Category Archives: Joint Struggle

Job Is Alive and Well and Being Held At A US Prison.

holy_land_five_site_merged

The book of Job is considered one of the most important of the 24 books of the Old Testament. Job was a righteous man who, like the Patriarch Abraham, had his faith in the Lord severely tested and like Abraham he came out of the test having proven that his faith and his love for the Lord are complete and unconditional. Chapter one of the Book of Job describes a man blessed with children, livestock and property and whose belief and love of the Lord is beyond reproach. By the end of the chapter he has lost everything, including his beloved children, yet all he says is: “the Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD” and the author makes the point that Job refrained from sin and did not blaspheme or curse the Lord.

Job’s greatness is not only that he was able withstand all that had befallen him, but that his faith and his love of God remained unshaken. He was remarkable because his faith was unconditional.  One may wonder if there might be people like this today? Are there people who can withstand such horrors as Job and still maintain a pure heart and a solid, unconditional belief in the Almighty? Probably not. At least this is what I thought until I began to communicate with Shukri Abu Baker, Ghassan Elashi and Mufid Abdulkader, three of the five men involved in the Holy Land Foundation case, (HLF 5).  In a previous piece I brought a segment written by Mufid Abdukader where he describes their transfer from prison at Seagoville, Texas to CMUs, or Communication Management Units, one of the more diabolical inventions of the US Bureau of Prisons, or maybe it was the Justice Department.

Here is yet another segment from Mufid’s account.

“Before we got on the bus, they checked our files and names and numbers and gave us a lunch bag of meat sandwich with water & crackers.  After all inmates were seated, the trip started and we had no idea where we were going but at least we were finally out of Seagoville Detention Center.  While on the highway, you see the outside free world for the first time in a long time, you see the billboards and you see the green grass on the sides of the highway & people driving going about their business just like we used to do.  After a while, the bus stopped somewhere in Texas and the driver and guards got off the bus to eat lunch.  With our black box over our cuffs, we tried to eat our lunch but it was extremely hard.  Shukri and I were sitting next to each other and we were helping each other eat our food and drink water.  If you happen to need to use the bathroom, then you go to the back of the bus to relief yourself while still handcuffed.  That’s why I avoided eating or drinking anything beyond necessities to avoid using the restroom.  The trip continued for approx. 4 hours and we finally arrived at another prison in Texarkana Texas.  They took us inside the prison where they removed all the chains and handcuffs and gave us some food and then took us to another Special Housing Unit (SHU) (we are special).  This one even much worse than the Seagoville SMU.  The cells in this SHU are really very very small with three beds on top of each other with only 18 inches of separation between the beds.  There is no room to move around.  Ghassan and I could not even stand next to each other to pray.  We almost can hear each others breathing.  We were so tired that we finally went to sleep.  It was a night to remember.

Around 3:00 AM they woke us up and said it’s time to go.  We were handcuffed again and receivd the special black box treatment along with handcuffs for the legs and chains, hand & waist chains and a lock.  Before we got on the bus Elmezain asked one of the guards for his medication & the guard just could not understand why Elmezain needs his medicine and went off screaming at him.  After a while we were taken to the bus and another trip of pain was about to start.  Now we anticipated were going to Oklahoma City.”

“My Trip from Seagoville To USP Marion Part 2 of 5

This segment will describe the trip to Oklahoma City:”

“Today is Friday April 25, 2010.  We were still in Texarkana Prison preparing to head toward Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma City is a transfer/holding Prison Center for all inmates from around the United States. It holds over 5,000 inmates and it is a a hub where all inmates are flown in/out or bussed in/out to be transferred to their designated prison where they were assigned to serve their sentences.  Some are transferred from oner prison to another (for example from a High to medium security, medium to a low security prison ..etc).”

“We were getting shackled, handcuffed.  Again we were the privileged ones who received the black box special treatment.  Other inmates were also shackled and handcuffed but not with the black box.  You must be very special to receive that special gift from the Bureau Of Prisons (BOP).  Once the shakeling, chaining and handcuffing of all inmates was done, we were taken outside the Texarkana Prison and escorted to the bus like a herd of goats.  It was still very dark outside (around 4:00 AM or so).  We were first inline and also first seated in the bus (the 4 of us together).  After everyone else was seated, the trip started.”

“After the bus left the prison, it took a route of small roads & State Highways to Oklahoma City.  I have tried to stay awake so I would not void my Wudu (wudu is the mandatory act of washing hands, face, arms & legs prior to performing prayer).  I made wudu before we left the SHU in Texarkana.  I pushed myself hard to stay awake because I was worried that If I dosed off that I would end up voiding my wudu and having to do it again specially when there was no water on the bus.  Only a jug with some cups for drinking water.  And even if water was available, how will I make wudu with my hands and legs shakeled & handcuffed with the black box?  I can’t even move.  It is an impossible mission.  So I might as well make tayamom (this an alternate option when water is not available, Tayomom is a dry ablution).  Eventually, I ended up making tayamom.  I knew these are the times when Allah gave us permission for an exception under these difficult circumstance.  So now I had wudu and ready for Fajr prayer.  I knew that Fajr prayer Athan was at 5:45 AM in Seagoville Texas & even though we were not there, I figured it would not be that different from where we were.  But the question; what time was it now? I guessed that it was not time for Fajr just by looking on the outside I seeing it was very dark.  No one had a watch.  The only solution was to keep looking outside the bus hoping to see one of these big bank panel clocks that tells time and temperature.  So I kept my eye on the outside hoping to see one.  I finally noticed one from a distance & it was a big electronic panel that turns around in all directions.  By the time the bus made it there, the panel was displaying time and temp to the opposite side of the highway and I could not see it.  I have to try again, so I kept watching for another clock and kept my eyes fixed on any panel with lights.  Finally, I saw another bank clock and it showed the time to be 5:30 AM which is still short 15 minutes of prayer time.  After a while I estimated that 15 minutes has passed and made the Fajr Athan (Call for the prayer) inside the bus.  Elmezain and Ghassan were seated in front of us and Shukri and I were sitting in the seat right behind them.  We prayed the 2 rakka sunna and then I made iqama for the prayer and Elmezain lead the prayer as we were seated.  We started the prayer and brother Elmezain recited beuatiful Quran of Surat Alisra.  Our ruku was to bend our bodies just a little bit toward the seat and our sujood was to bend until our forehead touch the seat in front of us.”

“We prayed what I call the most heartfelt tearful prayer ever in my entire life.  Considering myself a political prisoner and praying under these conditions, you really feel the connection with Allah.  It was an overwhelming feeling that put you in a different world. It intensified my duaa.  It was Friday and I did all the things I normally do on Friday by reading Surat Alkahf as the Prophet Peace be Upon him has told us to do.  Also I made my daily morning remembrance of Allah duaas(Thikhr) and praising Prphet Mohammad Peace Be Upon him.”

“After that I tried to sleep in my seat but no matter which position I try to take or lay in, it was impossible to do with the black box.  I could not move my hands & the movement of the legs was also very painful specially when the legs’ handcuffs touches the ankle as it scrapes the funny bone above the ankle.  The handcuffs around the legs were extremely tight which caused extreme pain.  I tried to move to another empty seat but was afraid if I lay down it will be impossible for me to get up without help.  Finally I managed to take my shoes off and slung them backward with my feet toward me.  I managed to place and stack the shoes against the edge of the seat and use them as a pillow (I lost 61 pounds (28 kg) since I have been in prison and it was a major factor in helping me do that athletic maneuver).  I laid down my head on the shoes and I tried to go to sleep.  Half of my body was in the seat and the other half was hanging outside the seat.  I tried to stretch my legs but the seat was too short.  I could extend my legs to the next seat as a bridge to ensure my whole body is laid down, but this would block the pathway between the seats.  This pathway used by other inmates to move within the bus including going to/from the bathroom at the back of the bus.  Finally I settled down in my sleeping position by placing my feet on top of the seat in front of me at an angle, laying on my side with my head on my pillow (my shoes).  I do not recall how long I slept.  I was too tired and exhausted.  Shukri, Ghassan and Elmezain slumped in their seats and went to sleep as well.  After a while, I awoke and found someone has already moved in the seat in front of me.”

“The sun was rising announcing the birth of a new day.  I looked at this day as a new beginning, a new start with a fresh brand new 24 hours life.  I was determined that I would make the most out of it. I have been dealt with unjustly with a sentence of 20 years for volunteering to help Palestininan destitute children and families.  Yes, I was a volunteer and never an empolyee of the HLF.  By volunteering, I realized that my mission is to serve others & contribute to making this world a better place.  I LOVE and LIVE TO GIVE.  IT IS THE MOST FULFILLING LIFE EVER. ABSOLUTLEY NO REGRETS.  I know that Allah has wisdom behind the test I am going thru & I trusted him always in every aspect of my life and it is no different now.  I really thought that true faith shines at times of difficulties because at time of ease everyone is faithful and life is good and there are no worries or concerns.  Yes, even though I am being taken far away from my beloved family.”

“Every event in our life has a purpose and every setback its lesson.  I have realized that adversity, whether personal, professional, is essential in personal expansion.  It brings inner growth and a whole host of rewards.  Never regret your past.  Rather, embrace it as the teacher that it is.  I know that Allah SWT is rewarding my family for what they are going through as well.  I am not the only one being rewarded for this suffering, my family is sharing in the rewards.  I am not alone in this trip, my family is riding with me every step of the way.  They are always in my heart and soul.  Their image never leaves my mind.  My family is also being deprived as my daughter Sarah told me that there is a big empty space in our house and an eerie feeling because I am not there.  She told me that they miss my laughter, hearing my voice, my physical presence when they were used to seeing me walk thru the door.  They miss having dinner with me.  They miss me helping them with homework.  They missed my presence at the milestones events of their lives when they graduated from University and High School.  They miss the father they love and the husband who is not there to help and support them.

Life is not easy when all the responsibilities are assigned to one person (my beloved wife) to take care of all household affairs when we both shared this responsibility and it was still difficult to do.  At the end of the day, that assuring, dependable father who used to give Nadia (my 10 year old daughter) her good night kiss and tuck her in her bed and sing to her before she goes to sleep was not there.  All these and more are missing not becuase her father was a drug dealer or robbed a bank or killed someone.  No, no, it is because he helped feed Palestinian children, woman, the elderly, and provided Ramadan food packages (rice, sugar, flour, cooking oil, ..etc) and meat Udhiya at Eid Aladha to people who feel they are lucky if they have meat once a month. Provided shelters to Plaestininans whose homes were destroyed by F-16 bombers.  Also dared to give kids school packbacks, shoes, books, and clothes so they can go to school.”

“Yes, this charity work was a life line for so many desperate Palestinian families.  Every night I wake up hearing the voices of duaa of these Palestininan Children and I feel it in my heart, in my soul and in my spirit, and it gives me great inner peace.  This charity work was saving the lives of the same Palestininans whom the whole world has ignored.  Our work was the manifestation of that Islam is: Charity.”

“It has been close to 3 hours of painful tight shackeling handcuffing….”

As I was writing this, I shared the story of Job with my kids, and then told them a little about the contents of this piece. Even to them, the association was clear. I am not a believer, but if there is a God out there, I am certain he is proud of these men, these dedicated believers.


Soldiers of God

If there is one thing that is truly frightening it is an army of soldiers who really believe God is on their side. In Israel and in the West people like to believe that Israel is immune to that. That Israel is somehow a secular religious entity and that the rule of law and common sense prevail and will always prevail over the more religious fundamental parts of Israeli society.

Well, think again. If this photo, of fundamental Jewish soldiers, swearing in on Mount Masada does not scare you than you are living in total denial. There is a clear an present danger that the Jewish version of Taliban is gaining momentum and gaining power. The the number of fundamentalist religious officers in the IDF is over 30% and growing. As one who believes in the secular democracy I feel this is the biggest threat to both people. Our main concern as Israelis and Palestinians should be the irreversibility of the situation. In other words, that it will become too late to create a real secular democracy because these soldiers of God, who see themselves as the successors of the fringe zealots who tried to bring down the Roman Empire but brought down themselves and the Jewish state instead, will rise to such power that secularism and democracy will no longer have a chance.

Israelis, Jews, Palestinians and everyone else who is still stuck in the notion of a Jewish state, take a good look at this photo. Then read the news, travel to Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Karmei Tsur and some of the other Jewish-zealot colonies in the West Bank.  Walk around the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem and talk to the settlers who want to turn Silwan into the “City of David.” Talk to these people who see this as a zero sum game and think nothing of killing Palestinian children.

The discussion of two states is numbing everyone and this photo should wake up all Israelis and Palestinians. We need to act together for a secular democracy, equal rights and the protection for minorities.


Deheisha and Bethlehem Spring 2011

I travelled with my son Eitan to visit Deheishe and to teach karate to Awlad al Muhayyam, children of the camp.  We met my dear brother Mazen Faraj and he took us through Bethlehem to the camp.  The sights of the camp and the city were harsh and uplifting at the same time.  The bustling of this small besieged city and the faces of the children at Deheishe were uplifting.  The ugly wall and the restricted life the children of the camp suffer and the living conditions within the camp, with army incursions and shortage of water and electricity were sad and depressing.

Still, Eitan and I came out feeling that more needs to be done to get the word out and to let the world know that Israel is getting away with crimes that cannot be forgiven. Deheishe is but one example of the injustice perpetrated by the Zionist state. Here are a few images:


Sheikh Jerrah April 2011

A large demo and march to protest the ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem.  With Palestinian flags held high and a mixed Israeli-Palestinian crowd this was an impressive sight. The Israeli riot police, having been humiliated in court chose not to show their ugly faces.  The settlers too were no where to be seen.

Not far from Sheikh Jerrah, in the old city’s muslim quarter one can see more and more Israeli flags raised on houses as Zionist zealots take over more and more houses there.   This is a clear attempt to rid the Old City of its Palestinian population. One can hope that soon the marches will go from Sheikh Jerrah through the Old City to Silwan in protest of this trend.


Israel Is No “Island of Stability” April 12, 2011 By Miko Peled

As the battle over the future of the entire Middle East rages on with popular protests demanding change on the one hand and reactionary forces fighting to suppress them on the other, we hear that Israel is being called an island of stability. Being an established democracy for over six decades the Jewish State is heralded as a shinning example of a stable, free country the likes of which everyone would like to see all over the Middle East. However, this is merely a smoke screen and there can be nothing farther from the truth. Israel is no “Island of Stability.” The struggle for democracy and human rights rages on in Israel just as it is all over the Middle East, and Israel is waging a brutal and bloody war against the forces of change and democracy not unlike its tyrannical neighbors. There is however one difference: Even though he non-violent Palestinian popular resistance movement that is demanding human rights, equality and protection under the law, all of which Israel denies the Palestinian people, has been going on far longer than the other than its counterparts in the region, it receives little attention.
Israeli governments have consistently been reactionary, conservative and highly reprehensible on the issue of civil rights and human rights of the non-Jewish population that they govern. Now that there is no longer a real option to partition historical Israel/Palestine into two states, a clear choice needs to be made: will Israel remain an ethnically racist state where only Jews have rights and non Jews, who make up half of the population, remain without rights or meaningful representation? Or will a democracy emerge that espouses human and civil rights for all who live within it, without regard for race or religion? Just as tyrannical regimes in other parts of the Middle East need to make way for democracy, the same goes for Zionist Israel.
Not unlike its Western allies, Israel is happy to have corruptible tyrants at its service and to offer them favors and protection in return. In order to maintain its ruthless hold over all of historic Palestine and fight off the Palestinians resistance, Israel needs corrupt, unprincipled tyrants who are bribable and who will be at Israel’s disposal. Hosni Mubarak and the Hashemite family are two examples as was the Shah of Iran in his day and these are the ones that are well known. Who knows how many other Arab tyrants are covertly bank rolled by the Zionist state.
There was no surprise that during the uprising in Egypt Israel supported Hosni Mubarak and lobbied heavily on his behalf in Washington and other capitals going against the pro democracy resistance in Egypt; contrary to the claims made by some that the popular resistance in the Arab world is a Zionist conspiracy, Israel will do all within its power to keep the ruthless dictatorships in the Arab world in place so that it can control the Arab world by terrorizing and bribing them. If and when democratic regimes are finally established in Egypt, North Africa, Jordan and Syria it is likely that Israel will not receive the tacit support it currently has on the issue of Palestine.
Since its establishment, Israel has engaged in brutal oppression on the rights of Palestinians. Thousands of Palestinians are imprisoned, beaten and tortured, children are taken from their beds and beaten by soldiers who are armed to the teeth. Now Israel is clearly frustrated by its inability to crush the new waves of popular resistance and as the resistance movement grows and gains more ground and support the Israeli brutality increases as well. One challenge that still plagues the Palestinians is severe fragmentation.
In an interview on CNN Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that reconciliation efforts between the Fatah and Hamas, something for which Palestinian people have been yearning for a long time, is dangerous and must be jeopardized. Again, considering that consecutive Israeli governments have worked tirelessly to bring about the fragmentation of Palestinian society and politics and that they have been very successful, Netanyahu’s statement is not surprising.
Having destroyed Palestine in 1948, Israel successfully created a split between Palestinians who remained within Palestine and those who ended up in the Diaspora. This it did by establishing a series of laws that prohibit Palestinian refugees from visiting their homeland and making it intolerably difficult for those who carry citizenships from countries that are friendly to Israel to enter when they come to visit their homeland. Then, Israel managed to create a separation between Palestinians who live within Israel proper and those in the territories occupied in 1967, the former being considered Israeli citizens, and to deepen the separation through laws that limit marriage between Palestinians in the two areas; then a rift between Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Palestinians in Gaza was deepened by forbidding travel between the two regions. Finally, Israel supported the creation of Hamas to counter Fatah and then fueling a bloody feud between the two. So there is no wonder that Netanyahu wants to maintain this fragmentation that has allowed Zionist state to further its iron grip on Palestine and its people.
The times are changing all around the Middle East including Israel. Like other tyrants in the region, Israel cannot maintain the current level of violence against the Palestinian resistance without the support of its Western allies. Without the massive cooperation Israel receives from the West, Israel will not be able to maintain its exclusive hold on the land and the oppression of the people and will have to give up its control so as to allow an inclusive democracy to emerge in its place. Rather then let things escalate and allow for more innocents to die, progressive forces around the world need to join hands in condemning Israel and to support the forces that fight for change. What is called for now is a clear demand that all political prisoners held by Israel be released, the separation wall be torn down and that Palestinians be given full equal rights and freedom under the law and that Palestinians be allowed live and travel anywhere within Israel/Palestine.
Just as people of conscience around the world hope to see the old tyrants like Mubarak and Qaddafi toppled, so must they act so that Zionist Israel will be transformed into a secular, tolerant, pluralistic democracy. A democracy in which all citizens enjoy equal rights and have a say in their future. As the drastic changes in the Middle East took place with little warning, one may expect that little warning will be given and that change will happen within Israel/Palestine sooner rather than later. Those who stand beside Zionist Israel now will later come to regret it and the stain of shame will be hard to erase. As it is the Zionist state will go down in history as the lowest and most shameful chapters in the long history of the Jewish people.


Un Etat en commun dans une patrie commune Par Miko Peled

Benjamin Netanyahou, premier ministre d’Israël déclarait ces derniers temps, Ce qu’il nous faut pour résoudre ces problèmes complexes [pour aboutir à la paix], c’est une façon de penser nouvelle et créatrice . Netanyahou n’a jamais eu autant raison.
Les pourparlers de paix dans le Moyen Orient sont voués à l’échec tout comme ceux qui les ont précédés, car ils prennent pour point de départ le même principe de base faussé qui empêche d’apporter une solution au conflit. La proposition de solution se fonde sur un partage inégal de la terre. Les juifs israéliens qui forment 50% de la population, recevraient au moins 78 pour cent du territoire – probablement plus – alors que les Palestiniens qui forment l’autre moitié de la population se verraient alloués ce qui reste.
Durant les 100 années qui viennent de s’écouler, d’innombrables tentatives ont été faites pour résoudre le conflit Israélo-Palestinien par les voies du partage du territoire. Elles ont toutes échoué. Actuellement, avec les Israéliens qui vivent à leur aise sur l’ensemble du territoire, y compris dans la majeure partie de la Cisjordanie, il n’y a pas de raison d’espérer que la tentative en cours aura plus de succès. Au contraire, on peut s’attendre à ce que toute nouvelle tentative de partage du territoire soit vouée à l’échec.
Cette solution des deux États, considérée à tort comme la seule possible, est fondée sur le discours sioniste qui veut que les Juifs d’Israël ont davantage droit à cette terre que les Palestiniens. L’état de choses actuel en Palestine/Israël est le suivant: il y a 10 millions de personnes administrées par l’Etat d’Israël mais les lois qui les régissent sont différentes. Les Juifs d’Israël jouissent de la démocratie et de la liberté, les Palestiniens, citoyens d’Israël, doivent se contenter de droits restreints à l’intérieur d’Israël, les Palestiniens de Cisjordanie souffrent d’un système de dualité de pouvoirs alors que ceux de Gaza sont enfermés dans une prison à ciel ouvert qui est totalement contrôlée par Israël.
Les soldats israéliens ont le droit d’emprisonner ou de tuer les Palestiniens selon leur bon vouloir et cela sans jugement. De plus, Israël peut facilement confisquer les terres et les autres biens des Palestiniens. Pour tout recours, les Palestiniens dépouillés de leurs biens ou de leurs droits fondamentaux ne peuvent s’adresser qu’à un tribunal irrégulier qui, dans l’ensemble, se contente d’approuver les actions des militaires et du gouvernement. Le droit international est inopérant.
Israël a de nombreuses fois fait clairement connaître sa position sur les principaux problèmes du conflit : non, non, non et non. Israël ne cessera jamais d’implanter des colonies, Israël ne partagera jamais Jérusalem, Israël ne permettra jamais aux réfugiés palestiniens de revenir dans leur patrie et Israël ne reviendra jamais aux frontières d’avant 1967. En d’autres termes, Israël rejette les demandes palestiniennes – ainsi que les obligations du droit international – sans lesquelles un État libre et indépendant ne peut s’instaurer.
Les dirigeants arabes qui soutiennent les pourparlers en cours et qui se sont rendus à Washington la semaine dernière reçoivent des milliards de dollars des fonds d’aide américains aux pays étrangers. Assurément, ils ne peuvent se permettre de contredire le Président des Etats Unis. De même, le Président palestinien Mahmoud Abbas, qui était aux premières loges pour voir la manière dont son prédécesseur a été trainé dans la boue et ensuite assiégé alors que les tanks israéliens s’emparaient du siège du gouvernement palestinien à Ramallah, ne peut qu’accepter les lourdes exigences d’Israël et des Etats Unis.
On assimile souvent l’Autorité Palestinienne à un gouvernement – il y a un Premier Ministre, un parlement et un Président – mais en fait, son autorité se borne à celle que peut avoir un conseil municipal. L’Autorité Palestinienne exerce un pouvoir très limité et on lui permet de gouverner de manière très restreinte. C’est Israël qui essentiellement exerce son pouvoir de véto.
Netanyahou avait raison quand il disait que le temps était venu de penser de façon nouvelle et créatrice, mais ses mises en garde contre un État palestinien réduisent tout cela à néant dès le départ. Il est temps de rejeter le principe des deux États.
Puisque les deux peuples ont en commun une terre que tous deux revendiquent comme leur patrie, leurs destins sont liés. Il faut qu’ils envisagent leur avenir comme des égaux. Comme les Israéliens et les Palestiniens sont déjà dans une large mesure administrés par un gouvernement et un État, il est temps que leurs voix puissent se faire entendre à égalité dans ce gouvernement et qu’ils puissent parler à égalité pour décider de leur avenir commun. Un État commun qui donnerait des droits égaux et une protection égale devant la loi à tous ceux qui vivent à l’intérieur de ses frontières est la seule façon pour les deux peuples d’avoir la paix et la prospérité.
La solution des deux États est dépassée, tuée par des décennies d’une activité visant à installer des colonies inamovibles. Une démocratie pluraliste, laïque sur toute le territoire d’Israël/Palestine, sans partition ni ségrégation, sera source de créativité et de coopération et permettra aux Israéliens et aux Palestiniens d’avancer vers un meilleur avenir. Ce qui a fonctionné en Afrique du Sud et dans le Sud de l’Amérique où la ségrégation a pris fin peut fonctionner aussi bien en Israël/Palestine.


My Speech for Palestine Awareness Week at SDSU.

I want to begin by thanking the members of AIPAC the Jewish Zionist community who are here tonight. I am glad that they decided to set aside time to express solidarity with the people of Palestine. I know that you will listen to the tapes and view the recordings of my remarks tonight and you will study them well and hopefully you will realize that you are supporting evil. You see, I too came from a deeply Zionist background, far more Zionist and Jewish than most of you here tonight. My grandfather was a signer on the Israeli declaration of independence, and my father, a general, one of the giants who planned and executed Israel’s most definitive military victories, namely 1948 and 1967. So I know what you were taught and I know what you think. But its time to sweep away the Zionist myths and uncover the truth so that we may all finally live in peace. The myths I will address tonight are the three most common myths:
1. The myth of 1948.
2. The myth of the existential threat of 1967.
3. The myth of the Jewish democracy.
I want to read to you a passage from my upcoming book The General’s Son, and I quote: (Growing up we were taught to believe that the Arabs had left Eretz Israel partly on their own and partially at the directive of their so called leaders, and that therefore taking their land and homes was morally OK. It never occurred to us that even if they did leave willingly, we had no right to prohibit their return. But then Israeli historians had found that what Palestinians have been saying for decades was true.) end quote. In other words when Palestinians claim something is true we doubt it but when Israelis claim it themselves, well now that is a different story. So Israeli historians found that Israel and Palestine the exact same place. But when Israel was created it was created on the ruins of Palestine.

Now, although Palestine was not a state yet, it would have become one had it not been so thoroughly destroyed. Palestine had bustling cities where commerce and trade were taking place, they had a middle class, they had judges and scholars and a rich political life and indeed they had culture and a unique identity that set them apart from the rest of the Arab world. What the Palestinians did not have, the one thing in which they did not invest was a military. And while they constituted the vast majority of the population, when the Jewish militias attacked, they were helpless.

The Jewish community in Palestine at the time was small, numbering less than half a million people but it had developed its own state like institutions separate from those of the Palestinians. Based on the principle of Hafrada, or segregation, they had developed their own schools, a nationalized health care system, a quasi government and a strong, well trained militia with young men like my father who were dedicated to creating a Jewish state in Palestine disregarding the existence of the vast majority of the population who were, Palestinians.

In 1948 the Jewish militia became the Israeli army but between the end of 1947 and the beginning of 1949 they destroyed close to 500 towns and villages and exiled close to 800,000 Palestinians who to this day are not permitted to return. So, it turns out that the creation of Israel had not, after all, been a haphazard fight in which the Arabs fled their homes due to the directives of their own leaders. It had been a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Jewish militia involving massacres, terrorism, and the wholesale looting of an entire nation.

My mother remembers the homes of the Palestinians who were forced to leave West Jerusalem. She herself was offered one of those beautiful spacious homes but refused. She could not bear the thought of living in the home of a family that was forced out and now lives in a refugee camp. She said the coffee was still warm on the tables as the soldiers came in and began the looting. She remembers the truckloads of loot, taken by the Israeli soldiers from these homes.

Once the state was established, Israel had worked tirelessly to efface the remnants of prior Palestinian existence by demolishing towns and villages and historic sites including an estimated two thousand mosques. I recall the Israeli TV series Tkuma or “Rebirth,” (an outstanding series that describes the rebirth of the Jewish people and the establishment of the Jewish state. In one interview a veteran brigade commander of 1948 was asked if it was true that the Jewish forces burned down Arab villages. He looked up slowly into the camera and said: “Like bonfires,” he replied, they burnt like bonfires.)

After the war was over, the Palestinians who remained within the newly created Jewish state were forced to become citizens of a state that forced itself upon them and they were designated as “The Arabs of Israel” a designation that denies them a national identity and rights. They are Arabs in a Jewish state and they are citizens of a state that is despised by all its neighbors.

Another widely accepted Zionist myth is that in 1967 Israel had to defend itself against an existential threat as invading Arab armies were about to wipe it off the face of the earth. And it just so happened that miraculously the Israelis won and conquered lands to the north, east and south defeating three massive armies. Well, setting aside the countless books that have been written in Hebrew, English and Arabic and documentaries that were filmed and disprove this myth, and clearly show that Israel attacked in order to conquer, as part of the research for my book, I sat for days at the Israeli army archives reading through the minutes of the meetings of the Israel army general staff. Here is another quote from my book: (In a stormy meeting of the IDF top brass and the Israeli cabinet that took place on the 2nd of June, 1967, my father General Matti Peled told the cabinet in no uncertain terms that the Egyptians needed at least a year and a half in order to be ready for a full scale war. His point was that the time to strike a devastating blow against the Egyptian army was now, not because of an existential threat but because the Egyptian army is NOT prepared for war. The other generals agreed. But the cabinet was hesitant. The cabinet members and Prime Minister and a tug-of-war of unimaginable proportions ensued. During that same stormy meeting my father said to the Prime Minister: “Nasser (Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser) is advancing an ill prepared army because he is counting on the cabinet being hesitant. He is convinced that we will not strike. Your hesitation is working in his advantage.”) No mention of an existential threat but of an opportunity to assert Israeli strength. Years later this was confirmed by other Generals, including the butcher Ariel Sharon.

In the end the cabinet succumbed to the enormous pressure placed on them by the generals and approved a pre-emptive attack against Egypt, that began on June 5, 1967. Again I quote:(The surprise attack led to the total destruction of Egypt’s air force, the decimation of the Egyptian army, and the re-conquest of the Gaza Strip and the Sinai Peninsula in a matter of days. The Israeli army also knew the Syrian army was in shambles, and the Jordanians were no match to the IDF strength. After the campaign against Egypt went so smoothly, the generals, turned their attention to the West Bank and the Golan Heights, two regions Israel had coveted for many years. Both had strategic water resources and hills overlooking Israeli territory, and the West Bank contained the heartland of Biblical Israel, and the crown jewel, the Old city of Jerusalem. In six days it was all over. Arab casualties were estimated at 15,000, (15,000 dead in 6 days!) Israeli casualties 700, and the territory controlled by Israel had nearly tripled in size. Israel had in its possession not only land and resources it had wanted for a long time, but also the largest stockpiles of Russian-made arms outside of Russia. Israel had once again asserted itself as a major regional power.)

Now here is where something of immense proportion takes place: remember this was 46 years ago (At a meeting of the General Staff after the Six Day War, Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin was beaming with the glory of victory. But when the meeting was nearing its end, my father raised his hand. He was called on, and he spoke of the unique chance the victory offered—to solve the Palestinian problem once and for all. For the first time in Israel’s history, we were face to face with the Palestinians, without other Arabs between us. Now we had a chance to offer them a state of their own in the West Bank and Gaza. He claimed with certainty that holding on to the West Bank and the people who lived in it was contrary to Israel’s long-term strategy. Popular resistance to the occupation was sure to arise, and Israel’s army would be used to quell that resistance, with disastrous and demoralizing results. It would turn the Jewish state into an increasingly brutal occupying power and eventually into a bi-national state. This was nothing short of prophetic as today we live this exact reality. As he was saying this, the future leaders of the Intifada (the Palestinian uprising) were still lying in their cradles.)

His words were ignored, his claims brushed aside and instead, blinded by their newly gained access to places with mythical/biblical names like Hebron and Bethlehem, Shilo and Shcem Israeli leaders began a massive settlement project to settle Jews in the newly conquered land. A few years later my father called on Israel to negotiate with the PLO: The Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO). He claimed that Israel needed to talk with whoever represented the Palestinian people, the people with whom we shared this land. He believed only peace with the Palestinians could ensure our continued existence as a state that was both Jewish and democratic.)  Now, all these years later people talk of creating a Palestinian state in the WB but that option no longer exists.

The myth of Israel being a democracy is still being perpetuated even in light of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. While Jewish Israelis over there and AIPAC over here like to think they are the only rightful citizens of their land and will argue that they live in a democracy, this is far from being true. Israel has been in control of the West Bank for over four decades and had built and invested heavily in the West Bank. But Palestinians who make up the vast majority of the population in the West Bank are excluded from any of it. In other words, 100% of the construction in the West Bank was done to bring Jews into the WB and exclude the close to 3 million Palestinians whose land this belongs to in the first place. 3 million Palestinians are left out, disenfranchised even as they see their lands taken, their homes destroyed and roads, malls, schools and gated communities being built for Jews only with no access to them or their families. Some democracy.

And that is not the worst of it. Water, the scarcest resource of all is controlled and distributed by the Israeli water authority, including the large amounts of water that exists within the WB. According to Betselem, the Israeli human rights organization the ground water from the Mountain Aquifer is a shared water source for Israeli and Palestinians. It is the largest and highest quality water source in the area, producing 600 million cubic meters (mcm) of water annually. Israel holds almost complete control of the aquifer and exploits 80 percent of the production for its needs, leaving the remainder for the Palestinians’ use. “The discriminatory and unfair division of shared water resources creates a chronic water shortage in the West Bank, and is liable to harm Palestinians’ health.” The World Health Organization recommends a minimal per capita daily consumption of 100 liters. The daily per capita consumption in Israel is 242 liters, the consumption in the West Bank is 73 liters per person. “In certain districts, consumption was as low as 37 liters (Tubas District), 44 (Jenin District), and 56 (Hebron District).” So  Palestinians have to buy their own water back from Israel, as Israel does not recognize Palestinian rights to the water that exists under Palestinian land. As absurd as it sounds Palestinian farmers are prohibited from digging wells on their own land. When seen as a per year distribution it is even more alarming. Israel distributes the water as follows: Per capita, Israeli Jews receive 300 cubic meters of water per year. Per capita Palestinians receive 85 cubic meters per year. (World Health Organization recommends 100 per year) Per capita, Jewish settlers in the WB are allocated 1500 cubic meters of water per year. In other words while Palestinians have barely enough to drink, Jewish settlers not 500 yards away have swimming pools and green lawns. So does anyone seriously think that this can go on forever? Democracy indeed. Now in light of the peoples uprising in the Middle East we can expect to see dictatorial regimes falling like dominos. Can we expect that 5 million Palestinians will continue to live under a regime, that is democratic for Jews but is a brutally oppressive one to Palestinians? There are close to 6 million Israel Jews and 5.5 million Palestinians sharing the same country under different laws.
My father who was a military giant but had also spent years fighting for justice for the Palestinian cause, was often asked about the question of Palestinian terrorism. I mention his reply in my book because it is classic: “Terrorism,” I recall him saying in an interview on Israeli television, “is a terrible thing. But the fact remains that when a small nation is ruled by a larger power, terror is the only means at their disposal. This has always been true, and I fear this will always be the case.”

My father’s predictions have all come true. The work of the Israel lobby in this country not withstanding, people around the world are beginning to realize that there are in fact two nations who live between the Jordan River and the Med sea and that the brutal regime under which Palestinians live is unacceptable.

And speaking of AIPAC, I remember seeing many of you, the mighty San Diego AIPAC bunch who are sitting here tonight, at the vigil that was held for the innocent victims murdered by Israel in Gaza. It was held a couple of months ago in Balboa Park. You were draped in the Israeli flag, singing and dancing as we who were there too, separated from you by a line of police and a sense of morality tried to recall the names of over 1400 dead, innocent civilians, police officers, children, women and men who were killed by the state of Israel in a matter of three weeks.

Those were three weeks of such death and destruction that one can hardly comprehend. I recall stories of the Israeli air force pilots who flew sortie after sortie, dumping hundreds of tons of bombs on Gaza, exposing a civilian population to unimaginable horror and then returning home to their families to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukah, you see the attacks took place during Hanukah. Then these pilots, having enjoyed the celebration slept well in the comfort of their homes and their beds only to get up the next morning and do it again, and again, and again. I recall that during the vigil you who were draped in the Israeli flag held signs that told of the warning the Israeli army gave the people of Gaza prior to the attacks. They dropped thousands of leaflets to let the besieged people of Gaza know that this nightmare was about to begin. I can only imagine the mother who saw the warnings. Knowing that the death and destruction were pending and knowing also that there was no where to go, nowhere to take her children no where to hide them from the fire, the smoke, the chemicals and the phosphorous that melts the flesh and won’t be extinguished – no where to go because Israel had imposed a siege, a never ending lockdown on the people of Gaza. So for the Israeli air force pilots, young men who Israelis and Jewish Zionists everywhere consider their finest, this was nothing more than shooting fish in a barrel as they began their merciless onslaught at precisely 11:25 am on December 27, 2008. A date that will forever be etched in our memory as one of the darkest and most shameful days in the long history of the Jewish people. A day when the Jewish State committed horrendous shameful crimes by dropping hundreds of tons of bombes at the precise time that Gaza children were out on the street. Between 11 and 11:30 AM 800,000 children of Gaza are on their way to school or returning home from school, it is at this time that the two shifts of the school day change. That was the time chosen by the Israeli decision makers to begin the assault.

To emphasize the how criminal this is, I want to read to you the quote from Charles Glass a veteran writer and middle east reporter: In “The Tribes Triumphant” arguably the one of the best books ever written about the Middle East, journalist Charles Glass describes children in Gaza on their way to school in the morning. Everyone should read his book, by the way, and here is what he writes about children in Gaza: “..in smocks of blue or grey little girls with white fringe collars, boys leading their younger brothers…with canvas bags of books on their backs, hair brushed back and faces scrubbed .. Thousands and thousands of children’s feet padding the dusty paths between their mother’s front doors and their schools…Gaza is a children’s land. …beautiful youngsters so innocent that they could laugh even in Gaza.” these are the people Israel attacked on that dark, dark December day. Those of you who are here because you support Israeli brutality will no doubt claim that Israeli had the right to act as it did because it was acting in self-defense. Self defense from kassam rockets fired by Hammas militants in Gaza. Thousands of rockets that were launched to kill innocent civilians in Israel.

I know a thing or two about kassam rockets. I was sitting with my children and relatives in a kibbutz, a stones throw from Gaza relaxing on a Saturday afternoon as the rockets began flying over us and the alarms went off. It was frightening. Just this last December a kassam rocket fell in the same kibbutz near the kindergarten, when children were present. The children were hurt. There were bloody scratches, shattered glass everywhere and several children were hospitalized in a state of shock. I saw the hole in the ground created by the rocket, the size of a large soccer ball. And then I remembered what a crater made by a one-ton bomb looks like. It is the size of a city block. Children do not suffer shock or scratches, they are decimated and burned and buried in the rubble and suffocated from the fumes. Now, multiply that by 100 and multiply that again and again and keep in mind that in Gaza population density is one of the highest in the world 10k per sq mile. Yet the Israeli lobby will justify this. Those among you who are Jewish will be familiar with the story in the book of Genesis, chapter 18, verses 23-26: God decides to destroy the city of Sodom and Abraham, the patriarch chastises him and says “wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked, perhaps there be fifty righteous within the city” and God promises he will spare the city if he finds 50 righteous people. But in Israel today there is no Abraham, for as we know there are 800,000 children in Gaza and Israel did not spare them the horror. Hard to imagine.

I am often accused of being one sided and not mentioning Palestinians terrorism. Well this time I will: as my father said it decades ago, when a small nation is governed by a brutal larger power, some sort of violent resistance is to be expected. And the victims are always innocents.  As for my family’s brush with terrorism it was what drove us to learn more about the conflict and to reach out to our Palestinian neighbors: And the drive, the final push for me to reach out to Palestinians came as a result of a devastating tragedy:  I quote again from my book The General’s Son: Then, in the fall of 1997, disaster. My niece Smadar was killed by Palestinian suicide bombers. Hours later, there we were, driving along the road to the cemetery. Police escorted our procession on motorcycles, making way for vans carrying the devastated family members of another Jewish casualty. As we got out of the van, someone approached and asked me to carry the small coffin. My heart felt far heavier than the heartbreakingly slight weight on my shoulders. Israelis and Palestinians, family members and friends from across the political spectrum, famous leaders and ordinary people, came to give eulogies or express their sorrow at this unspeakable loss. Smadar was laid to rest near my father, her grandfather, in a small hilltop cemetery just outside of Jerusalem. To this day my sister Nurit cannot forgive herself for leaving her baby girl alone out in the cold, damp ground. But when she came out of her room to face the thousands of mourners she did not ask for retaliation. She did not beg for revenge. Instead she said this:  “No real mother would want such a terrible thing to happen to another mother.”

It seemed impossible to carry on. But my mother always said that life was stronger than death. And so we went on. But something had changed. I felt I had to do something and I knew that meeting and talking to Palestinians was the right thing to do. And so I did, and I began right here in San Diego where I was welcomed by the warm embrace of the local Palestinian community.

The experience of meeting Palestinian was comforting, liberating and heart wrenchingly difficult. It was comforting because I found that we were very similar, it was liberating because I found we are not doomed to be enemies forever and it was heart wrenching because I realized I did not have full possession of the truth – that is where you my AIPAC supporting friends are right now: you are not in full possession of the truth and I suggest you get over it and join me in what was so eloquently described by the great Clovis Maqsoud as The “Constituency of Conscience”.

I can only imagine that the whites in SA upon seeing the end of apartheid wanted so badly to hang on to their dying way of life, corrupt as it was. I can only imagine that white racists in the Southern states were doing the same as legalized racism and discrimination came to an end in this country. We see brutal tyrants everywhere these days, from Libya to the Gulf states do the same. Holding on even as they fall one by one.  Now Zionists and their supporters do the same, holding on to the notion that a racist regime can last, that injustice and horror can last that crimes against others who are different can go unpunished. But we are near the end. The Zionist dream of an ethnically, religiously homogenous state was shattered by the Zionists themselves with their insatiable hunger for land. In their own hands they created a bi national state, a state where half the population is not Jewish or Israeli but Palestinian Arab. True they have no rights, true also that they are not counted but that will change and sooner than you think.

Change will come because the non-violent resistance movement in towns and villages all over Palestine will prevail. In Beit-Umar, In Bil’in, in Nabi Saleh, in Silwan in Ni’ilin, in Shekh Jerrakh, in Maasara, dear friends Palestinians and Israelis who are committed to justice and democracy, organize non-violent marches every single week. And this is why we who believe in justice and democracy are optimistic. The people, grass roots Palestinian leaders who are dedicated and relentless.

In East Jerusalem, just outside the walled old city and not far from the Jewish Quarter, sits the neighborhood of Silwan with close to 50,000 residents. Israel wants to expel families from Silwan in order to build an archeological park that glorifies its Jewish past. They claim that king David built a city there some 3000 years ago and they hope to find the remnants of this city under the homes of the people of Silwan. Thousands of families may have to leave so that Israel can build a park to glorify a conquest that took place 3000 years ago, never mind that not a shred of scientific evidence exists that such a king ever lived, any more than there is evidence the world was created in 6 days. The past trumps the present in Israel – a state that wants to eliminate the existence of people who live on their land to solidify the myth of a glorious past.

But the Palestinians constantly and stubbornly interfere with the Zionist myth making and so the Palestinians, men, women, children and the elderly along with their schools and mosques, churches and ancient cemeteries and all evidence of their existence must be destroyed so that Zionist claims to exclusive rights to the land may be substantiated.
So, those of you who wish to associate yourself with Zionism and AIPAC and drape yourselves in the Zionist flag, the flag that has come to symbolize intolerance, hate, racism and brutality, feel free to do so. But know this: When the trials begin, when the tribunals take their seat, when the “truth and reconciliation” commission begins its work and when you are finally shamed into admitting that you are wrong, remember to go down on your knees and beg for forgiveness of the people you so blatantly wronged. You will not be able to claim that you “did not know” because we watched you dance as others were counting their dead. Remember and never forget that you and I and these witnesses were here today. Because I will not forget you, they will not forget you and worst of all, your conscience will not let you forget that you draped yourself in the flag, you supported the killing and you mocked the bereaved.

The rest of us will move on, and along with the rest of the Middle East we will follow the example of the brave people of Egypt to create what will surely be tremendous accomplishment: A democratic, secular state in our shared homeland, A state where Muslims Christians and Jews live as equals. A shared state, a secular democracy, where every vote counts and people raise their children to love their diverse homeland with its multitude of cultures, its rich history and its promising future. It is true that there is a misguided assumption that sharing the land means nations have to be enemies but that is not true. Israelis and Palestinian will join together in their shared homeland and form something that is greater than the sum of its parts. Thank you very much.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,280 other followers