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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Israeli navy kidnaps two Palestinian children and uncle fishing in Gazan waters

by Radhika S.
12 November 2011 | International Solidarity Movement, Gaza

Mohamed and Abdul Qader Baker - Click here for more images

Seventeen-year-old Abdul Qader Baker still has no idea why the Israeli navy surrounded his small fishing boat at 4 a.m. Thursday morning, ordered him, his 17-year-old cousin Mohamed Baker, and his uncle, Arafat Baker, to strip off their clothes, stand shivering in their underwear for an hour and a half and ultimately forced the group to Ashod.  The two high school students were released approximately twelve hours later, but their uncle remains in Israeli detention.

“I was so scared and it was so cold,” Abdul Qader reported.  After the Israeli navy ordered the group to take off their clothes, Abdul Qader stated that “for two hours I had to stand, not moving, while [Israeli] snipers pointed their guns at me.”

Abdul Qader and Mohamed are in the twelfth grade, and often help their families fish when there’s a school holiday, as was the case on Thursday.  According to Abdul Qader,“[w]e went to retrieve the nets we had dropped and then suddenly I saw the Israeli gun boat in front of us, shining a big light into our boat.”

While the Israeli navy forced Mohamed and Arafat to jump into the sea, and swim towards the warship, Abdul Qader was told he could retrieve his fishing net and go home.  “But when I started taking up the net, the Israelis opened fire and told me to leave the net and jump in the water.”
On the gunboat, Mohamed and Abdul Qader reported being blindfolded until they reached the port of Ashdod.   “They took me to the harbor and when they removed my blindfold, I saw 40 soldiers. I was afraid and terrified,” added Mohamed. At Ashod, Mohamed was examined by a doctor, while an Israeli soldier photographed him.

Israeli authorities subsequently placed metal cuffs on the hands and feet of the two boys and eventually transferred them to Erez where they interrogated them for several hours.

At Erez, Israeli soldiers placed Mohamed and Abdul Qader in separate rooms and showed them various maps of Gaza, asking them to identify their houses and the names of their uncles and brothers.  The Israelis also asked both boys to identify Hamas training locations, where Hamas people lived, were asked about a monument to the 9 Turks killed by the Israeli navy on the Mavi Marmara in 2010, whether the prisoners released in the recent exchange were staying at a particular hotel in Gaza City, and about open spaces used for a playground and a fish farm.

Israeli authorities released the boys at around 5 p.m. Their uncle, 28-year-old Arafat Baker, is still detained.  “I have no idea why they arrested me,” said Abdul Qader. “I didn’t cross the 3-mile line,” he added referring to the fishing limit Israel has imposed on Palestinian fishermen in Gaza.  “The Israelis are criminals. This is no way to treat human beings. It took me hours to stand on my feet [because of the cold], I couldn’t move my leg.”  Abdul Qader added,“I don’t know yet if I will go fishing again. I need time to mentally recover from this.”

Abdul Qader’s right side and chest still hurt due to hours of standing in the cold and being forced into the sea. Israeli authorities did not permit the boys to call their families or an attorney, nor did they ever tell the boys why they had been detained or what laws they were alleged to have violated.
Updated on November 13, 2011

Sleeping on Stones

A Palestinian dramatic feature film set in Hebron.

What We Need 

We need US$750,000 to bring the film to full completion. This includes the total costs for production (filming in Hebron), post-production (editing in the US) and some distribution needs (getting the word out about the film). We'll be working with the best in film production talent and cast in both Palestine and the US. If we don't reach our entire goal by our deadline, the production will be delayed until we attain the full funds. 

Whatever you can donate takes us closer to our goal, no matter how big or small. 

Just click on "contribute now" to the right, 

select your donation amount and perk, if applicable.

Sleeping on Stones - The Quest to Make This Film
Sleeping on Stones will be a feature-length Palestinian drama, to be shot in the West Bank city of Hebron. It will be the first dramatic feature film made in Hebron.

The film above is the vision trailer we shot in Hebron last June. We wanted to convey the story and the emotion of the film to bring it to you, our supporting audience.

We have been trying to raise funds for Sleeping on Stones for 10 years now, via grants, international finance, co-productions, production companies, competitions and private investors. As there is scant finance for Palestinian films in the global film industry and the major studios have no interest in producing such a film, we believe:

It's up to our audience now. And that's you!

The Sleeping on Stones - The Story
In Hebron, three 10-year-old boys come of age during the 1987 Intifada. Hamza is a talented soccer player, Yousef has a voice for the old Arabic ballads, and Jacob is a rebellious Jewish-American settler who is out of place in his new homeland. Their passion for soccer bonds their childhood together but ten years later, their friendship faces obstacles as their lives' adult choices under Israeli occupation begin. 

Sleeping on Stones - The AccoladesThus Far

  • 2006 - Screenplay selected for Sundance Institute - Royal Film Commission Jordan's RAWI Screenwriter's Lab

  • 2007 - Project selected for the Mediterranean Films Crossing Borders Programme at Cannes Film Festival

  • 2010 - Project selected for the Thessaloniki International Film Festival's Crossroads Co-Production Forum

  • 2010 - Project awarded fiscal sponsorship by the New York Foundation for the Arts

  • 2011 - Trailer awarded the PomGrant by the Pomegranate Film Festival

About the Writer-Director

Sleeping on Stones' Writer-Director Nicole Ballivian's last feature film was a US-Palestinian comedy, Driving to Zigzigland (2006), which won the Russian Cinematographers and Film Critics Award, Best Actor and Best Feature Film Awards at Amal Film Fest (Spain) and the Arabian Sights Audience Award at FilmFest DC. Nicole was selected as a screenwriting fellow for the Sundance Institute - Royal Film Commission Jordan's RAWI Screenwriter's Lab for her screenplay, Sleeping on Stones.  Nicole's 20-year film and television production background includes work for Warner Bros, Universal Pictures and independent film. Nicole graduated in Film from American University in Washington DC in 1996.

Other Ways You Can Help

1) Post the link for this campaign on Facebook & Twitter - Post it on your personal wall and other pertinent groups you think may have interest.  

2) Like our Facebook Page: and follow us on Twitter: and ask others to follow too! 

3) Sign up for our email list at

You can't imagine the lengths your post about this campaign will travel to via Facebook and Twitter. We really value your spreading the word!

What You Get

We've got some great incentives lined up on the right. They're based on donation amounts and some of them are limited.

Unreleased Marcel Khalife Music: The renowned Marcel Khalife will be composing the Sleeping on Stones film score and after the composition completion, we'll have it available for those who meet the challenge. 

Kuffiyas from the Khalil: Due to globalization's effect on mass kuffiya production and sales, the Hirbawi Factory in Hebron is the last kuffiya factory in Palestine. You can support Hebron by donating to get an authentic kuffiya straight from the Hirbawi Factory.

Hebron Greeting Cards: Our Director of Photography, Hal Haug from Norway, has shot amazing stills that capture the beauty and character of Hebron. We'll be offering greeting cards that feature these photos, for use in any occasion, blank inside.

A copy of the Sleeping on Stones DVD once the film is available for DVD distribution.

Two Tickets to the Sleeping on Stones US Premiere: Five donors who match the goal amount will get two VIP tickets to the film's US premiere, whether at the first film festival, theatrical or other screening. Transportation and accommodation not included.

Screening with the Director: Two donors who match the goal amount will be able to screen the film at the venue of their choice with the director present. Venue costs not included. Limited to within the US only.

A Day on The Set: Two donors who match the goal amount will be able to spend a day on the set in Hebron, shadowing the director. Travel or accommodation costs not provided.

Tax Deduction

For those making a large contribution who would like to have their donation tax-deducted, we have the ability to do so via our fiscal sponsor, the New York Foundation for the Arts. Please contact for more information.


For any questions, please feel free to contact Sign up on our mailing list on our website at

Int’l delegation in Gaza soon to issue declaration against blockade

[ 12/11/2011 - 08:29 AM ]

GAZA, (PIC)– About 200 parliamentary and political figures from different countries are expected to arrive in the besieged Gaza Strip on 21 November, according to a spokesman for the European campaign to end Gaza siege.

Spokesman for the campaign Rami Abdo told Al-Kitab satellite channel on Thursday that these figures would visit Gaza as one delegation to issue the universal declaration against Israel’s blockade on the Gaza Strip.

The delegation will represents all continents with participation from the US, South Africa, Europe, Asia and Arab countries, spokesman Abdo stated, adding that high-level officials from Arab revolutionary councils will be among the participants.

The international delegation will hold a special meeting with Palestinian lawmakers from Gaza and the West Bank during which a statement against Gaza siege and every blockade imposed on any nation will be read. The statement will be deposited later as a universal declaration with the UN human rights council.

The participants are due to flock from their countries into Cairo on 18 of this month before they enter Gaza on a three-day visit during which they will also meet with Palestinian officials and citizens.

Source and more at the Palestinian Information Center

'Israel violates Geneva Conventions'

Sat Nov 12, 2011 10:57AM GMT
An exclusive interview with Henry Norr, Palestine Solidarity Movement, from Berkeley
A prominent political activist says that the Israeli regime's occupation of Palestinian land is an international crime and in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Press TV has conducted an interview with Henry Norr of the Palestine Solidarity Movement from Berkeley to discuss the issue further.

The following is a transcript of the interview.

Press TV: The US always claims to be the backer of democracy and being against injustices, why are they against Palestinians statehood bid?

Norr: Well, basically, because the US government follows the dictates of the Israelis on everything to do with the Palestine question. That's not new, unfortunately. It's been going on for decades. And this is just the latest installment. It's not really a surprise.

I think Palestinians may have won themselves a moral victory. [Acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas], his speech a few weeks ago in the UN was pretty good. And it was pretty exciting to see many diplomats applauding him and giving the cold shoulder to Netanyahu. That was an accomplishment.

It looks like, from what I'm reading that the US will actually escape without having to exercise a veto. They've managed to strong arm Bosnia, France and a few other countries into either voting “no” or abstaining.

Probably, the Palestinians won't get enough votes to force the US to use its veto. If I were the Palestinians, I would follow the path they used in applying to UNESCO last week.

In particular, I don't understand why they don't apply immediately to the International Criminal Court? I understand that legally, having been admitted to UNESCO, they could apply to the International Criminal Court and then, probably, they would have the votes there because there's no US veto there, and it's not a small group like the Security Council that the US can strong arm.

If they could do that, they could file complaints against the Israelis because everything the Israelis are doing is a crime under international law. The entire occupation is in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

If they could file some complaints, they could at least make the Israelis nervous, and get them tired to travel for fear that some other country would actually honor its actual legal obligations and turn people in, when complaints are filed against them, into the International Criminal Court.

Press TV: Do you think that Palestine will not receive the nine votes, or will it receive the nine votes and the US would use its veto power?

Norr: I don't know. I'm not an insider at the UN. But from what I've been reading, it looks like the British have said for a while that they would abstain.

The French, as you know, have voted in favor of the Palestinians admission to UNESCO, so that gave a lot of people hope that they would vote the same way in the Security Council. If the French did vote that way, I think it would add up to the nine votes that are needed until the US exercised its veto.

But, the latest information seems to be that the French, in spite of having voted “yes” to the admission of Palestine to UNESCO, are going to vote “no” or abstain in the Security Council. My understanding is that means that with the US, Columbia, Bosnia, Germany and a few other countries that have said the same thing - that they would vote “no” or abstain - basically, the Palestinians are probably not going to get the nine votes. That's too bad, in a sense, because it would be much clearer to the world if the US had exercised the veto.

Most people around the world understand that even if the Palestinians are defeated on this without the US exercising the veto, it's still the Americans and the Israelis who are blocking their admission to the UN. But it would be clear if it were the form of the veto.

I'm sorry that if that's not going to happen that it's kind of a disappointment because I thought, at least, in the sense that would be valuable in terms of world public opinion to expose the US. This way, they could blame it on France or others...


Israel’s Dead Sea Claim: Illegal and Absurd

An aerial view photo shows large salt formations in the southern part of the Dead Sea, near Ein Boqek, on 10 November 2011. The Dead Sea is one of the 28 sites involved in a international online campaign to select the new Seven Wonders of World Heritage Sites. (Photo: AFP - Menahem Kahana)

Published Monday, November 14, 2011
Israel’s failed bid for inclusion of the Dead Sea in the New7Wonders of Nature competition prompted a range of emotions including skepticism, indifference and laughter. “It makes me laugh that Israel thinks it can claim the Dead Sea as its own,” says Jordanian-Palestinian filmmaker Mais Darwazeh. “It is not only historically wrong, it is also illegal.”

“Israel has not only occupied Palestinian land. It has also occupied the air and the water,” said Darwazeh, who is currently working on a new film titled Habibi Byistannani Aala El-Bahr (My Love Awaits Me By the Sea). While the global competition may appear to lack political significance, “inclusion into the list could mean many a push for the tourism industry,” she added.

The Dead Sea shores are divided between Jordanian and Palestinian lands (both 1948 land - current day Israel - and the occupied West bank). “But Palestinians are forbidden from visiting the Dead Sea,” said Islah Jad, a co-founder of the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel.

“When my children were younger I used to take them there,” says Jad. As with Jerusalem, Israel has blocked us off from the Dead Sea.”

In more ways than one, Israel’s representation of the Dead Sea - which holds profound cultural, historical and scientific value - mirrors its behavior as an illegal occupier. “Israel has caused irreparable harm to the Dead Sea,” says Jad, who explained that the Hula and Tabariya lakes that feed the sea are fast drying up because of Israel’s abusive exploitation of their waters.

“Each year, the Dead Sea becomes saltier. It is so heavy in mineral content now that even the birds have had to alter their migratory routes, as they can no longer pause at the Dead Sea’s shores,” Jad added. “This bid is all about public relations. It isn’t genuine. Israel has plenty of NGOs whose mandate is to protect the environment, and at the same time, it has done so much to destroy the Palestinian environment.”

For instance, both settlers and the army have consistently destroyed not only Palestinian homes but also trees and, as such, livelihoods.

More broadly, Palestinians’ lack of access to the Dead Sea from the West Bank is coupled with a prohibition on reaching the Mediterranean Sea. To Darwazeh, whose films show a deep preoccupation with the question of Palestinian collective memory, “while children are told their country borders two seas, those living in the West Bank have access to neither.”

But neither Darwazeh nor Jad were keen to over-emphasise opposition to Israel’s claim. “I just think it’s stupid. I really couldn’t care less, because I know that everything that has been stolen will return one day,” said Darwazeh.

We teach life, sir – video

by Haitham Sabbah on November 14, 2011

Video link:

RAFEEF ZIADAH is a Canadian-Palestinian spoken word artist and activist. Her debut CD Hadeel is dedicated to Palestinian youth, who still fly kites in the face of F16 bombers, who still remember the names if their villages in Palestine and still hear the sound of Hadeel (cooing of doves) over Gaza.

Tahun 2011, Serangan Pemukim Yahudi ke Palestina Meningkat 40 Persen

Senin, 14/11/2011 17:43 WIB

Kantor Kordinasi Bantuan Kemanusiaan PBB (OCHA) menyatakan, serangan yang dilakukan para pemukim Yahudi Israel terhadap warga Palestina meningkat 40 persen pada tahun ini dibandingkan tahun 2010.
Menurut laporan OCHA, sepanjang tahun 2011, serangan yang dilakukan pemukim Yahudi Israel menimbulkan korban di kalangan warga Palestina, diantaranya tiga orang gugur syahid termasuk dua anak-anak, dan 167 warga Palestina luka-luka. Serangan pemukim Yahudi juga menyebabkan kerusakan harta benda milik warga Palestina.

"Lebih dari 100 warga Palestina luka-luka akibat tindak kekerasan yang dilakukan tentara dan polisi Israel dalam bentrokan antara warga Palestina dengan pemukim Yahudi. Pemukim Yahudi juga mencabuti, merusak dan menghancurkan lebih dari 10.000 pohon zaitun, yang secara signifikan mempengaruhi kehidupan ratusan keluarga Palestina," demikian laporan OCHA untuk tahun 2011.

Aksi-aksi kriminal yang dilakukan pemukim Yahudi Israel, termasuk pengusiran dan perampasan rumah-rumah milik warga Palestina. Akibatnya, 127 warga Palestina terpaksa mengungsi dan dipaksa pindah dari kawasan A atau ke kawasan B di wilayah Tepi Barat.

Pendudukan Israel di wilayah Palestina di Tepi Barat membagi wilayah pendudukannya menjadi 3 kawasan. Kawasan A dan B, dan kawasan C yang berada di bawah kontrol pemukim Yahudi dan militer Israel secara penuh.

Warga Palestina sudah melaporkan aksi-aksi kekerasan dan serangan yang dilakukan oleh para pemukim Yahudi pada polisi Israel, tapi kepolisian Israel menutup lebih dari 90 persen kasus yang dilaporkan tanpa diproses secara hukum.

OCHA dalam laporannya menyebutkan, sekarang, lebih dari 80 perkampungan warga Palestina yang dihuni 250.000 warga Palestina rawan akan gangguan dan aksi-aksi kekerasan yang dilakukan oleh pemukim Yahudi. Dari jumlah itu, 76.000 warga Palestina merupakan menghadapi resiko tinggi menjadi target serangan dan tindak kriminal pemukim Yahudi.

Jumlah warga Palestina yang menjadi korban kebiadaban Israel besar kemungkinan lebih banyak dari laporan OCHA, karena OCHA hanya mencatat korban akibat serangan pemukim Yahudi dan belum termasuk warga Palestina yang menjadi korban kekerasan polisi dan militer Israel. (aisyah/im)

Four things Israel doesn't want you to know about the Gaza blockade

 Sunday, 06 November 2011 11:17 Mya Guarnieri for the Alternative Information Center (AIC)
Israel relies on collective amnesia to justify its blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip. Here's four facts that the Israeli government would rather you forget.

The Audacity of Hope, the US Boat to Gaza that was prevented from leaving Greek waters in June of 2011 due to Israeli political pressure, sought to break the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. (photo: Mya Guarnieri)

As the Israeli navy prepared to intercept the flotilla "Freedom Waves for Gaza," the “IDFSpokesperson” tweeted: “Gaza is under a maritime security blockade according to international law.”

According to the same Twitter feed, the most recent attempt to break Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip is not a flotilla but, rather, a “provocatilla.”

Setting aside the issue of whether or not the blockade is legal, here’s a few of the things the Israeli army fails to mention when it issues statements about the blockade:

1) In August of 2008 and October of the same year, boats manned by activists reached Gaza, breaking the blockade that Israel is now so intent on enforcing.

2) Israel itself selectively breaks the blockade when it needs or wants to. Take, for example, the recent decision to import palm fronds from Gaza for Sukkot.

3) Even though both the Israeli government and the mainstream media claims that the blockade began in 2007, the closure of Gaza was a gradual process that started in 1991. While what we see today is, thus far, the most severe manifestation of this process, Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip have been subject to collective punishment for two decades.

Pegging the hermetic sealing of the Strip to 2007 offers Israeli officials and those who do hasbara an easy opening to talk about Hamas and Gilad Schalit. But Gilad Schalit is home now. And the blockade has onlymade Hamas stronger.

Hamas taxes goods coming in through the tunnels from Egypt. While those products aren’t enough and the tunnel economy does not sustain Gaza, what is entering is enough for Hamas to maintain the image of resistance in the face of the Israeli blockade. For example: according to a recent article from the Alternative Information Center, Hamas is using building materials smuggled into Gaza for a new housing project. This won’t be enough and Gaza will remain in a housing crisis. However, such symbolic initiatives can boost the popularity of Hamas.

4) And as for that boogeyman, Hamas? Israel helped create it, encouraging the growth of Islamist groups to counter Fatah. While the Wall Street Journal refers to Israel’s relationships with Islamists as “a catalog of unintended…consequences” in the linked article, I suspect Israel had a divide and conquer strategy. What can’t be argued is that the chilly relations between Hamas and Fatah–and that competing parties rule the Occupied Palestinian Territories–serve Israeli interests.

(This article was originally posted at +972).

Dead Sea fails to make list of New 7 Wonders of Nature

Published 11:49 11.11.11
Latest update 21:30 11.11.11

Attempts to push the Dead Sea into the global public eye this year included a mass photo op by U.S. photographer Spencer Tunick, who shot 1,200 nude Israeli men and women at the famous natural landmark.

By Haaretz

A provisional list of the New 7 Wonders of Nature was announced Friday, and Israel's Dead Sea failed to make the cut.
The Dead Sea was in the running for a place alongside spectacular natural phenomena such as the Amazon, Iguazu Falls, and Indonesia's Komodo national park, which did win the prestigous title.

The Dead Sea - Gil Cohen-Magen The Dead Sea, Nov. 10, 2011.
Photo by: Gil Cohen-Magen

The four other sites who made the list were Halong Bay in Vietnam, Jeju Island in South Korea, Puerto Princesa Subterranean River in the Philippines, and Table Mountain in South Africa.

The Dead Sea is shared by Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. It was almost eliminated from the contest in 2009 when the Palestinian Authority threatened a boycott over the participation of an Israeli settler council.
But a last-minute compromise allowed the candidacy to proceed to the next stage.
Over 100 million people participated in choosing the seven new, man-made wonders of the world announced in July 2007. Winning the title nearly tripled tourist visits to Jordan's ancient ruins of Petra, to the east of the Dead Sea.
Attempts to push the Dead Sea into the global public eye this year included a highly covered visit by U.S. life style high-priestess Martha Stewart, as well as a mass photo op by renowned U.S. photographer Spencer Tunick, who shot 1,200 nude Israeli men and women at the famous natural landmark.

Kiss my ass apartheid! (Desertpeace)

Bill in Congress seeks to investigate US Boat to Gaza for "terrorist" ties

Jeff Haynes/Agence France Presse 
A bill introduced in the United States Congress last month would require the State Department to investigate “The sources of any logistical, technical, or financial support for the Gaza flotilla ships, including the Audacity of Hope, that were set to set sail from Greece on July 1, 2011.”

The Audacity of Hope is the name of the ship, operated by US Boat to Gaza, on which Alice Walker, Hedy Epstein and dozens of others attempted to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza before being stopped by Greece last summer.

The bill, which contains numerous inflammatory and unsubstantiated claims from an Israeli “anti-terrorism” organization, would further criminalize American citizens’ solidarity with Palestinians.
House Resolution 3131 is sponsored by Representative Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and is co-sponsored by 12 other members of Congress from both parties including notorious anti-Palestinian campaigners, Representatives Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and Eliot Engel (D-NY).

Defamation and falsehoods

The bill asserts, turning reality on its head, that “Recent past history has suggested that the sole intent of the flotillas is to provoke an Israeli military response in the international waters of the eastern Mediterranean Sea.”

It also claims, amid a laundry list of other dubious recitations, that “Since the beginning of 2010, Israel has provided over 100,000 tons of aid to the people living in Gaza.”

In fact, Israel does not provide any “aid” to Palestinians. Rather, Israel allows limited quantities of aid supplied by the United Nations and other countries into Gaza according to arbitrary restrictions as part of its siege.

Israel has deliberately restricted food supplies to the 1.6 million Palestinians in Gaza using “mathematical formulas” designed to keep the population on the edge of hunger without attracting too much international attention, as the Israeli human rights organization Gisha discovered from an examination of Israeli defense ministry documents.

Claims of “terrorist ties” based on Israeli propaganda outfit

Reproducing unsubstianted Israeli propaganda and allegations, the bill accuses the Turkish humanitarian organization IHH, which was involved in earlier flotillas, of ties to terrorism:
The Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of the Treasury have determined that flotilla organizers Free Gaza and the Insan Hak ve Hurriyetleri ve Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), an Islamic nongovernmental organization (known in English as the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief), have known terrorist ties.
In 2010, IHH organized a flotilla that included the ship Mavi Marmara carrying 40 IHH members, including Fatima Mahmadi, Ken O’Keefe, Hassan Iynasi, Hussein Urosh, Ahmad Umimon, and others with known links to Al Qaeda, Hamas, and other terrorist organizations who were armed with 100 metal rods, 200 knives, 150 military self-defense vests, 50 wooden clubs, gas masks, and a telescopic sight for a gun.
But the bill provides no evidence to back up these sensational and propagandistic claims. IHH is in fact not designated as a “terrorist” organization by any US government agencies. The claims in the bill are not based on US government or intelligence reports, but appear to come directly from unsubstantiated claims published by an Israeli propaganda and advocacy outfit calling itself the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center. This group is closely connected with Israel’s military and intelligence establishments, the main sources for sometimes laughable anti-flotilla incitement and propaganda.

Laying grounds to prosecute Americans

The bill appears to be a transparent attempt to criminalize solidarity with Palestinians and opposition to US policy supporting Israel’s siege of Gaza. It would effectively further erode First Amendment rights in order to intimidate and suppress criticism of Israel. It demands,
Not later than six months after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate a report on whether any support organization that participated in the planning or execution of the recent Gaza flotilla attempt should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization pursuant to section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1189).

No concern for Americans

HR 3131 reads like a manifesto of the most extremist pro-Israel organizations. Fair enough, if that’s how members of Congress think they should be spending their time. But in addition to the bill’s utter disregard for facts and its dehumanizing contempt for Palestinians is the notable lack of any concern for US citizens and their lives, especially Furkan Dogan an American teenager who was murdered execution-style by Israeli soldiers aboard the Mavi Marmara in May 2010.
The bill is currently in committee.

Schooled in distrust: a textbook case of indoctrination?

10 November 2011
Israeli school books' view of Arabs is dangerously biased, an educator says. Matthew Reisz reports

Schooled in distrust: a textbook case of indoctrination?
Credit: Reuters
Subtext: in Israeli history books, Palestinians are shown in a negative light, while students leave high school knowing nothing about the origin of their state and its borders, according to Nurit Peled-Elhanan

"At the base of the modern state there is the professor, not the executioner," writes Nurit Peled-Elhanan at the end of her new book, "for the monopoly of legitimate education is more important than the monopoly of legitimate violence."

A professor of education and linguistics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, who also works at the David Yellin Academic College of Education, Peled-Elhanan is well known in Israel as an activist and as the co-founder of Bereaved Families for Peace.

Her teenage daughter, Smadar, was killed in 1997 by a suicide bomber. Peled-Elhanan refused to receive Israeli government representatives who came to offer their condolences.

She is also the daughter of Major General "Matti" Peled, a leading military figure who later served in the Knesset. He was an impassioned advocate of dialogue with the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, and of withdrawal from the Occupied Territories that he had helped to conquer in 1967.

As part of her work, Peled-Elhanan teaches courses on textbooks to the nation's current and future schoolteachers. "Nobody is critical of what the textbooks say," she explains.

"People don't doubt the subtexts or look for ideology in textbooks. They don't even remember the names of the authors and assume that they just give 'the facts'.

"I teach my students to read critically. I give them the analytic tools and they reach the conclusions themselves."

Before tackling the textbooks' treatment of Arabs, Peled-Elhanan is careful to examine stereotypical images of Jews.

"Ethiopian Jews are described in an anthropological way, what they wear and what they eat, but without a history.

"Diaspora Jews are seen as choosing the fleshpots of the West over a meaningful life in Israel. Anything that is not Zionist, if it is considered at all, is shown in a simplistic and demeaning way. But it is the Palestinians who are presented in the most obviously racist terms."

Stereotypes and threats

It is the latter theme that Peled-Elhanan has now researched in much greater detail for Palestine in Israeli School Books.

The work applies "the methods of multimodal and discourse analysis" to 10 history books, six geography books and one on "civic studies", all of them published in the years 1996-2009.
One of the history texts, however, was pulped in 2001, after just two years of use. Peled-Elhanan writes that this was "mainly on the charge that it attributed greater importance to global forces, historical structures and political powers than to Zionist national ethos such as the Jewish yearning for Zion in 2,000 years of 'exile', the return of the Jews to their legitimate homeland and the idea of redemption through Zionism".

In general, she says, "Arabs and Palestinians don't do much in Israeli school books except for lurking, attacking in all sorts of ways and multiplying.

"The few transitive verbs I came across regarding this unanimous group of people included 'poison', 'attack', 'refuse', 'evade tax payment' and 'thank Israel for the progress it has brought into their life'."
Illustrations include an Israeli Arab "wearing Ali Baba pants and shoes, kaffiyeh, a moustache and followed by a camel" and the common "Oxfam image" of "the primitive farmer who follows a primitive plough pulled by oxen or donkeys".

Much of this is, of course, ridiculous as well as offensive to Arab-Israeli teachers and students who know they don't come from families of primitive farmers and who find no doctors, lawyers or any "positive cultural or social aspect" of Palestinian life in the textbooks.

Instead, Peled-Elhanan claims in her book, the Palestinian citizens of Israel are regarded as "a demographic problem that can expand into a 'demographic threat' unless controlled".

Where massacres of Arabs are mentioned, readers are encouraged, she says, to "look beyond the individual (unfortunate) incident of killing at the big picture and at the long-term (positive) outcome for us".

Some of this is perhaps to be expected. There is nothing particularly unusual about Israeli textbooks, Peled-Elhanan stresses, since "all states use them to promote their own way of seeing things, to determine what is to be remembered and what forgotten. It's like that everywhere. But because of military service and the occupation, they have a much more immediate effect in Israel.

"Students leave high school knowing nothing about the history and borders of the state, and seeing Palestinians as intruders, and then have to go out and control and sometimes kill them. Furthermore, the country is very small, but education can fence off neighbours and prevent them from having any real contact."

'Hating' books

On the textbooks now used in Palestinian schools, Peled-Elhanan takes the view that "they are not racist and there is no incitement there, for the simple reason that they are controlled by the Israeli army, the EU, the Danish government and other bodies that finance them.

"The 'hating' books were the Jordanian and Egyptian ones the Palestinians had to learn from before they got permission to have their own curriculum in 1994."

Some of this has been contested by critics, who argue that Peled-Elhanan's use of evidence is selective and driven by her own political agenda.

She notes that she has "few political allies within the university" and sometimes feels "part of an almost extinct minority", since she refuses to accept the assumptions of even what she calls "the Zionist left, which still accepts the need for a Jewish majority".

Yet she also acknowledges that she enjoys "complete academic freedom", is widely acclaimed for her research on literacy and frequently invited to provide in-service training to kindergarten teachers.

However, at a recent conference at Georgetown University in the US commemorating the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Liberty and Tolerance in an Age of Religious Conflict, her invitation as a keynote speaker was cancelled at the last moment - she suspects because of pressure from the local Jewish community - until her protests led to reinstatement.

Legacy of intolerance

Highly pessimistic about where Israel is going, Peled-Elhanan sees no hope of convincing the authorities to change tack. And her book concludes with the gloomy reflection that "the past three generations of Israelis are, for the most part, not aware of the geopolitical or social realities of their country", given that most schoolchildren "do not run to libraries to verify the facts [in their textbooks] and fill in the gaps", and that "most teachers were brought up on similar books".

Yet she retains a strong faith in the potential for education to help move things forward gradually. When her students start to analyse the textbooks, she observes, "they often say 'we've been blind' and feel empowered at being able to read what's behind the texts. They are usually happy to learn these things, which may affect their teaching later on. Once you know something, you can't un-know it."

In other cases, students feel that their most basic assumptions about history and politics have been challenged and they "come out and say 'I don't know anything any more'. I reply: 'Good, now you can find your own way. In an immigrant country, you should be able to see other things'.

"Too much self-confidence is bad. Perplexity and confusion and doubt are very good for education. They are what it should be about. Otherwise you're just fabricating little soldiers all the way from kindergarten to high school. Maybe this contributes to some kind of change," says Peled-Elhanan.
"I'm not optimistic on the large scale determined by politics, but if you believe in education you work one step at a time and build up a group of 1,000 teachers. You need to be modest and work on the level of individuals."

Norway gunman admits massacre in public trial

Judge stops Anders Behring Breivik from addressing families of victims and adds 12 weeks to his pre-trial custody.
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2011 19:21

A Norwegian anti-immigration radical has admitted to killing 77 people at youth camp in July, but he denied any guilt, saying he was a military commander in a far-right resistance movement.

Anders Behring Breivik, who spoke in open court for the first time on Monday, sat with his eyes mostly downcast and occasionally bit his lip in a packed hearing to extend his pre-trial detention period.

At one point Breivik attempted to address survivors of Norway's biggest modern-day massacre, but the judge cut him off.

"I am a military commander in the Norwegian resistance movement and Knights Templar Norway," Breivik told the court.

It was the 32-year-old's first public words since he planted a car bomb on July 22 that killed eight people at an Oslo government building, then went on to shoot dead 69 more, most of them teenagers, at a Labour Party summer camp on the island of Utoeya.

"I acknowledge the acts, but I do not plead guilty," Breivik said, adding that he rejected the jurisdiction of the court because it "supports multiculturalism".

Image diminished

The attacks sparked a public debate about immigration, security and a legal system which has never had to cope with such an event.

About 120 people packed into the courtroom. Hundreds more squeezed into overflow rooms equipped with video links. Toward the end of the hearing Breivik indicated with a finger that he wanted to speak again.

"I understand the aggrieved parties are present, may I say something to them?" he asked, but the judge turned him down and Breivik did not persist.

Outside the courthouse protesters held a banner that read "No speaker's platform for fascists", echoing fears expressed by some victims and family members that Breivik would be permitted to expound his anti-immigration philosophy.

But after the hearing, a 20-year-old survivor of the island shooting said Breivik looked nervous and small, a far cry from the last time he saw the killer wearing a police uniform and carrying a semi-automatic rifle.

Most of the island victims were in their teens or 20s. Some were shot at point blank range, others while trying to swim to safety.

Daniel Vister, another survivor, also said Breivik looked weak. "I think that what he said there shows that he is completely mad," said Vister. "He is definitely not on this planet."

Trial scheduled

The hearing, required periodically under Norwegian law to keep a suspect imprisoned before trial, was Breivik's fourth but the first open to the public.

A district judge extended pre-trial custody for 12 weeks but said Breivik can begin receiving visitors and letters under strict control and that on December 12 he can have access to media for the first time, possibly even logging onto the Internet.

Breivik has been kept in solitary confinement since July 22 and has been denied visits, correspondence and access to newspapers and television.

Officials said court-appointed psychiatrists were expected to finish their work late this month and that a trial was tentatively set to begin on April 16.

They also said the courtroom used on Monday would be totally reconstructed for the trial, nearly doubling the audience capacity to 240 seats and adding a press center for 250 to 300 journalists.