The Second UN Partition of Palestine

In light of Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas’s bid for “non-member observer state” status in the United Nations, Palestinians across the world are voicing their anger and discontent amidst conflicting celebrations of “recognition” and “statehood”.

It is important to note that Abbas’s mandate ended in 2009 and he is de facto an unelected leader. The recognition of a PA state at the UN is likely to marginalize the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) which since 1974 has been recognized by the UN as the sole legitimate representative of all Palestinian people. This would be devastating to the Palestinian people at large.Whereas the PLO represents all 12 million Palestinians, the PA represents only those in the West Bank, 2.5 million.

The UN bid was not a bid for the state of Palestine. It was a bid for the West Bank bantustan, even that of which does not have true sovereignty. It is crucial that Palestinians and their supporters everywhere continue to demand an end of Israeli apartheid and are not moved to complacency by imitation statehood. Geographically, this state comprises less than 20% of historic Palestine, and more realistically, only 10% if Israeli settlements and military zones are factored in.

Ironically the vote fell on the anniversary of the UN Partition plan of 1947, wherein the UN partitioned 51% of Palestine to European Jewish colonizers, while “allowing” the native Palestinian population 49% of the land. This vote has served to update that contract, except this time the indigenous people are left with 10-20% and the right of return of the refugees has been threatened.

The following article was originally published by the late Edward Said, one of the most influential Palestinian scholars, in Al-Ahram Weekly On-line (1 – 7 October 1998). Despite being written over ten years ago, it is an essential read today. I am republishing Said’s work in the hopes of demonstrating that this recent partition was a premeditated action designed for Israeli colonialist intentions at the expense of the Palestinian people. Emphases have been added.

Edward SaidBy Edward Said  For several weeks, Yasser Arafat and members of his Authority have been saying loudly that, on 4 May, 1999, Mr Arafat will declare a Palestinian state. This announcement first emerged as a threat to Israel, and specifically to Binyamin Netanyahu, who has been delaying agreement on a further deployment of Israeli forces from Palestinian territory. Israeli responses to the announcement have been uniformly hostile, and very threatening: do it, says Netanyahu to Arafat, and we will be harsh in our reaction. Neither the Palestinian nor the Israeli side has been exactly specific, but this has not deterred either one from going on about a Palestinian state and an unpleasant Israeli counter-reaction. In any case, Arafat, it is said, now wants to announce his plans for a Palestinian state while he is at the United Nations, and perhaps even to Bill Clinton, who is still mired in the Monica Lewinsky mess and therefore not likely to be listening too closely or able to do very much to help. In addition, the Arabic press has been reporting that, during his numerous visits to both Arab and non-Arab countries, Arafat has been seeking foreign support for his project. By now, then, the notion that a Palestinian state will be declared on 4 May, 1999 by Arafat has acquired a momentum, if not exactly a life, of its own.

I say this with some irony because, at first glance, the notion of declaring a state for a second time (Algiers, November 1988 was the first) must strike the untutored spectator as inherently funny, since in both instances, except for about 60 per cent of Gaza, there is very little land for this state. There is some Palestinian control, without sovereignty — a major requirement for a state — on only three per cent of the West Bank, and no territorial continuity between the various spots of land that make up what is now called Area A. One likely Israel reaction might be to say that the Palestinian entity has to be in Gaza, which is already cut off from the West Bank, and more or less force Arafat to confine himself and, alas, Palestinian national aspirations, to Gaza. This would be a severe blow, no matter how much international support the declared state would have at the time. In addition, the new state would make little sense demographically, given that Palestinians in one area would be totally cut off from their compatriots in other areas.

Supporters of Arafat’s idea of declaring a state in spite of the concrete demographic and territorial problems say that the project itself would have the positive effect of stirring the Palestinian population into some sort of energy, thereby compensating for the dismal failure of the Oslo Accords on which Arafat and his increasingly small circle of supporters, advisers, and hangers-on have staked so much. There is a great deal of discouragement and lethargy in Palestine, and also elsewhere in the Arab world. So much has been written and proclaimed about the new era of peace, the benefits of peace, the economy of peace, etc., that with five years of non-peace, people are understandably disaffected, fed up with lies, fed up with Israeli arrogance, fed up, above all, with their own sense of powerlessness and failure. Master tactician and artist of survival though he is, Arafat, I believe, still thinks that he can move things along with this state idea of his and, in so doing, either avert an explosion against his faltering rule or divert attention away from it. There is always the danger that his plan may backfire but, again characteristically, he probably thinks he can deal with that when and if it happens. As for the institutions, machinery, governance of a real state, none of these are really in place. It is true that the Palestinian Authority has many functions of a state government — post office, birth certificates, security, municipal affairs, education and health — but it still far too dependent on Israel to do as states should be able to do. Thus, for instance, water is still under Israeli control, as is the use of land, and entrances and exits to the Territories. Any pressure applied by Israel on any of these can cripple the state and render it impotent. Surely no Palestinian government would want to be put in so harrowing a position.

The disadvantages of declaring a state seem to me far to outweigh the advantages. Most important, a state declared on the autonomous territories would definitively divide the Palestinian population and its cause more or less forever. Residents of Jerusalem, now annexed by Israel, can play no part, nor be, in the state. An equally undeserving fate awaits Palestinian citizens of Israel, who would also be excluded, as would Palestinians in the Diaspora, whose theoretical right of return would practically be annulled. Far from uniting Palestinians, therefore, the declaration of a Palestinian state would in fact divide them more than they have ever been before, rendering the notion of one Palestinian people more or less void. In whose interest is such a result? Certainly not the Palestinians’.

I have a strong suspicion that Arafat is using the declaration of a state as a way of covering himself with what looks like a gain even as he is about to accept the treacherous Israeli “offer” of nine per cent plus three per cent as a nature reserve under Israeli control. Arafat is a prisoner of both the Israelis and the US; he has no place to go, no corridor he can escape into, no excuse he can rely on. I fear that, under pressure, he will concede and accept the Israeli deal, using the declaration of a state as a way of compensating (as well as trying to fool) his people. Watch him carefully.

Another disadvantage which seems just as significant is that the Israeli idea of getting rid of Palestinians by separation will be achieved not by Israel but by the Palestinian leadership. This would be the final triumph of the desire for the Palestinian people’s disappearance by dispossession for which a century of Zionist planning and belligerence has always plotted: the elimination of the Palestinian presence as a national group on the territory of historical Palestine. The Zionists consider it to be the Land of Israel, reserved exclusively for Jews. On the other hand, we should remember that every idea of Palestinian self-determination since the ascendancy of the present PLO has envisaged and embodied an idea of non-discriminatory equality and sharing in Palestine. This was the notion of a secular democratic state and, later, the idea of two states living side by side in neighbourly harmony. These ideas were never accepted by the Israeli ruling majority, and Oslo, in my view, was a clever way for the Labour Party to create a series of Bantustans in which the Palestinians would be confined and dominated by Israel, at the same time hinting that a quasi-state for Palestinians would come into being. To Israelis, Rabin and Peres spoke openly about separation, not as providing Palestinians with the right to self-determination but as a way of marginalising and diminishing them, leaving the land basically to the more powerful Israelis. Separation in this perspective then becomes synonymous with apartheid, not with liberation. To declare a Palestinian state under such circumstances is essentially to accept the idea of separation as apartheid, not equality, and certainly not as self-determination. “Self-rule” is Netanyahu’s euphemism for it. Moreover, those who would argue that, for Palestinians, such a declared state would be the first step towards a real state, with true self-determination, are actually deluding themselves by thinking illogically. If by declaring that what, in effect, is a theoretical abridgment of true statehood is the first step towards the realisation of actual statehood, then one might as well hope to extract sunlight from a cucumber on the basis of the sun having entered the cucumber in the first place. This is an example not of serious, but of magical thought, something we have no need of now.

No, this hullabaloo about 4 May, 1999 is part of Arafat’s tried and true method for distracting us from the true difficulties we face as a people. He used to do the same thing before every National Council meeting, floating rumours about an upcoming date, then postponing, then announcing a new date three or four times, until people would greet the actual meeting itself with much delight and celebration. This time, however, the political drawbacks of his declared state project perform the additional function of obscuring the true imperative, which is first of all to unite Palestinians and, above all, to provide us with a new political vision, programme, leadership. If the last few years have proved one thing, it is the bankruptcy of the vision proclaimed by Oslo, and of the leadership that engineered the whole wretched thing. It left huge numbers of Palestinians unrepresented, impoverished and forgotten; it allowed Israel to expropriate more land in addition to consolidating its hold on Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the West Bank and Gaza settlements; it validated the notion of what can only be called petty Palestinian nationalism, which in reality was little more than a few worn-out slogans and the survival of the old PLO leadership. What is now needed is first of all a symbolic political event held outside Israeli and Palestinian Authority jurisdiction that will bring together all the relevant segments of the Palestinian population, a truly national meeting or conference. From such a meeting, new outlines for resistance and liberation would be announced, coordinating not just the efforts of people in the Occupied Territories, but also those Palestinians from Israel and the whole Diaspora. It is the members of this larger group (in fact the majority of Palestinians) that Arafat neither can nor is willing to try to address, since they have been left out of the deal he made with Israel and the US, and whose hostage he now is.

The only political vision worth holding on to is a secular bi-national one that transcends the ludicrous limitations of a little Palestinian state, declared for the second or third time, without much land or credibility, as well as the limitations that have been so essential to the Zionist form of apartheid imposed on us everywhere. I am not the only one to see our plight today as basically that of human beings deprived of the right to full citizenship. It is this that united us all as a people, whether in Lebanon, Jerusalem, Nazareth, Amman, Damascus, or Chicago. The present Palestinian leadership has neither comprehended our dilemma nor, obviously enough, furnished an answer to it. This is why we shouldn’t be too excited by Arafat’s rather juvenile enthusiasm for the prospects of what might or might not take place on 4 May, 1999. The real task, I think, is to be planning a real alternative to the nonsense at present being put about, that by declaring a state — somehow — we will actually get one — somehow. Typically, this silly slogan conceals the real difficulties in actually establishing a state, difficulties that can only be overcome by real work, real thought, the real unity and, above all, real representation of all (as opposed to a part) of the Palestinian people. Not unilateral, empty, repetitious slogans. It is an insult to the integrity of our people to keep on making up such make-believe “realities” and trying to pass them off as political substance. Arafat and his advisers should be ashamed of themselves for such banal tricks. They should stand aside so that a more serious and credible political process can replace their disastrous fumbling once and for all.


Palestine-solidarity activists in Canada and across the world continue to organize

Global Palestine-solidarity was re-awoken with the latest Israeli offense on Gaza. The 8-day  assault resulted in more than 160 Palestinian deaths, 33 of them children. Over a thousand Palestinians were wounded, including 274 children. 5 Israelis were killed by resistance rockets from Gaza. The bloody ignited protests around the world, but they were not the only reason for them. Nor was a ceasefire the end of them.

Following Israel’s public launch of Operation Pillar of Defense and the assassination of Hamas’s Ahmed Jabari on Wednesday, November 14th, activists everywhere began organizing themselves to voice their opposition to the attacks, as well Israel’s ongoing apartheid regime. Protests were held in almost every major city in the world, across Europe, North America and the Middle East, including Palestinians throughout the West Bank, and with thousands taking to the streets from Indonesia to Egypt. 3 Palestinians from the West Bank were also killed as Israeli forces attempted to silent protesters.

On November 21, a ceasefire agreement was reached between Israel and Hamas. The agreement is not unlike that reached in 2009 after the Israeli attacks that left over 1400 in the Gaza Strip killed and 13 Israelis. As history has shown us, a ceasefire does not mean peace. There can be no peace in a situation where Gaza is under a suffocating Israeli blockade and where the heavily-populated area can indiscriminately be shelled without any great repercussions to Israel.

Where I am now located, Ottawa, Canada, two large vigils and three large protests were organized in the span of a week and a half.  I was also in Toronto on the weekend where a protest was organized protesting the annual Jewish National Fund Negev dinner. The following are photos from both Toronto and Ottawa that either I or my mother took.

Speakers address the media before the march | 16 November 2012, Israeli embassy, Ottawa

When speakers were done, protesters spontaneously called for the procession to march to ‘Israel’s second embassy’ – Parliament Hill. In the spirit of civil disturbance, protesters took to the streets (“without permits!” police shouted to no response) and protested the Canadian government’s unwavering support for Israeli apartheid.

Police block the door to the Israeli embassy | 16 November 2012, Ottawa

Hundreds of protesters march, decrying Canada’s support for Israel | 16 November 2012, Ottawa

The protest lasted several hours long without losing energy. The “snake march”, a march without a planned route, traveled from the Israeli embassy to Parliament, back to the embassy, and back to Parliament, where it ended with a promise to meet again the next day.

Police attempt to contain the protest | 16 November 2012, Ottawa

Several hundred again gathered on Wednesday, November 22 for a vigil. Several speakers addressed the crowd, including professors and representatives of Students against Israeli Apartheid-Carleton, Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights-Ottawa U, Independent Jewish Voices, and Ontario Public Interest Research Group (OPIRG-GRIPO).

Hundreds gathered with lit candles to remember the names of all the lives lost because of Israel’s Operation Cloud of Pillar | 21 November 2012, University of Ottawa

The names of all the martyrs were read, followed by a moment of silence, then participants placed their candles to form the words “Free Gaza”.

Participants spelled ‘Free Gaza’ with their candles | 21 November 2012, University of Ottawa

Despite the ceasefire agreement, protesters continued to protest the siege on Gaza, the Occupation, the denial of the right of return to refugees, and Israeli apartheid at large.

Poster-making | 23 November 2012, Ottawa

Hundreds march for Palestine | 25 November 2012, Toronto

Hundreds march for Palestine | 25 November 2012, Toronto

Hundreds march for Palestine | 25 November 2012, Toronto

Following a rally of hundreds in Ottawa, a small group of protesters entered a large shopping centre, marching silently and distributing flyers. Before leaving the mall, the procession began to chant slogans such as “Harper, Harper, Can’t you see – Palestine will be free!” and “Gaza, Gaza, Don’t you cry! – Palestine will never die!” When they finished, the crowded food court began applause of support. The group narrowly avoided security guards before leaving.

Activists march through a central Ottawa shopping mall | 25 November 2012, Ottawa

Activists march through a central Ottawa shopping mall | 25 November 2012, Ottawa

Activists march through a central Ottawa shopping mall | 25 November 2012, Ottawa

If you are a student located in Ottawa, there are Palestine-solidarity groups at both Ottawa U (SPHR) and Carleton U (SAIA) that I encourage you to join – they are founded specifically on the call to Boycotts, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS), organizing largely around the divestment of their universities from Israeli apartheid. If you are not a student, there have been recent talks about forming a Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA) for Ottawa-wide organizing. If you are interested, please get in touch with me!

Chants for protesting in English and Arabic

(English chants below)

يا باراك صبرك صبرك – بكرا غزة هتحفر قبرك

تسقط تسقط اسرائيل – و يسقط يسقط كل عميل

فلسطين عربيه – من الميه للميه

بالروح بالدم نفديك يا فلسطين 

يا محتل اطلع برى – الأرض الفلسطينيه حرة

عوده، حريه، كرامه وطنيه

مش خايفين مش خايفين – لو سجنونا بالزلازيل

أصرخ أصرخ علي صوتك – إله بيصرخ ما بيموت

علي علي علي – علي علم الثورة علي

ثورة ثورة عالمحتل – غير الثوره ما في حل

احنا مش ارهابيه – احنا شعب الحريه

عالإحتلال – ثورة! عالإستيطان – ثورة! عالإستعمار – ثورة! عالعنصرية – ثورة! والنازيه – ثورة!

عللي وعللي وعللي الصوت – غزه صامده في وجه الموت

ما بنهاب ما بنهاب – إسرائيل أم الارهاب

يا إحتلال يا خسيس – دم الشهدا مش رخيص 

من الميه للميه – فلسطين عربيه

ياشهيد نام وارتاح – احنا نكمل الكفاح

يا فلسطيني صمود صمود – من عندك طلعو الاسود

أنا راجع راجع – راجع – على عكا ويافا – راجع – وصفد وحيفا – راجع – و دير ياسين – راجع

إنزل عالشارع – يا شعبي – إنزل عالشارع – يا شعبي – عن حقك تدافع – يا شعبي – لا تتنازل – يا شعبي – حرر أراضيك – يا شعبي – عم بتناديك – يا شعبي

يا غزة – دمك دمي وحاماك حامي

من غزة لجنين – شعب صامد ما بيلين

يا غزة لا تهتزي – كلك كرامه وعزه 

يا فلسطين سير سير – احنا معك للتحرير

يا فدائي، عيد الكرة – اخطف جندي، حرر أسرى

يا مقاوم يا حبيب – اضرب، فجر تل أبيب

أصرخ أصرخ علي صوتك – ما تخلي الحريه تفوتك

إنزلو من بيوتكم – طالبو في حقوقكم

يا شباب انضموا انضموا – الشهيد ضحى في دمه

يا شباب انضموا إلينا – الحريه ليكو ولينا

From the river to the sea – Palestine will be free!

From Iraq to Palestine – Occupation is a crime!

From South Africa to Palestine – Apartheid is a crime!

Brick by brick, wall by wall – Apartheid has got to fall!

From Cast Lead to Pillar of Defense – Where the fuck is your conscience?

No impunity for genocide – BDS will turn the tide!

Stop the killing, stop the crime – Israel out of Palestine!

Free free Palestine! – Free free Gaza! – Long live Palestine! – Long live Gaza! – Viva Palestina!

Our only course of action – Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions!

Gaza, Gaza, don’t you cry – Palestine will never die!

Not a nickel, not a dime – no more money for Israel’s crimes!

Justice, is our demand – No peace on stolen land!

Gaza must have food and water – Israel, stop the slaughter!

Hey Netanyahu what do you say? – How many kids did you kill today?

1, 2, 3, 4 – Occupation no more! / Occupation out the door!

5, 6, 7, 8 – Israel is a racist/terrorist/apartheid/fascist state!

1, 2, 3, 4 – We don’t want a Gaza war! / We don’t want your dirty war!

5, 6, 7, 8 – No to bombing, no to hate!

Displacing lives since ’48 – Nothing here to celebrate!

Fight the power, turn the tide – End Israeli apartheid!

Tell Obama, no more aid – Stop the funds for deadly raids!

What do we want? JUSTICE! – When do we want it? NOW!

The people, united, can never be defeated!

Netanyahu and Hitler are the same – The only difference is the name!

Netanyahu (Harper, Harper/Bibi, Bibi/Obama) can’t you see? – Palestine will be free!

Netanyahu you can’t hide – We charge you with genocide!

We want justice, you say how? – End Israeli apartheid now! – We want justice, you say how? – End the siege on Gaza now!

We won’t take another cast lead – No impunity, no more dead!

Ethnic cleansing is a crime – Bibi should be doing time! – Building settlements is a crime – Bibi should be doing time! – Invading Gaza is a crime – Free, free Palestine!

Obama, Obama (Harper, Cameron) don’t you know? – Siege on Gaza’s got to go!

Justice, justice, we know how! – Lift the siege on Gaza now!

Money for jobs and education – Not for war and occupation!

Hey Obama, cancel the check – You’re writing it on Gaza’s neck!

Thanks so much to the following people, among others, for contributions!: @HaneenAmra @MariamBarghouti @Zaytawy @Widgitt @ThatKhaleeji @BelalMHassan

In images: support for Palestinian hunger-striking prisoners

Following the mass hunger strike of almost 2000 Palestinian prisoners, and the numerous individual hunger strikes, Palestinians have been raising their voices on the issue of prisoners. In Ramallah, protesters are taking to the streets demanding the Palestinian Authority take a strong stance for the country’s political prisoners held by Israel. Hundreds more have held regular demonstrations for months outside the Israeli Ofer prison, despite the excessive Israeli military aggression. The issue is larger than the end of administrative detention, or the allowance of family visits. Protesters are demanding complete freedom for all Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel. Within the occupier’s jails, prisoners are passing the torch between each other as one hunger striker follows another. Today diabetic prisoner Akram Rikhawi has been on hunger strike for 84 days and is at imminent risk of dying.

At the forefront of support from outside the prisons are Palestine’s youth. Battling not only the Zionist state but the indifference of their own political leaders, these youth have dwindled from thousands during the mass hunger strikes to dozens. Nonetheless the activists remain determined to continue the struggle against Israeli apartheid and the resulting imprisonment of thousands of Palestinians, as well as to stir up the support of their own people.

My interest in the issues at hand are greater than my position as a photographer and at the best and most powerful demonstrations I was participating not photographing, thus the following collection is incomplete. It begins on April 26 when I joined a protest at Ofer prison.

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

A journalist wearing a neon press jacket shot with a tear gas canister from close range | 26 April 2012, Ofer Prison

A woman falls after being shot in the leg with a rubber-coated steel bullet | 26 April 2012, Ofer Prison

Two men are attended to after being shot with rubber-coated steel bullets | 26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

26 April 2012, Ofer prison

An injured protester is carried after Israeli military opened fire on the demonstration in solidarity with Palestinian political prisoners | 1 May 2012, Ofer prison

Women approach the Israeli soldiers as they fire at the demonstration | 1 May 2012, Ofer prison

Me above the ‘skunk’ vehicle | Photo was taken by someone using my camera | 1 May 2012, Ofer prison

A Palestinian man holds on to me resist my arrest despite us both having been repeatedly pepper sprayed | Photo was taken by someone using my camera | 1 May 2012, Ofer prison

An injured protester is carried after Israeli army opened fire on the demonstration | 3 May 2012, Ofer prison

An injured protester is carried after Israeli army opened fire on the demonstration | 3 May 2012, Ofer prison

A protester keels after being shot | 3 May 2012, Ofer prison

An injured protester is carried after Israeli army opened fire on the demonstration | 3 May 2012, Ofer prison

A roadblock built to prevent the Israeli military jeep from pursuing Palestinian protesters | 4 May, 2012, Ofer prison

Rally for the hunger-striking prisoners organized by the leftist parties, the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine | 6 May 2012, Ramallah

Rally for the hunger-striking prisoners organized by the leftist parties, the Popular and Democratic Fronts for the Liberation of Palestine | 6 May 2012, Ramallah

Demonstrators march wearing the actual uniforms worn by Palestinians in Israeli jails | 6 May 2012, Ramallah

6 May 2012, Ramallah

6 May 2012, Ramallah

Demonstrators burn the occupier’s flag in the down-town clock circle of Ramallah | 6 May 2012

Activists close the central Manara roundabout in Ramallah demanding the Palestinian Authority take action for Palestinian political prisoners | 8 May 2012

Palestinian activists close the central Manara roundabout in Ramallah demanding the Palestinian Authority take action for Palestinian political prisoners | 8 May 2012

Palestinian activists close the central Manara roundabout in Ramallah demanding the Palestinian Authority take action for political prisoners | 8 May 2012

An injured protester is carried after Israeli army opened fire on the demonstration | June 5, 2012, Ofer prison

An injured protester is carried after Israeli army opened fire on the demonstration | 5 June 2012, Ofer prison

The windows of a house near to Ofer prison entrance were broken from tear gas and rubber-coated bullet fire | 5 June 2012, Ofer prison

Protesters duck as rubber-coated bullets are fired openly on the demonstration | 5 June 2012, Ofer prison

5 June 2012, Ramallah

Marchers in Ramallah block a down-town street | 5 June 2012, Ramallah

10 June 2012, Ramallah

Protesters hold signs urging drivers to ‘honk for the prisoners’ | 10 June 2012, Ramallah

Protesters hold signs urging drivers to ‘honk for the prisoners’ | 10 June 2012, Ramallah

Demonstrators play soccer at the entrance of Ofer prison to symbolize Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak’s hunger strike | 11 June 2012, Ofer prison

Demonstrators play soccer at the entrance of Ofer prison to symbolize Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak’s hunger strike | 11 June 2012, Ofer prison

A demonstrator was injured in the leg with a rubber-coated steel bullet | 11 June 2012

20 June 2012, Ramallah

21 June 2012, Ofer prison

Protesters holding cutlery to symbolize the hunger-striking prisoners refuse to move despite orders | 21 June 2012, Ofer prison

21 June 2012, Ofer Prison

21 June 2012, Ofer prison

Activists close entrance to illegal Israeli settlement

On May 13, as some 2000 Palestinian prisoners were in their 27th day of hunger-striking, Palestinian and solidarity activists blocked the entrance to one of the largest Israeli colonies in the West Bank.

Around 50 activists arrived at the entrance of the illegal Jewish-only settlement of Ma’ale Adumim and were successful in blocking traffic for at least 20 minutes. Israeli forces arrived quickly and detained two Palestinian men from the crowd, taking them to the nearby police station. As the activists left the area, they climbed to a nearby hill overlooking the same street and raised Palestinian flags. Israeli soldiers climbed the hill and forced them to descend. The activists then climbed an adjacent hill, prompting the same reaction from Israeli soldiers. The action was successful in its goal of civil disturbance.

The following day, the mass hunger strike of Palestinians in Israeli prisons reached a deal and the strike was finished. Many human rights groups have since criticized Israel for not maintaining parts of the agreement.

The importance of perseverance and creativity in the popular struggle cannot be stressed enough. As Palestinians battle normalization and apathy from several years of repetitive resistance and little gains, new ideas and forms of struggle are needed to keep the passion and dedication alive.

This Land is Palestine: removing the occupier’s flag

On the route between the Palestinian cities of Nablus and Ramallah, one witnesses numerous illegal Israeli colonies occupying the hilltops. Although these Jewish-only settlements are a violation of International Law, and the Palestinians are a vast majority, most of the route is lined with the Israeli flag.

Palestinians driving between their towns and cities are forced to pass beneath their occupier’s flag, as if to constantly remind them that they do not have power in their own lands.

Before dawn on May 4, a group of independent Palestinian activists thus decided to raid one such road and replace the Israeli flag with the Palestinian one. The symbolic act serves to reaffirm that despite Israeli occupation and apartheid, this land is still Palestine.

They were able to successfully complete the action and leave before Israeli authorities arrived.

Palestinian activists replace the Israeli flag with the Palestinian one | Rana Hamadeh | 05/04/2012

A Palestinian activist climbs a ladder to remove the Israeli flag | Rana Hamadeh | 05/04/2012

Independent Palestinian activists replace the Israeli flag with the Palestinian one | Rana Hamadeh | 05/04/2012

The image that circulated social networks| compiled by Thaer Sharaf | 05/04/2012


After being pepper-sprayed on May 1, I began to write an article about what happened to me. I have yet to finish it to today. I simply wasn’t able to put into words what my experience was, nor the constantly changing situation of Palestinian political prisoners. 

Forgive the absence. Now I’ll catch you up to the  several actions we have done in the past two months, and postpone the May 1st article further..

Women taking back the spring

Nabi Saleh | April 28,2012

Palestinian women held a picnic last Sunday, April 26th at Nabi Saleh’s water spring which in 2009 was annexed by the nearby illegal Israeli settlement of Halamish. Some forty Palestinian, international, and Israeli women congregated at the spring in reiterating Nabi Saleh’s rightful ownership of it.

In advance, most of us did not expect to reach the spring and were prepared for violence and arrests. Although several Israeli jeeps and soldiers were awaiting on scene, they just watched as we walked up to the picnic benches beside the spring. A collective sigh was felt and we all began to cheer, clap, and sing. Everyone, especially those from Nabi Saleh or familiar with their struggle, were overjoyed to reach the spring which has been the goal of Nabi Saleh’s weekly protests for the past two and a half years.

Women arriving at Nabi Saleh's fresh water spring amidst Israeli jeeps and soldiers | Rana Hamadeh | 22/04/2012

In December 2009, the Halamish settlement claimed Nabi Saleh’s fresh-water spring and Israeli courts and army have since supported the theft. Following this, Nabi Saleh has held regular Friday marches towards the water spring demanding an end to Israeli colonialism and occupation. More specifically, the demonstrations are about the nearby settlement of Halamish. Halamish was built on privately owned Palestinian and continues to expand. Halamish and the 250 other Israeli colonies and outposts in the Palestinian West Bank, are considered illegal under international law as they violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and the illegality has been confirmed by the International Court of Justice.

The peaceful demonstrations are consistently met with extreme Israeli army brutality. Last Friday, Israeli soldiers and border police attacked several of us women with batons, and violently arrested journalist Bilal Tamimi. The week prior, on April 13th, Bilal’s sixteen-year old son was shot above the eye with a tear gas canister and evacuated to hospital.

An Israeli soldier hits us with a baton at a peaceful protest | Tamimi Press 20/04/2012

Arrest of journalist Bilal Tamimi | Activestills 20/04/2012

The Israeli Occupation Force weekly attempts to suppress the protests with the use of rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas, sound bombs, and the ‘skunk truck’, which propels torrents of a foul-smelling liquid. Live ammunition is also occasionally used. Last December, Mustafa Tamimi was killed when a tear gas canister was shot directly at his face.

Thus, the women’s scepticism at reaching the spring was not without reason. Despite expectations of a violent reaction by Israeli soldiers or settlers the picnic proceeded without problems, due at least in part to the high level of journalists and cameras that accompanied the group.

Women celebrating at the Nabi Saleh spring | Rana Hamadeh 22/04/2012

“If only we could just walk up to the spring like this on Fridays,” was a joke that passed tirelessly between us.

Our group sang songs about the Palestinian struggle and dipped our feet into the cool water. A couple of hours into the action, a bus of Israeli settlers attempted to reach the picnic but after speaking to Israeli soldiers they left.

After we had joyfully exhausted ourselves, we sat down and held a discussion about the significance of such an action and of congregating exclusively as women in a male-dominated activist world.

Women have always had a strong role in the Palestinian struggle and this generation is no different.

Girls from Nabi Saleh confront an Israeli officer | Rana Nazzal Hamadeh 20/04/2012

Girls from Nabi Saleh confront an Israeli soldier | Rana Hamadeh 20/04/2012

Global solidarity builds awareness of Palestinian political prisoners

Rana Nazzal Hamadeh | April 19, 2012 | originally posted on Rabble

Tuesday, April 17 marked a global day of action for Palestinian prisoners and some 1,600 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons began an open-ended hunger strike. This past year, two prisoners in particular risked their lives in protest of their mistreatment by Israeli authorities and brought international attention to Israel’s illegal practice of administrative detention.

Administrative detention

Administrative detention is imprisonment without charge or trial, and is authorized by an administrative order rather than a judicial one. Under international law, its use is reserved for emergency situations, as a last means for preventing danger. It still requires that basic rules are followed, such as a fair hearing where the detainee can argue the basis of their detention.

Israel’s practice of administrative detention is in clear violation of international law. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been held as administrative detainees. They are not informed of the charges against them, let alone prosecuted for their alleged crimes. In many cases they are held not necessarily for an offence that they have committed, but out of suspicion that they will commit a crime in the future. The evidence against them is regarded as “secret information” and is thus not available to the accused or their attorneys.

Administrative detention sentences can be up to six months long, and can be renewed an indefinite number of times, without a trial or evidence shown. The detainee sits in prison not knowing if they will be held for another month, or for several years more.

Israel’s practice of administrative detention disregards the right to liberty and due process, the right of defendants to make a case, and the presumption of innocence.

A Palestinian woman holds a framed picture of her son, a political prisoner held by Israel, at a prisoners support rally in Ramallah, West Bank. | Rana Hamadeh 13/12/2011

Khader Adnan and Hana Al-Shalabi: Hunger strikers gain world attention

Khader Adnan, a 33-year-old father of two, began a hunger strike in mid-December after he was arrested from his home in the terrorizing style of a night raid, while his wife and young daughters looked on. He received no charge, and was not informed of the reason for his arrest. Rather than confusion, Adnan was facing a process that Palestinians have grown to be familiar with: administrative detention.

According to Addameer, a prisoners support and human rights association, Adnan was insulted and humiliated by interrogators, especially with their use of abusive language about his family. He was interrogated for six hours a day, and tied to a crooked chair during the sessions, causing him extreme pain.

Adnan was on hunger strike for 67 continuous days. Among his reasons were: his detention being a violation of his rights and identity; the ill-treatment he suffered from Israeli authorities; and the unjust system of administrative detention.

His case only became known internationally after the fiftieth day of his strike when it exploded on social networks such as Twitter, and supporters followed with fear as his health rapidly deteriorated.

After 67 days of refusing food, and on the brink of death, a deal was reached with Israel that Adnan would be released at the end of a four-month term, unless new “secret evidence” surfaced. Although Adnan was highly successful in drawing international attention to the case of administrative detainees in particular, and the Israeli occupation in general, it would be wrong to believe that with the end of his hunger strike came the end of the conditions he was protesting.

Hana Al-Shalabi then took the stage to continue the demands that Khader had nearly perished fighting for.

Al-Shalabi was an administrative detainee held for two years without a charge before she was released in October 2011 in the prisoner swap. In mid-February 2012, fifty soldiers arrived at her home in the night and she was re-arrested, again without a charge or trial, and immediately began to refuse meals.

On the nineteenth day of Hana’s hunger strike, an Israeli military court ruled to shorten her administrative detention sentence from six months to four months. Hana did not accept this deal as a valid response to her demands and she continued her hunger strike.

After 43 days of hunger striking, and in considerably bad health, Hana accepted a deal that can hardly be seen as a victory. She was released, but not to her waiting and grief-stricken family and friends. Hana was internally exiled to the Gaza Strip. For the next three years, she will live in what has commonly been described as an open-air prison due to the years of blockade and closure imposed on it, and unable to access her family living in the Northern West Bank.

Palestinian prisoners affairs minister, Issa Qaraqaa reportedly said, “she had to accept because Israel put pressure on her. But we are totally opposed to all deportation measures.”

Khader Adnan plays with his daughters on his first day out of Israeli jail. | Oren Ziv/ Activestills 18/4/2012

The price of a Palestinian prisoner

In the prisoner swap last October the sole Israeli prisoner detained by Palestinians, Gilad Shalit, was released in exchange for over one thousand Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. While most Palestinians were glad to be reunited with family or friends, they were also reminded of an ugly reality of Israeli apartheid: one Jewish Israeli life is exchangeable with over a thousand Palestinian lives.

For the five years that Shalit was imprisoned, his face and name were repeated in international media. Yet of the thousands of Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli prisons, little was heard. Seven hundred thousand Palestinians have been detained since 1967 (that is approximately 20 per cent of all Palestinians in the occupied territory, and 40% of the male population). Yet it is Shalit, an adult military soldier, arrested while serving in the Israeli Occupation Forces – an army repeatedly accused of committing war crimes against Palestinians – who was worthy of global news and sympathy while the 7,000 Palestinian children arrested since the year 2000 have largely been ignored.

In violation of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, all but one of the prisons holding Palestinians are inside Israel. International law states that an occupying power must detain residents of the occupied territory in prisons within their territory, the result being that often the family and/or lawyers of the prisoners are denied permits to Israel and cannot visit the prisons.

There is also repeated complaints of prisoner abuse in the hands of Israeli officials. These go largely unmentioned by the international community. Over two hundred Palestinian prisoners have died since 1967 while detained by Israel, due to inadequate medical care and food, torture, or other abuse. Hundreds more have suffered serious illnesses.

Prisoners set to unite with mass hunger strikes

On Tuesday, April 17 one third of all Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli facilities, about 1,600 prisoners, began an open-ended hunger strike. Another 2,300 prisoners refused food for the whole of Tuesday. Among the demands presented are:

1. Ending administrative detention

2. Ending solitary confinement

3. Reinstating the right to education

4. Halting all invasions targeting detainees’ rooms and sections

5. Allowing family visitations, especially to detainees from the Gaza Strip

6. Improving medical care to ailing detainees

7. Halting the humiliation, and body-search of the families of the detainees

8. Allowing the entry of books and newspapers

9. Halting all sorts of penalties against the detainees

Internationally and within Palestine, actions took place in solidarity with the 4,600 some Palestinian political prisoners held in Israeli prisons, including a demonstration at the BBC Scotland headquarters demanding mainstream media coverage of the Palestinian hunger strikers. Palestinian civil society and human rights organizations also issued a call for action against G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system.

Rana Nazzal Hamadeh is a Canadian-Palestinian and one of the North American delegates who took part in the Global March to Jerusalem.

Mural in the Nablus old city

Rana Hamadeh | April 11, 2012 | Nablus

A French activist and a good friend of mine, Mita, came up with the idea to paint a mural on a wall in the old city of Nablus. Back in France, she is practicing graffiti artist so she had the experience to plan a project like this. She told me, “I did not want the project to be a French project, a French activist coming to paint, I wanted it to be a Palestinian project.”

Children crowd around Mita in the Yasmine neighborhood | Nablus old city | Rana Hamadeh 07/04/12

Mita teamed up with the Tanweer cultural centre in Nablus who assisted with coordination and provided volunteers. They acquired permission from the municipality and had all their paints donated by the local Arabic Painting Company (APC).

In Arabic, "by learning we will liberate our land and destroy the wall" | Nablus old city | Rana Hamadeh 07/04/12

The painting began with the statement “by learning we will liberate our land and destroy the wall” and from there, volunteers compiled ideas and manifested them into images.

In Arabic, "we will return" | Nablus old city | Rana Hamadeh 07/04/12

Mural in the Yasmine neighborhood | Nablus old city | Rana Hamadeh 07/04/12

The grand opening was on April 7th, 2012 and volunteers got together with residents of the Yasmine neighborhood to simultaneously do a clean up of the street

"Free Palestine" and Handala | Nablus old city | Rana Hamadeh 07/04/12

"To a killer: If you contemplated the victim's face and thought you would remember your mother in the gas chamber, you would liberate yourself from the rifle's wisdom and change your mind: this is not how identity is reclaimed" - Mahmoud Darwish | Nablus old city | Rana Hamadeh 07/04/12

In Arabic, "to a killer: If you contemplated the victim's face and thought you would remember your mother in the gas chamber, you would liberate yourself from the rifle's wisdom and change your mind: this is not how identity is reclaimed" - Mahmoud Darwish | Nablus old city | Rana Hamadeh 07/04/12

Nablus old city | Rana Hamadeh 07/04/12

“I wanted the volunteers to express themselves” says Mita, and indeed they did, bringing up issues of education, the right of return, the apartheid wall, prisoners, and national liberation.