber and Taylor Swift in popularity on the social media website.  Imagine that.

You’ll meet a Palestinian citizen of Israel and a Palestinian from Gaza who struggle to plan an uncertain future; Samer, a native Jerusalemite, prevented from being with his mother during her last days battling cancer; Taiseer and Lana Khatib, who fight to keep their family together despite the blatantly discriminatory Israeli Citizenship Law.  And others….

The people who created the site welcome stories, the raison d’etre for this project.

I assume – hope – that as it grows, Love under Apartheid will embrace the love in struggle of same-sex partners, should any feel safe enough to share their stories.

For more information, contact loveunderapartheid@gmail.com.