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DC Students Walk Out on Michael Oren

by Nour Joudah and Adrieh AbouShehade

On 30 April, 2012, Israeli ambassador to the United States Michael Oren gave a speech at George Washington University’s Elliott School for International Affairs. Michael Oren served in the IDF during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982, served again as the IDF spokesman during Israel’s brutal assault on Lebanon in 2006, and was the media relations officer during the massacre of over 1,200 Palestinians in Gaza in 2008-2009. Now, as the Israeli ambassador to the United States, Oren continues to fill the role of whitewashing Israel’s war crimes and illegal occupation—be it in US news stations churches, or universities. 

But the close relationship between Israel and the American public (particularly the Christian community) that Oren speaks of in the video below was recently challenged by a CBS special. Oren was deliberate in mentioning his and his wife’s [alleged] Sunday ritual of going to churches to speak to congregations, most recently an African American church to which they were welcomed. However, as we saw in Bob Simon’s interview, Oren’s storytelling is only loose and free when he is in control of the conversation; attempts to present the Palestinian perspective are categorically denied and censored

On 8 February, 2010, students at the University of California-Irvine interrupted his speech, protesting his propaganda justifying Israeli atrocities. Though these students left the auditorium peacefully, they were arrested, tried, convicted of misdemeanors, and sentenced to community service and a three-year probation period for exercising their right to free speech. Since the actions by these students, now commonly referred to as the “Irvine 11,” activists across the country have made it a point to walk out, protest, or in some manner disrupt the visits of Michael Oren, IDF soldiers, and others to American university campuses—sending a clear message to their universities that war criminals are not welcome. 

Several months ago, George Washington University hosted a speaker from the IDF on campus. A university event publicist shared the news of the event on Twitter, declaring that it was open and that students were encouraged to attend. 

Yet, upon overhearing an Arabic-speaking student approaching the door, two Israeli security guards communicated to each other in Hebrew that this student should not be allowed to enter. No evidence that registration was required was shown to the student and her peers; instead, the door was shut in their faces and campus police were called to the scene to have them removed on the assumption that they may protest, although no evidence of this other than the ethnicity of a few members of the group was given. Despite reporting this incident to the relevant authorities, no apology or explanation was given to the students involved. University administrators at the scene admitted that, according to protocol and the lack of a registration or legitimate filtering mechanism, the students should have been allowed to attend. 

This incident caused increased trepidation in many of the organizers for this week’s walkout, who were unsure if they would even be allowed to enter, or, given the Irvine 11 case, if they could be prosecuted. Nevertheless, students continued with their plans with the strong conviction that Michael Oren and Israel’s narrative should not go unchallenged. 

The walkout and protest in the video below were organized and attended by students and activists from the DC area, with representatives from Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, American University and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). Since the walkout, Haaretz and the Jerusalem Post have both reported the action, as well as coverage of the walkout on C-SPAN’s online boradcast of the event.

Filed under News Washington DC Washington University United States Israel Gaza West Bank Georgetown University George Washington University Howard University American University Jewish Voice for Peace

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The Prisoners in Gaza – Their Blackout Nightmare

by Ralph Nader

Have you heard much lately about the 1.5 million Palestinians illegally imprisoned by the Israeli government in the world’s largest open-air Gulag? Their dire living conditions, worsened by a selective Israeli siege limiting the importation of necessities of life – medical items, food, water, building materials, and fuel to list a few – has resulted in an 80 percent unemployment rate and widespread suffering from unlawful punishment, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment in Israeli jails.

The horrific conditions were a result of the Israeli invasion of Gaza in late 2008, ignited by Israel’s breaking of a truce with Gaza on November 4. Fourteen hundred people died, nearly three hundred of them children, and thousands were injured. The terror bombing of the Gazan population smashed into homes, hospitals, schools, ambulances, mosques, subsistence farms, UN facilities, and even the American International School. Israeli bombers destroyed over 30 members of one extended family in their home. That toll alone was three times the amount of Israeli fatalities, which included friendly fire.

The humanitarian crisis in crowded Gaza – about twice the size of the District of Columbia – “is now more dire than ever.” That is the judgment of Norwegian physician and professor of medicine, Dr. Mads Gilbert, who just finished a ten-day speaking tour in the U.S. Dr. Gilbert, returning from a recent visit to Gaza, was one of the only two foreign doctors inside Gaza during the massacre of December 2008 to January 2009.

He says: “During the Israeli attack, I saw the effects of new weapons including drones, phosphorous and also DIME [Dense Inert Metal Explosives], which leave no shrapnel, but I witnessed their capacity to cut a child in two; they also leave radioactive traces.”

Today, anemia and protein deficiency are widespread, reports Dr. Gilbert, especially among little children. UN and other relief supplies are inadequate, and UN humanitarian relief staff is often harassed by Israeli officials. Rebuilding pulverized Gaza is seriously obstructed by Israel blocking the imports of building materials.

Dr. Gilbert comments that he has “worked in other desperate situations in other places and Gaza is unique in a number of respects. It’s a captive population – usually if civilians are being attacked, there’s a safe place they can take refuge and then come back to their homes when the fighting has stopped. That doesn’t exist for the people in Gaza since they are effectively imprisoned by the Israeli siege.”

Writing in the prestigious British medical journal “The Lancet” in early 2009, Dr. Gilbert provided clinical details of the slaughter, including the destruction of ambulances and medical facilities that tend to the dying and the wounded.

He described a “shattered, attacked, and drained health-care system trying to help an overwhelming amount of casualties in a war between clearly unequal powers, where the attacker spares no civilian lives – be it man, woman, or child – not even the much-needed health workers of all professions.”

It is no wonder the Israelis banned all foreign reporters, including those from the U.S. – the very country that provided the weaponry – thereby preventing the world from seeing the carnage as it happened.

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Filed under News Commentary Palestine War War Crimes Apartheid Gaza Gaza Strip West bank Israel US Government

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Mads Gilbert, eyewitness to ‘Cast Lead’, says Gaza remains besieged and ‘shattered’

Alex Kane

Two years ago, Dr. Mads Gilbert (right) told me that his experience in Gaza during Israel’s assault in 2009 was the “most horrific experience” of his life, a grim honor previously held by Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, which Gilbert also witnessed. Gilbert spent over two weeks as one of the only foreign doctors in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, and worked at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City.

Currently a professor of medicine at the University of North Norway, Gilbert is the co-author of the book Eyes in Gaza, which chronicles what he witnessed during the Israeli assault and invasion.

Today, Gilbert says Gaza remains in ruins, betrayed by the international community. The blockade of Gaza remains, and Israeli air strikes continue to kill civilians.

Gilbert, who is known for his deeply personal and riveting presentations on the Gaza Strip, recently concluded a speaking tour in the United States.

I caught up with Gilbert before his talk at Columbia University. We discussed his recent impressions of Gaza, the decision by the International Criminal Court to reject a probe into war crimes committed during Cast Lead, and much more.

Alex Kane: So, what brings you back to New York?

Mads Gilbert: Actually, it’s my sixth invited speaking tour on Gaza since Operation Cast Lead. This time, it’s a speaking tour of ten days to Washington, obviously New York, up north, to Madison and a number of universities. The tour is organized by Jennifer Loewenstein and the Carol Chomsky Memorial Foundation. So they are the ones that invited me, actually. So I think it’s interesting that I’ve been here six times on speaking tours, speaking at a large number of universities, in church groups, at the Sabeel conference, and so forth, and I’ve been twice to Canada on a week-long stretch of tours and twice to the UK on week-long speaking tours. So it amounts to, all together, ten speaking tours on Gaza.

AK: And have you been back to Gaza since your time spent during Cast Lead?

MG: Yes. In fact in August 2009, with the manuscript for the families to review and to review the pictures. And I was back in January. I came the same route in and out as I did during Operation Cast Lead. So I traveled in through Rafah on New Year’s Eve, to follow the footsteps of the mission during Operation Cast Lead, and went up to Shifa Hospital, met with my colleagues, did some clinical work, had meetings, gave lectures, and most importantly, met many of the patients that I had treated.

AK: What are your most recent impressions of Gaza?

MG: My impressions as of 2012—that’s what I’m going to speak about tonight. The human rights abuses of the Israeli government, of the Israeli army, continues.

There is widespread lack of human security, ongoing killings, military attacks, week by week people are getting killed and injured. The siege is as brutal as it has been, resulting in lack of everything, from construction materials, to power—the power cuts are more extensive than they have been in a long time because of the lack of diesel and gasoline to fuel the generators. The lack of solid waste trucks makes it almost impossible to collect the solid waste. In Gaza City, they have contracted 280 donkey cart drivers to manually handle the solid waste. Many of the sewage cleaning installations are not working because they lack spare parts and maintenance, so sewage is pumped into the Mediterranean. And of course there is widespread deficiencies in nutrition. The malnutrition is well documented, and it causes anemia and stunting in children, not only in Gaza but also in the West Bank, but it’s more pronounced in Gaza.

The people of Gaza maintain their dignity and their humanity, I would say. I was well received with great hospitality. People don’t weep, they don’t beg, they don’t complain, but of course life is exceedingly difficult. Many are so tired and sick of the siege and the ongoing bombing, and they really want to see an end to that. Also, they want to see Palestinian unity. Many of the patients that participated in the treatment, they need follow-up, they need rehabilitation. Some of them need surgery. And of course the health care system in Gaza is quite overburdened by the number of people needing medical support, and the siege takes its tool on equipment, maintenance, spare parts, everything you can imagine. So, taken all together, the situation has not become easier. The attacks continue, but the people will not give up. The 600 tunnels are the lifelines of the influx of goods and animals to Gaza. The smuggler economy will increase the level of costs for all types of goods, so there is increasing poverty, and more and more people are living under the line as extreme poverty as defined by the UN.

AK: And obviously you’ve spent a lot of time dealing with the victims of Israeli airstrikes. Recently, there was a decision by the International Criminal Court that essentially said there will not be a war crimes tribunal for Operation Cast Lead. What’s your response to that?

MG: I very much regret the decision by the ICC. I’m saddened, and in fact, quite provoked by it, because I think the ICC had a golden opportunity to tell the world, and to tell Israel, that they are not exempt from international law and the laws of war. As it now stands, because of the lack of formalities—that is, an international recognition of Palestine as a state—they use this as an excuse to let Israel off the hook, which I very much regret because it sends a signal to the superpowers and the military forces of the world that, you can get away with it.

And Israel always gets away with its war crimes, which is really demoralizing, because the types of warfare that Israel is waging, with siege and collective punishment, with starvation and with the destruction of civilian infrastructure in occupied territories is really taking us back to medieval times, yet they claim to be one of the most moral armies in the world. And this contradiction does not fit together. So the only thing we could have hoped for was that all the reports on the table—the Goldstone report, the Arab League fact finding mission, the B’Tselem report (PDF), the Amnesty International report and our book—should have served as strong testimonies and documentation sources that there was no way that the ICC could not open a case against Israel. As it now stands, nobody will be held responsible for 1,400 killed and 5,400 injured, and nobody is accountable for the ongoing siege of Gaza. And this, of course, is a heavy burden of responsibility for President Obama and your government.

AK: When you recently went back to Gaza, did you speak with some of the patients you saw during Cast Lead?

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Filed under News Interview Gaza Palestine Cast Lead War War Crimes Israel ICC Columbia University USA Gaza Strip

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The occupation reaches Europe: airlines cancel ‘flytilla’ passenger tickets

by Allison Deger

Three European airlines have canceled the flights of passengers from the Airflotilla2, or flytilla, the campaign in which activists challenge Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories by flying into Tel Aviv and announcing to customs their intent to travel to the West Bank. The campaign started last year with a similar “Welcome to Palestine” fly-in, where some were also refused entry onto their purchased departure flights, at the behest of Israeli security.

Again, this year based on “Israel’s orders,” Lufthansa Airlines, Brussels Airlines and EasyJet all have canceled flytilla passenger tickets. As of today, European airlines have canceled up to 40 passenger tickets.

Campaign organizers with Bienvenue Palestine also found the tickets of two passengers unaffiliated with the flytilla were included in the mass cancellations. 

After arriving in-country, activists are expected to tour the West Bank with Bienvenue Palestine. I translated from French Bienvenue Palestine’s full statementon flight cancellations:

Several dozen passengers who bought plane tickets to travel to Tel Aviv Sunday, April 15 were notified Thursday by Lufthansa airlines that their reservations were canceled, “by Israel’s orders.”

"Israel produced a list of names of persons to whom this country denies entry. Yours is on it, which brings us to cancel your ticket and we will immediately refund your credit card," said Lufthansa employees to the passengers.

Unable to distinguish between those who intended to participate in the Welcome to Palestine mission and those who were not involved, the Israeli government, long accustomed to mass “collateral damage,” apparently decided to blacklist passengers in bulk. As of Thursday evening we had reports of at least two people who are not connected to the campaign and were planning to travel to Israel whose tickets were also canceled.

Passengers on Lufthansa flights have not committed any infractions, and do not accept the mafia-methods, favored by governments complicit in the imprisonment of the Palestinian people, starting with the French government.

Therefore, with the support of many friends, passengers with the campaign will arrive at their departing airports as scheduled this weekend, as a reminder that the West Bank and the rest of Palestine do not belong to Israel, and to demand respect of international law.

Passengers also received cancellation notices from the other European airlines, stating “Israel Immigration Authorities have informed us that you will be refused entry to Israel and instructed us to refuse you carriage.”  Bienvenue Palestine posted the text of the notices. Below is one from EasyJet:

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Filed under Israel Apartheid Flytilla Europe Palestine West Bank Gaza War Crimes Peace

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Sinai: The paradox of security

By Lina Attalah

Amid Egypt’s troubled transition, news from Sinai is emerging again, albeit in its old familiar form. Lawlessness is the story of the arid peninsula, which is home to an intricate set of historic, political, social and economic conditions that have transformed it into a frontier where the state has ceased to exist.

A series of kidnappings of foreign tourists have become currency for Bedouin to express their dissent over the detention of their fellow tribesmen. These tribesmen are either in detention following the mass arrests that occurred after the terrorist attacks between 2004 and 2006 or are facing weapons and drug charges. More recently, some Bedouin were emboldened to besiege a military base of international peacekeepers to protest the detention of their relatives. In the background, the constant attacks (as many as 13 in 2011 and early 2012 combined) on the pipelines channeling gas to Israel act like a chorus to a song of lawlessness in the peninsula. And of course, the theatrics of a group of masked armed men raising black flags inscribed with “No God but Allah” in the North Sinai city of Arish, who battled with the police for hours last July, helped further raise fears of a rise in militancy in the peninsula.

For some time, Sinai has been perceived and dealt with as a state of exception in the Agamben sense, where mundane state performance is suspended. Pockets of dissent emerging in Sinai are only understood in the context of a security failure and, subsequently, the recent wave of lawlessness is incarcerated in this same security logic.

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Filed under News Commentary Egypt Sinai Gaza Yemen Israel

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Reflections on Israel and Palestine

Rick Steves

I’ve been duped.

Do you know the frustration you feel when you believed in something strongly and then you realize that the information that made you believe was from a source with an agenda to deceive?

I just watched a powerful and courageous documentary called Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land. It certainly has its own agenda and doesn’t present balanced coverage. Still, it showed me how my understanding of the struggles in the Middle East has been skewed by most of our mainstream media. I saw how coverage of the Israeli/Palestinian problem is brilliantly controlled and shaped. I pride myself in understanding how the media works… and I find I’ve been bamboozled.

Invest 75 minutes in watching this, because most of the time we only hear one viewpoint when it comes to the interminable struggle in the Holy Land. While this documentary would never be shown on commercial TV in the USA, it can be viewed online (Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land). In my view, many Palestinians live under inhumane conditions, and U.S. taxpayers help to make it happen. Please, watch this and then share your impressions.

Criticism of Israel’s policies is not automatically anti-Semitic (see J-Street for an example of a pro-Israel, pro-peace group). In fact, the irony is that for Israel’s hard-liners, their clever PR strategy could be their own worst enemy. While Israel certainly deserves security on its land, the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory (in Gaza and the West Bank) degrades Israel and drives Palestinians to desperation. The question of whether Israel is conducting a brutal military occupation or a reasonable defense against terrorism gets no real airtime. If we care about the long-term security of Israel, we have a responsibility to understand what our government is funding and supporting.

I believe that watching this documentary is a painful first step to finding a just and lasting peace in the Middle East. If you are a friend of Israel, you must watch Peace, Propaganda, and the Promised Land

Filed under Commentary Palestine Israel Propaganda Media Gaza West Bank Peace

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Gaza out of the spotlight…and out of power, gasoline, and cooking gas for that matter

By Eva Bartlett


Every time I speak with Emad in Gaza things are even worse than the day before.  I know how hard it was during the power outages that were 6 hours, but now the power outages are 20 hours in many areas, 18 hours in others, and even entire days—24 hours without electricity. See Press TV’s “Long power outages cripple daily life in Gaza Strip

The impact is significant and catastrophic: on the individual level, it means days of darkness in homes, no contact with the outside world, not even the luxury of watching news on tv, no power for space heaters if lucky enough to have them, dependence on candles for lighting, reading, cooking by.

But it gets worse, deadly, when considering the impact on hospitals which, although many of them do have back-up generators, cannot depend on generators as a constant power source.  These coughing machines spew nauseating fumes, drown out all other sound, but more importantly are designed as a transitional power source, to bridge gaps between brief outages, not as a main source.

When I interviewed Dr. Khalaf a week ago, as Israel was bombing the Strip yet again, he stressed the prolonged and always worsening health care crisis, including the effect of the power cuts:

It is very critical, 180 of 450 of patients’ drug items are at zero stock; 200 of 900 of essential medical items are at zero stock. We lack many essential drugs, including those needed for anaesthesia, antibiotics, specialized milk for infants, treatments for neurological conditions like epilepsy, and cancer medications.

No electricity means no medical service. Electricity is the life of medical service, for all machines; the ICU is completely dependent on electricity, as is the operating theatre, kidney dialysis…

Over a month ago, when the situation was already grave after weeks without power, I wrote:

"More than 80% of patients in the Gaza Strip are threatened to terrible health status and possibility of death due to lack of electricity.

…some 404 of dialysis patients are at risk of death for their treatment is totally based on electricity, …100 children exist in special care are threatened to death .

…72% of the diesel storage has just run out from Gaza hospitals, …Gaza hospitals will be in a complete paralysis in case of not provided with more fuel.”

So a month passes, Israel wages more bombings and assassinations, Palestinians in Gaza are terrorized and killed again, then “quiet” resumes and they are left to their open air prison once again, powerless, fuel-less, jobless, hopeless.

Add to all of that the renewed shortage of cooking gas, another intentional crisis which has plagued Gaza for years under the Israeli-imposed siege which periodically adds cooking gas to the unknowable list of banned goods.  Gaza’s Palestinians depend on cooking gas, not electric stoves, for their cooking needs.

The blog Occupied Palestine aptly summarized, in a photo essay, the dire circumstances in Gaza one month ago:

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Filed under Dissent Commentary Gaza Palestine Geopolitics War War Crimes

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