Obama’s Third War


WRITTEN BY William A. Cook

“Become more human, and humans will love you.”

(Text of the Gospel of Phillip, 143)

Predictably, the United States Senate and House of Representatives voted to support Israel’s carnage in Gaza thereby handing the new President yet one more war to contend with, one unhappily more dangerous to America than those in Iraq or Afghanistan. That may seem to be, on its face, a strange thing to say unless one understands that we are in Iraq fighting for Israel and, with this vote, our Congress has indebted itself to the Israeli forces that govern the United States (as Ariel Sharon said long ago), forces that will use endangerment of Israel as leverage to attack Iran and Syria, countries already in their military sites since 1992.

Our Senate’s indebtedness is unanimous; while 20 in the House abstained and five voted against the resolution, all the rest voted to support. The reasons offered: Israel has a right to defend itself even though we do not know where Israel is: that is, Israel has yet to define its borders and remove itself from occupied territories; and the rockets fired over the last 8 years must stop, even though Israel, with one shell in Gaza, killed 43 at the UN school, twice the number killed by rockets in 8 years. But logic, international law and international opinion, and fundamental moral law cannot sway our Congress; money can and does. Obama may have a Senate majority and a Democratically controlled House of Representatives, but he cannot respond to the desires of the American people for change – no more wars – nor to the United community of nations that have voted with their feet against the actions of the Israeli government in open and defiant dissent against their governments in London, Ireland, Scotland, Europe and through out the Arab world including Jordan and Egypt. Our Representatives represent Israeli wishes and policies not those of the American people; the people voted overwhelmingly for change not the continued support of Israel represented by these votes or the appointments made by Obama as advisors.

Ironically our “only democratic ally” in the mid-east, as constantly reiterated by our mainstream media and talking heads, has locked the media out of Gaza in order to isolate truth to its Public Relations campaign begun the day it invaded Gaza three weeks ago. Consequently, Americans receive their news from those that decided to break international law and their own responsibilities as an occupying force under the Geneva conventions. No truth, no morality, only raw force serves this Zionist nation beholden only to itself and those it owns, including our Congress. Yet the news gets out. The people of Gaza transmit the truth by phone cameras and a handful of Al Jazeera journalists that report from the killing fields. These pictures inundate the Internet and even a European press on occasion.
Contrast the reality of the coverage with that provided to Americans. In Sderot, the little town used by Israel to portray its misery, devastation, and ultimate demise at the hands of the “terrorists,” the citizens have taken to the hillside overlooking Gaza — binoculars, sunglasses and beach chairs in tow — to watch the rain of Israeli terror by air, sea and land on an imprisoned people. (Shashank Bengali, “Israelis, sipping Pepsi, watch bombardment of Gaza town,” 1/5/2009, McClatchy). Are they in danger? Perhaps, although they do have bomb shelters and warning sirens, something that the people of Gaza do not have. And as I have noted elsewhere (in Counterpunch, 1/5/2009), they have been bombarded on average with 2 rockets per day for 8 years. Twenty three have died over these 8 years, an unsupportable number killed by meaningless use of force. Nonetheless, this has become the rationale for Israel’s current killing that now approaches 1000 half of whom are children. Disproportionate? Not to our Representatives.
Now consider what we are not shown, an image that the western media finds “pornographic,” “irresponsible journalism,” “too graphic,” “too emotional” for public consumption; yet the rest of the world sees these images, hundreds and hundreds of them. This alone should give our representatives pause to reflect on how their subservience to the barbaric behavior of Zionist Israel plays out in the world that is not controlled by American corporations or complicit congressmen. You can go to www.al-ayyam.ps/znews/site/pdfs/7-1-2009/p01.pdf. There you will see the head of a little girl looking forlornly though vacant eyes, mouth still open, completely buried from the neck down in rubble from her crushed home; indeed, too graphic, too emotional to contemplate, just another unnamed casualty of war where death happens … unfortunately, and “we’re sorry.” This appeared in multimedia, a Norwegian site, where you can also hear Sven Egil Omdel, the Director, explain why he decided to publish the photo even though it is against policy: “It is (the publication) a conscious provocation and we have two reasons for it: Israel keep (sic) all western journalists away from the war in Gaza. … The most important reason for us to show this face, is that the Arab world sees pictures like these from Gaza every day. Not a single still, but hours and hours of TV images of hospital floors full of small, dead bodies. Four year olds, two year olds, seven year olds, newly borns – These pictures represent the war in Gaza for millions of muslims – and we wonder why the hatred against Israel and the west grows? (translation)” This now is Obama’s war whether he wants it or not including the 3000 tons of ordnance being shipped now to Israel by the United States to supplement what they are currently using in Gaza.

Americans must understand the timing of this “war” that is not a war but a slaughter of caged people that have no where to hide, no where to go and even then, when following IDF orders, find themselves in a building targeted for destruction, their destruction. Deceit governs; racism motivates; hatred compels and greed for others’ land is the bed rock of action.

Why now? For two years, during the election campaign for the US Presidency, Israel imposed a siege on Gaza, a calculated act of slow, insidious decimation of the people planned in 2004 (www.infoimagination.org) to ultimately compel the Palestinian people to submit to Israeli dominance, without a state, without an army, without freedom of ingress and egress, unclassified and wholly dependent on Israel. Included in that strategy was the need to complete “Securing the Realm,” the document drawn up by our faithful Neo-Con “servants” that drove the policies of Bush’s administration and called for regime change in Syria and Iran in addition to Iraq. During the political campaign, while press coverage crowded out virtually all other news, the Zionist forces destroyed the infrastructure of Gaza, began the locking down of gates and the slow but methodical destruction of Gaza’s economy. Simultaneously they sought, but failed to get in time, Bush’s approval of attacks on Iran’s nuclear sites. Now, as the days of the Bush reign of terror ends, they are desperate to force Obama into a continuation of absolute and unquestioned support of Israeli policies in the mid-east. With the Congress in hand, with the vote made public in America and its continued commitment made known to the world, they believe that hey have locked Obama in a prison not unlike that surrounding Gaza.

What now? Reflection on the past few years, since 2005 to present, especially in the United States, makes possible this observation: the people of the United States and the people of Israel no longer see eye to eye on matters of mutual concern and, indeed, have already expressed that reality in fact. What do I mean? Beginning with the Downing Street memo and the disclosures of Richard Clark and Ambassador Wilson, the ability of the main stream press to hide the truth from the American people could no longer hold. As 2005 evolved, more and more disclosures unraveled the lies protected by the “fair and balanced reporting” of the corporate owned and controlled media. Fair and balanced was neither fair to truth nor balanced. To put two items on a scale, one for, one against, does not present truth or a balanced report. It simply shows two different perspectives, one for and one against. But as facts and documents became available to the American people, items available over the prior years on various Internet publications, the American people reacted by throwing out Bush supporters in the 2006 and 2008 elections and Bush support eroded into the mid-twenties.

They wanted “change” promised from the start by Senator Obama and mimicked eventually by most of the other contenders to the throne. Change meant getting out of Iraq immediately and return to a government that had a concern for America, including less absolute and blind support for Israel. The vast majority of the American people do not accept the disproportionate and cruel invasion of Gaza by Israel. As more and more pictures and videos become available on the Internet, especially the recurring images of savagery on You Tube, the American people are traumatized by the horror, especially the uncountable number of deaths of children. Our representative government does not represent the American electorate; it represents only scared politicians who depend on AIPAC money, men and women who fear for their political seats regardless of what their constituents believe and want.

By contrast Israeli citizens are faced with an election that has all three contenders fighting to convince the electorate that he/she is the one that will inflict more force to subjugate the Palestinians to Israeli will. The focus of this campaign resonates around the war monger Benjamin Netanyahu; both Livni and Barak must demonstrate that they are better leaders to take Israel against the Palestinians, the Syrians and the Iranians. Israel’s future is one of continued war which means in turn continued American billions to sustain their ambitions against their perceived enemies. They do not talk of “talk” with neighbors, only unending war against those that oppose the Jews. One does not speak of Israel as a state or government when “victimhood” is needed to induce unyielding support for the Israeli governments need to acquire more land and control the regimes of its neighbors, one must turn to the bias against Jews that is world wide and endemic. Sympathy cannot be rung from criticism of a government’s policies.

Horribly, the invasion of Gaza can be viewed quite accurately as a campaign war where Livni and Barak have made evident to the electorate that they will use force to ensure Israel’s right to dominate the area regardless of international pressure and opinion, international law or international justice. They know they can do this because they have control of the American Congress and administration including the veto power of the United States in the Security Council. World opinion means nothing. The Israeli electorate, with modest exception, does not want change.

Ultimately, it’s AIPAC’s will against the American citizens’ expressed desires as they voted for this man of change. Who will win? Will the blatant exposure of Israeli violence and mercilessness, in pictures and videos, turn the tide? Can Israeli hacking of Internet sites like that done to The Palestine Chronicle and the attempted erasure of sites that contain the pictures and videos described above stop the flow of sympathy for the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza and quell the building animosity that has arisen world-wide against the cruelty employed by Israel in its savage destruction of Gaza?

Will Obama turn to diplomacy, as he preached when a candidate and, thus doing, fulfill the truth enunciated by Phillip, “Become more human, and humans will love you”? Will he turn to negotiations with those engaged in these brutalities, to stem the violence? Will he recognize the impossible absence of the democratically elected Hamas government from deliberations with Israel over Gaza? How absurd. Will he reconsider the bribery that Bush employed to keep Egypt and Jordan in collusion with Israel despite the agony the people of Egypt and Jordan experience as they watch their people die in Gaza? Will he seek justice by returning to the resolutions of the UN that demand Israel return to the borders of 1948 or 1967, to leave the occupied lands of Palestine including East Jerusalem, to recognize the right of return of the refugees, to realize that Palestinians have a right to their state just as Israel has a right to its, something recognized by Hamas though never recognized as true by our main stream press. (Guardian, 1/12/2006 and Ynet, 1/30/2006). Will Obama seek peace that America might be free of its entanglement with a rogue state that blindly leads America into the darkness of unending conflict and death? Will he demand of Israel that its support from America depends of its recognition that it can only survive if it lives in harmony with its neighbors not out of fear but out of brotherhood? Will he suggest that the Israelis consider a diametrically opposite road to peace, one that understands “People will love you if you become more human”?

Sheikh Imam, Rest in Peace (Lyrics by Ahmad Fouad Najm)


Posted by Ibn Bint Jbeil

Oy vey! We can work it out!

Oy vey! We can work it out!

Oy vey! Maybe Norman Finkelstein is right. Is this the “reasonable peace” that he was hoping for without having to bring up that “conflictual” term of zionism? 1 2

Thank you, Aunti Ziona, for bringing this wonderful event to my attention.

P.S. Hey that Palestinian singer, Mira Awad, sure is a good singer. I hope she didn’t get caught in that Gaza Hanukka slaughter.

P.P.S. And if she is still alive, I sure hope she doesn’t get stuck living in Gaza and starving to death. I hope she’s not living in East Jerusalem where they’re demolishing Palestinian homes [for zionism, Norman]. She’d have no place to go but Gaza. Of course, there’s no room for her any more in the West Bank, whatwith all the Jewish settlers [from everywhere in the world] moving in there [for zionism, Norman].

Try to See it My Way!

Oi I am so happy to see the Jews and the Arabs united in their lethal attempt against music.

In this lovely pop video there are 2 ladies. They look the same, they both have dark hair and nice bazookies, but in actual fact – one is an Arab and one is a Jew! See, even though we like to kill our neighbors, we are still just one big happy human family. We know how to make Liverpool sound like Jerusalem. Believe me ‘we can work it out.’

United Against the Beatles



February 28, 2009 at 11:00 am (Associate Post, Cartoons, Iraq War, Peace)

Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

(Ben Heine © Cartoons)


Palestinian factions in Cairo agree to new PA unity government


“Better Late than Never”, Pal. Factions Agree to Form Unity Gov’t
Hanan Awarekeh Readers Number : 182

26/02/2009 “Better late than never”. Eyeing a common threat that will govern Israel for the next four years, feuding Palestinian factions have decided to reunify to face Benjamin Netanyahu’s right wing Tsunami that has hit Israeli politics.

Rival Palestinian groups agreed on Thursday to form a national unity government by the end of March, faction officials said after reconciliation talks in Cairo.

Jamil al-Majdalawi, an official with the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, announced that the factions had formed several committees that would pave the way for a national unity government. “The committees will end their work and a Palestinian unity government will be formed by the end of March,” he said

Mohammed al-Hindi, deputy leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, confirmed the factions had agreed to establish the government by the end of next month.

Rival Palestinian movements Fatah and Hamas held reconciliation talks brokered by Egypt on Thursday aimed at paving the way for the creation of a unity government, which Israel opposes and “trying to persuade whomever” that a Palestinian Authority unity government is a bad idea.”

A deal between the two factions is seen as key to moving ahead with Gaza’s reconstruction after Israel’s recent offensive. The Palestinians hope to raise $2.8 billion at an international donor’s conference in Egypt on Monday. Hamas and Fatah met in advance of Thursday’s main talks on more challenging issues like holding elections and sharing power. The two sides met in Cairo for talks mediated by Egypt’s intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman.

At a news conference Wednesday night, both sides announced they had agreed on a release of detainees. “To encourage a positive atmosphere, there will be a complete and immediate end to the arrests of political prisoners … and the release of prisoners during the discussions,” said Hamas’ senior official, Mahmoud al-Zahar. “There will be a larger number released” later. Zahar said 80 Hamas members held in the occupied West Bank, which is controlled by the Fatah movement, have been released and that 300 are still being held. Hamas has also lifted the house arrest of a number of Fatah members in the Gaza Strip.

Senior officials from Fatah, the secular movement headed by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas (whose term ended on January 9), and Hamas, the Islamic resistance group that rules the Gaza Strip, agreed on confidence-building measures at a meeting on Wednesday. “A certain number of detainees will be freed right at the beginning of the dialogue,” said a joint statement. “Other detainees will be freed successively so that this issue will be totally closed before the end of the national Palestinian dialogue.”

Speaking earlier in the day, Nabil Shaath, a top Abbas aide, said the sides also agreed to immediately stop all media attacks against each other. Azzam al-Ahmed of Fatah said Thursday’s meeting will discuss the “political shape and agenda” of a future unity government.

Senior PA negotiator Saeb Erekat said on Wednesday that an interim government was needed “to shoulder the responsibilities of reconstructing Gaza, opening the passages [between Israel and the Gaza Strip] and carrying out the presidential and legislative elections no later than the end of 2009.”

Egypt had originally called for Palestinian reconciliation talks in November, but Hamas withdrew at the last minute, complaining that
Fatah was continuing to arrest Hamas members in the West Bank. The reconciliation process was relaunched by Egypt after Israel’s 22-day war on Gaza that ended last month with more than 1,300 Palestinians killed, including 420 children and buildings and infrastructure destroyed.
“The climate is positive and promising,” Hamas political bureau member Ezzat Resheq told journalists after Wednesday’s talks. “We hope for positive results.”

Azzam al-Ahmad, leader of the Fatah bloc in the Palestinian parliament, spoke of a “real desire on both sides to settle these questions… to achieve reconciliation, an urgent necessity above all because the peace process is not progressing and nor are efforts towards a truce.”

Hamas democratically won over Fatah in the 2006 Palestinian general election but its government was boycotted by Israel and the West, and attempts at forging a national unity government failed.

Meanwhile, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Egypt was now focusing on Palestinian reconciliation as its top priority, rather than the negotiations on a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. “We decided perhaps to change our priorities,” he said in a press conference. “The first priority was the tahdiyah, followed by the reconciliation, followed by the reconstruction conference, followed by the process of launching the peace efforts again. Today, we are concentrating on the reconciliation, but the cease-fire and the exchange of prisoners is not far from Egyptian efforts.”


Israeli Prime Minister-designate Binyamin Netanyahu is expected to lobby Secretary of State Hillary Clinton next week against US recognition of a Palestinian unity government that includes Hamas, top advisers to Netanyahu said Wednesday.

Zalman Shoval, one of Netanyahu’s five primary foreign policy advisers, said the Netanyahu diplomatic team was “trying to persuade whomever” that a Palestinian Authority unity government is a bad idea. We shall try to convince our American friends that this is not something that would help the peace process, and that it would only make it easier for all sorts of other players – the Europeans and the Russians – to deal with Hamas,” he said. “To return Hamas as a partner is not what America is interested in.”

Shoval said history had shown that when there was an amalgamation between what he called “a moderate and an extremist party, it was only a matter of time before the extremists called the shots.” “The idea is the wrong one,” he said, adding that Netanyahu’s camp believed the right approach was to continue to isolate Hamas. I’m not saying we can prevent it, but we should try,” he said.

Hamas’s refusal to accept Israel’s existence, and its resistance activities, were core problems, another Israeli adviser said, and it would be counterproductive to overlook the problems by seeking structural reform. The adviser added that structural reform would not make the core problems disappear. He said that “Israel’s right to self-defense was sacrosanct”, and that it would continue to exercise that right when it felt it needed to.

On a visit to Cairo on the eve of the talks, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband called for the Palestinians to form a new government of “technocrats” to oversee reconstruction of the economy and the political process in readiness for elections.

He said that speaking to Hamas was “the right thing to do,” but Egypt and other parties were best suited to talking directly to the group. In an interview with Reuters in Cairo, Miliband said Egypt was acting on behalf of the whole world in its dealings with Hamas. “Egypt has been nominated… to speak to Hamas on behalf of the Arab League but actually on behalf of the whole world,” Miliband said. “Others speak to Hamas. That’s the right thing to do and I think we should let the Egyptians take this forward.”

Sweden also expressed support for Palestinian reconciliation. Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said his country, which takes over the rotating EU presidency on July 1, wants to help politically in the process of possibly holding new elections in the Palestinian territories. “Reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas is also a part of the process,” he said in Stockholm after meeting Abbas.

Bilin 2009: four years of nonviolent struggle


Jaffa: from eminence to ethnic cleansing


Sami Abu Shehadeh & Fadi Shbaytah, The Electronic Intifada, 27 February 2009

A view from the sea at Jaffa looking east onto the city, 1898-1914. (Matson Collection)

Jaffa was the largest city in historic Palestine during the years of the British mandate, with a population of more than 80,000 Palestinians in addition to the 40,000 persons living in the towns and villages in its immediate vicinity. In the period between the UN Partition resolution (UNGA 181) of 29 November 1947, and the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel, Zionist military forces displaced 95 percent of Jaffa’s indigenous Arab Palestinian population. Jaffa’s refugees accounted for 15 percent of Palestinian refugees in that fateful year, and today they are dispersed across the globe, still banned from returning by the state responsible for their displacement.

Jaffa was the epicenter of the Palestinian economy before the 1948 Nakba. Beginning in the early 19th century, the people of Jaffa had cultivated citrus groves, particularly oranges, on their land. International demand for Jaffa oranges propelled the city onto the world stage, earning the city an important place in the global economy. By the 1930s, Jaffa was exporting tens of millions of citrus crates to the rest of the world, which provided thousands of jobs for the people of the city and its environs, and linking them to the major commercial centers of the Mediterranean coast and the European continent.

With the success of its citrus exports, the city witnessed the emergence and growth of various related economic sectors, from banks to land and sea transportation enterprises to import and export firms, and many others. As the city grew, Jaffa’s entrepreneurs began to develop local industrial production with the opening of metal-work factories, and others producing glass, ice, cigarettes, textiles, sweets, transportation-related equipment, mineral and carbonated water, and various foodstuffs, among others.

In addition to commerce and industry, a third major pillar of Jaffa’s economy in the mandate years was tourism. Tens of thousands of tourists and pilgrims visited the historic city every year, both for its sites of historical and religious significance, its beautiful buildings, and the Christian holy sites scattered throughout the city. As Jaffa’s tourism industry grew, so too did its communications infrastructure, and the transportation network connecting it to the rest of Palestine and the Arab world. More investments and jobs were also created for Jaffa’s residents through the increasing number of hotels, transportation companies, and the growing number of tourism-related services.

Jaffa was also the cultural capital of Palestine, being home to tens of the most important newspapers and publication houses in the country, including the dailies Filastin and al-Difa’. The most important and ornate cinemas were in Jaffa, as were tens of athletics clubs and cultural societies. The headquarters of some of these societies, like the Orthodox Club and the Islamic Club, have themselves become historic sites still testifying to the city’s cultural history. During the Second World War, the British Mandate authorities moved the headquarters of the Near East Radio broadcast studios to Jaffa, the studios becoming a cultural hub in the city from 1941 to 1948. With the growing cultural importance of Jaffa came increasing cultural exchange and interconnection with the main cultural centers in the region such as Cairo and Beirut, which further established the city as a cultural minaret in the region — lovingly dubbed the Bride of the Sea.

The story of Jaffa’s ongoing Nakba is the story of the transformation of this thriving modern urban center into a marginalized neighborhood suffering from poverty, discrimination, gentrification, crime and demolition since the initial wave of mass expulsion in 1948 to the present day.

British soldiers stop and search a Palestinian man in Jaffa, 1936. (Palestine Remembered)

The early years of Jaffa’s Nakba

Zionist forces initiated a cruel siege on the city of Jaffa in March 1948. The youth of the city formed popular resistance committees to confront the assault. On 14 May 1948, the Bride of the Sea fell to the Zionist military forces; that same evening the leaders of the Zionist movement in Palestine declared the establishment of the state of Israel. Approximately 4,000 of the 120,000 Palestinians managed to remain in their city after it was militarily occupied. They were all rounded up and ghettoized in al-Ajami neighborhood which was sealed off from the rest of the city and administered as essentially a military prison for two subsequent years; the military regime under which Israel governed them lasted until 1966. During this period, al-Ajami was completely surrounded by barbed wire fencing that was patrolled by Israeli soldiers and guard dogs. It was not long before the new Jewish residents of Jaffa, and based on their experience under Nazism in Europe, began to refer to the Palestinian neighborhood as the “ghetto.”

In addition to being ghettoized, the Palestinians who remained in Jaffa had lost everything overnight: their city, their friends, their families, their property and their entire physical and social environment. Most had lost their homes as the Israeli military forced them into al-Ajami. Legislator, judge and executioner in the Ajami ghetto was the military commander; without his permission one could not enter or leave the ghetto, and rights to things like education and work were among those rights that Palestinians were denied. Arab states were classified as enemy states, and so making contact with the expelled family and friends, the refugees, was strictly prohibited. This was the nightmare lived by the Palestinians of Jaffa after the 1948 Nakba.

In the early 1950s, Jaffa was administratively engulfed by the Tel Aviv municipality that became known as Tel Aviv-Yafo; the Palestinians of Jaffa went from being a majority in their city and homeland to the two-percent “enemies of the state,” a minority of Israel’s main metropolis. The municipality immediately began drawing up plans for what they called the “Judaization” of the city, renaming the Arabic streets of the city after Zionist leaders, demolishing much of the old Arab architecture, and completely destroying the buildings in the surrounding neighborhoods and villages that were depopulated during the 1948 Nakba. The new curriculum introduced in Palestinian schools denied that the place had any Arab-Palestinian history at all, a facet of the Israeli education system that continues until today.

The largest armed robbery of the 20th century

After expelling most of Jaffa’s residents, militarily occupying the city and ghettoizing the remaining original inhabitants, Israeli authorities passed the Absentee Property Law (1950) through which it seized the property of all Palestinians who were not in possession of their immovable properties after the Nakba. Through the implementation of this unjust law, the state of Israel sent its operatives to all corners of the land, surveying the properties left behind by the expelled refugees, the internally displaced Palestinians banned from returning to their lands, and those relocated to the ghettos of Palestine’s cities. Title to these lands, buildings, homes, factories, farms and religious sites were then transferred to the state’s “Custodian of Absentee Property.” This is how the Palestinians of Jaffa, the refugees and the ghettoized, had their properties “legally” stolen by the State of Israel.

In the interviews conducted for our research, we heard dozens of stories from Nakba survivors telling us about how their homes, often just meters away from the ghetto, were seized, and how they could do nothing about it. Many told us stories of how their homes were given to, or simply taken by, new Jewish immigrants, and how they would try to convince the new residents of their homes to give them back some of their furniture, or clothes, or documents, or photographs. In some of these cases, the house’s new resident would give back some of the items, in most of the cases the response was to consider the original Palestinian owner an intruder, and to call the police or report him to the military commander. Former residents of the al-Manshiyya neighborhood, one of the city’s wealthier areas before the Nakba, described the sorrow they felt as they walked past their old houses, and the pain of seeing what remained of the neighborhood demolished to be replaced by a public recreation area.

Some of the most difficult stories are those of the Palestinian farmers and peasants from the villages of the Jaffa district. They describe how they were forced off of their land, how they managed to stay in Palestine, how the Israeli government handed their land over to Jewish settlers, and how these settlers then hired the same Palestinian farmers to work on their own land as day laborers exploited for the personal profit of the Jewish settler off the produce of the land that Palestinians had cultivated for generations. In fact, after their properties and enterprises were seized or shut down, the vast majority of the Jaffa Palestinians who remained became cheap labor for Jewish employers. Their employment was contingent on their “loyalty” to the new state. And so it was that the people who ran the economic hub of Palestine before 1948, became its orphans feigning loyalty to the ones who orphaned them in order to feed their own children.

Palestinians from Jaffa attempt to take with them whatever they can as Zionist militias force them to leave the city, May 1948. (Palestine Remembered)

The daily violations of co-habitation

After the creation of the State of Israel on the ruins of Arab-Palestinian society, the fledgling state began absorbing thousands of new Jewish immigrants from around the world, masses of immigrants whom the state was not fully able to absorb. The state resolved this lack of capacity by distributing the homes of refugee and internally displaced Palestinians to the new immigrants. After all the Palestinian homes in Jaffa had been occupied, Israeli housing authorities began dividing the homes in the Ajami ghetto into apartments so as to provide housing for Jewish families. As such, an Arab family in Ajami, who had been displaced from their original home, and whose family and friends had been expelled, and who lived in a house with four rooms, for example, would have their new home divided into four apartments to absorb three Jewish immigrant families, and the four families would share the kitchen and bathroom.

This process was one of the most difficult for the Palestinian families; they were forced into “co-habitation” with the people who had expelled them and, considering that many of the Jewish families included members who were serving in the army, people who were directly carrying out the ongoing violence suffered by the remaining Palestinian community.

The horrors of war, the loss of their country, the deep rupture in the social environment, the trauma of oppression, occupation, segregation and discrimination, the demolition or theft of their original homes before their own eyes, being forced to share their homes in the ghetto with the people who expelled them from their original homes, all combined to create an overall feeling of despair and impotence among the remaining community of Palestinians in Jaffa. This collective depression eventually led many of Jaffa’s ghettoized Palestinian residents down the path of dependency on drugs and alcohol as a way of escaping the burden of powerlessness in the face of colonial oppression. It was this form of colonial oppression that transformed the thriving Bride of the Sea to a poverty and crime-ridden neighborhood of Tel Aviv.

1951-1979: survival and self-improvement

The first generation of Nakba survivors faced immense hardship, and as such the main goal of that generation was survival in a milieu replete with fear of the Israeli authorities. The hope for a better life, for a return to how things once were, for freedom, became a motivating factor in their lives. This was especially true in the late 1950s and 1960s, when the Arab world went through the awakening epitomized by Nasserism. The ideas of Arab unity, Palestinian liberation, cultural revival and the hope entailed by these ideas found fertile ground in the Palestinian society within the “green line” (the 1949 armistice line between the State of Israel and the West Bank and Gaza Strip). This was the environment in which the second generation was raised.

The generation of the 1950s and 1960s grew up in an environment very different from that of their parents. This generation sought self-improvement, to work hard to provide for their families and educate their children by working the manual labor jobs that Jewish immigrants avoided. It was members of this youthful generation who filled the ranks of the Communist Party and the Nasserist Land Movement, among other political currents that aimed to challenge the prevailing oppression, poverty and landlessness of the Palestinian community to varying degrees.

In preparation for its occupation of the remainder of Palestine, and as internal opposition grew and information began to leak out that the “only democracy in the Middle East” actually had two sets of laws for two sets of citizens, the Israeli government formally abandoned the regime of military rule in 1966. While systematic discrimination against Palestinian citizens continued unabated, the 1970s witnessed the emergence of a relatively powerful political and social movement of Palestinian citizens of Israel. In Jaffa, this movement culminated with the formation of the Association for the Care of Arab Affairs in 1979. The Association was formed by activists and intellectuals who aimed to protect what remained of the city’s Arab-Palestinian identity and heritage, to fight the systematic discrimination faced by the Palestinians of Jaffa, and to spearhead campaigns on important issues facing the Palestinian community, foremost among them housing and education.

It was in this same decade that “Judaization” of areas within the green line became publicly known as official Israeli state policy. While the main theater of Judaization during the 1970s was the Galilee in the north of historic Palestine, the Palestinians of Jaffa continued to feel increasing pressure to leave their homes in the city through various discriminatory policies and practices, such as those banning Palestinians from renovating their homes since these properties were largely registered as absentee property with title held by the state. The municipal authorities had ignored the neighborhood, allowing many houses to collapse, and in some cases ordered the demolition of Palestinian homes. As a result of these deteriorating conditions, most of the Jewish residents of Ajami had moved to the city’s suburbs, and were beginning to move to the West Bank in the newly built illegal settlements where the cost of living was, and continues to be, heavily subsidized by the state.

1979-2000: the return of the spirit

The proportion of Palestinians in Jaffa had grown by the onset of the 1980s, both as a result of natural growth, and because a growing number of Palestinians displaced from the Galilee and the triangle ended up in Jaffa. Literacy and education levels among the adult Palestinian population in the city had also risen as the generation of the ’60s and ’70s grew and became active members of the society. This second generation benefited from the sacrifices of their predecessors, many of them having opened their own small enterprises like restaurants, contracting firms and car repair shops. A small number had also been able to complete post-secondary education in professional fields such as law, medicine, accounting, engineering and others. As such, the economic, social and demographic balance of the city had begun to restore itself.

Young Palestinian workers in one of Jaffa’s many orange groves, 1898-1914. (Matson Collection)

The increase in the city’s Palestinian population, and the improvement of their social and economic condition was coupled with the increase in the number of Palestinians who began to move to other parts of what remained of Jaffa beyond the the Ajami ghetto, particularly to the nearby coastal Jabaliya neighborhood. This phenomenon was largely the result of the overcrowding in Ajami, and since the combination of poverty, municipal neglect and the discriminatory policies banning Palestinians from renovating had resulted in further deterioration of their living conditions.

The improvement in the standard of living of Jaffa’s Palestinians that began in the 1980s involved the increase in the number of Arab owned and operated enterprises, the renovation of Palestinian mosques, churches and public buildings, as well as annual increases in the number of post-secondary graduates most of whom reinvested their acquired skills and knowledge in the betterment of their community. While the state and municipal authorities continued their Judaization efforts, the Palestinian community had become an active and effective player in the life of their city. Working against this economic development within the community has been the fact that the Israeli government has not invested or supported Palestinian-owned enterprise while simultaneously subsidizing and investing heavily in Jewish-owned enterprises in Tel Aviv. This economic discrimination has played an important role in making Palestinian Jaffa economically dependent on Jewish Tel Aviv.

The ’90s witnessed a powerful political and cultural revival among Palestinian citizens of Israel as the third generation since the Nakba began to discover and assert their Palestinian identity as the indigenous people of the land. The fear that had been a powerful force facing their grandparents did not affect them in the same way, and as a largely educated generation, the disparity between the ideals of “Israeli democracy” that they had learned in school and the discrimination they faced in their daily lives drew increasing members of this generation into the political arena. The growing national awareness of Jaffa’s Palestinians materialized during the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada when the Palestinian youth of Jaffa protested the brutal Israeli military violence against the Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza by organizing dozens of forums, protests, pickets and fundraising campaigns to stress the unity of the Palestinian people across borders.

Jaffa’s ongoing Nakba today

Despite the growth of Palestinian political and social movements, the more than 20,000 Palestinians living in Jaffa today continue to experience an ongoing Nakba. We do not use this description lightly, or to enlist tears of sympathy or nostalgia for what once was; it is an important way of understanding the present, entrenching the demand for redress for the crimes committed by Israel over the past 60 years, and to stress the urgency of the struggle to bring about change for the future. While systematic discrimination and Israeli policies and practices aimed at displacing Palestinians and Judaizing their space permeate all aspects of Palestinian life in Israel, we will focus on the fields of housing and cultural identity.

The most pressing issue facing Palestinians in Jaffa today is the issue of housing and eviction. Every Palestinian in Jaffa is either directly facing eviction by the municipal authorities, or has a neighbor or relative who faces such eviction, an estimated total of more than 500 families are in this situation. The two main excuses for eviction are lack of licensing — especially since licenses are almost impossible for Palestinians to obtain — or that the family is considered illegal squatters in their own home which is registered as state property.

Title to the vast majority of properties in Jaffa were transferred to the state through the implementation of the Absentee Property Law (1950), and the state transferred this title to Amidar, a state-run company managing state properties in urban areas. After focusing its Judaization efforts on the Galilee and the Negev, the state has now set its sights on Palestinians living in Palestinian cities, officially referred to as “mixed cities,” ordering their removal from homes in which they have lived for 60 years, and in some cases longer.

Mass eviction of Palestinians from their homes in these cities is a dual process. The first, and primary, aspect is Judaization aimed at changing the demographic character of these cities so as not to include significant numbers of indigenous Palestinians, and to erase the Palestinianness of the landscape. The second aspect is gentrification; in most cases these properties are slated for demolition to be replaced with expensive condominiums and housing units for the rich. As such, both the political merchants pandering to the ideologically-driven Zionist public, and the real estate merchants hoping to build and make millions off of their “development” projects stand to benefit. We should also note that the Ajami ghetto, while by far the poorest neighborhood in the Tel Aviv-Yafo municipality, is also a coastal neighborhood with some of the highest property value in the city.

The issue of Palestinian housing in Jaffa is more than the sum of its parts; it goes beyond the hundreds of eviction and demolition orders. One cannot but connect the dots between Amidar and the Israeli Lands Administration putting up tens of Palestinian homes for auction, the rapidly increasing property value, the construction of the Peres “Peace” Center on confiscated Jaffa refugee property, and the establishment of a center for Jewish fundamentalists in the heart of the Ajami neighborhood. The picture we see when the dots are connected is worrying, the original inhabitants of Jaffa are uprooted, and their place invaded by those who have money and power: the elites of the Jewish-Israeli establishment. We see the state handing out properties to Jewish settlers almost for free in other Palestinian cities like al-Lydd and Ramleh as well as in the Naqab (Negev) and now Jaffa, while we, the indigenous people of Palestine are dealt with as illegal squatters and intruders. We, the Palestinians who remained in the part of Palestine taken by the Zionist movement in 1948 and who were forced to accept the citizenship of the state that usurped our country, now form 20 percent of the citizens of the State of Israel, but only control 3.5 percent of the land after most of our land and property were confiscated by this state. Since its establishment, Israel has created hundreds of new communities for Jewish settlement, but not one new community for Palestinians.

Jaffa’s clocktower, approximately 1914. (Matson Collection)

Reshaping identity, language and history

One of the most prominent landmarks in the city of Jaffa is the clocktower built by the Ottomans at the entrance to the old city, long before Israel came into being. Today, Jaffa’s visitors and residents who care to take a look at the structure see a Hebrew-language plaque that states “In Memory of the Heroes who Fell in the Battle to Liberate Yafo.” From there, if we turn right to walk up to the old city we catch a breathtaking view of the Mediterranean Sea until we reach the informational signs posted by the Tel Aviv municipal authorities. Here we can read the history of the city covering thousands of years until the present day. One may be surprised to see that these signs are written in four languages, none of which are Arabic. More astonishing is that in none of these appears any mention of Arabs or Palestinians who only pop up in one line: “in the year 1936, Arab barbarians attacked the Jewish neighborhood.” More examples of the systematic erasure of the Arab-Palestinian history of the space abound, from the replacing the names of streets, neighborhoods and other landmarks in the city with Hebrew names, most often names of Zionist political and military figures.

An important aspect of the reinvention of Jaffa as an Israeli city, in addition to burying its Arab-Palestinian identity, is Israel burying the evidence of its crime. If we are to accept that there were no Palestinians here, then there were no Palestinians for Israel to kick out. The erasure of Palestinian memory is also strongly reflected in the Israeli education system in Arab schools where the curriculum is geared toward rearing Palestinian youth, ignorant of their identity and history, and loyal to their colonial oppressor.

After the 1948 Nakba, Arab schools came under the control of the Israeli Ministry of Education, through which the Israeli intelligence services play a direct role in the selection of principals, teachers and curricular materials. In social science and humanities classes, Palestinian students in Israel learn about the history of Jewish communities in Europe, the heroic establishment of the modern Jewish state with no mention of the catastrophe that befell the indigenous Palestinian society of which they are a part. Schools are also a site of intimidation against any politicization, especially on important commemoration dates of the Palestinian struggle such as Land Day or Nakba commemoration. For the most part, Arab public schools are largely neglected in the allocation of funding and resources, and the quality of education is very low relative to the schools of the Jewish community. This drove many Palestinian parents in Jaffa to send their children to Jewish schools, a phenomenon that amplified the identity crises facing many of the city’s Palestinian youth, as well as their difficulty with the Arabic language.

Jaffa: the struggle continues

A view of Jaffa from the north beach looking south, 1900-1920. (Matson Collection)

In response to the Israeli establishment’s efforts to Judaize Palestinian space and consciousness, the Palestinian movement in all of its currents has worked to entrench Palestinian steadfastness and dignity. Despite the various processes facing Palestinians in the “mixed cities” that we have described, Palestinians in Israel have remained strong and held our heads up high. For decades, the Israeli authorities have played a carrot-and-stick game to transform Palestinians into a servile minority called “Arab-Israelis,” a minority with no connection to their Palestinian identity, with a collective amnesia of their relationship with the land around them and of the ongoing crimes committed against them and most importantly, loyal to their jailers.

Beginning systematically in the 1970s, the Palestinian rights movement consistently challenged Israeli policies and practices with such mobilizations as the 30 March 1976 general strike commemorated as Land Day, and the hundreds of actions taken in support of the first and second Palestinian intifadas. The movement pushed the Palestinian struggle out of its superficial national and religious confines to an internationalist struggle in which Palestinians and Jews struggled side-by-side for justice. In Jaffa, this struggle has managed to bring about some tangible victories, among them stopping the municipality from transforming the beach into a waste-dumping ground, pressuring the Israeli authorities to build housing units for Palestinians in the city, and establishing independent Arab educational institutions such as a nursery and the Arab Democratic School which opened its doors to students in 2003. This struggle has been the main factor enabling Palestinians to remain steadfast in their historic city.

Today, the struggle continues under the banner of the Jaffa Popular Committee for the Defense of Land and Housing Rights (also known as the Popular Committee against House Demolition in Jaffa) which was established in March 2007 as a direct response to the hundreds of eviction orders issued to the Palestinian residents of the Ajami and Jabaliya neighborhoods of Jaffa. The importance of the Committee’s work soon became clear to its members when their preliminary research revealed that 497 Palestinian homes in Jaffa were under threat of eviction and/or demolition by the Israeli Lands Administration, which had also put up many of these properties — all of them “absentee” properties — for auction. The Popular Committee is made up of residents, social and political activists, movements and organizations and political parties operating in Jaffa. The Committee represents the collective struggle of Jaffa’s Arab-Palestinian residents, and is open to membership to anyone who agrees to its demands and political basis of unity.

A central aspect of the Committee’s work is pressuring the various arms of the Israeli authorities (the Israeli Lands Administration, Amidar, Tel Aviv-Yafo Municipality) to freeze all legal actions taken for the purpose of eviction, demanding that these authorities enter a dialogue with the Committee instead, in order to reach an agreed-upon solution. The Committee also demands an end to any and all sale and auction of “publicly owned” (i.e. absentee/refugee) land, and entering a dialogue with the committee to implement a system that guarantees the long-term Palestinian presence in the city, and that enables youth and young couples to find affordable housing in the city, particularly in the Jabaliya and Ajami neighborhoods. The motivating spirit of the campaign launched by the Popular Committee is the need to wrest recognition of Jaffa’s Arab-Palestinians as a group with a historic rights to the land and properties of the city, and that as such, alternative solutions to Jaffa’s housing problem must be reached in consultation and with the consent of indigenous community.

The Popular Committee also works on information gathering and research mainly from the directly affected residents of Jaffa facing eviction and home demolition; direct action to prevent eviction and home demolition which has involved mobilization of activists to be physically present in homes slated for demolition; organizing popular activities such as pickets, protests, information forums and others; as well as a media campaign to raise awareness about the plight of Jaffa’s Palestinian community in local and international media. We are constantly looking for ways to fundraise both for our legal costs and for activities to enable youth, women, and young couples to find affordable housing. Increasingly the committee has taken on organizing extracurricular activities for youth, and workshops to support women and youth to run their own businesses with the understanding that the economic viability of the community is directly linked with our ability to remain steadfast.

Reversing the ongoing Nakba

Today the estimated number of Palestinian refugees from Jaffa hovers around 700,000, which is one-tenth of the Palestinian refugee population. While most of these refugees are in Gaza, the West Bank and Jordan, many are further away with foreign passports that can enable them to visit what remains of their city. Perhaps one of the most important steps in reversing the Nakba, which involved shredding up the Palestinian body and dispersing us to various far corners of the earth, is to intensify efforts to reconnect this body. If it is not physically possible because of Israeli travel restrictions on Palestinians, the Internet and other communication technology can play an effective role in this process.

At least as important is the international solidarity needed to stop the Israeli policies and practices that constitute the ongoing Nakba. In Jaffa, the ongoing Nakba has brought about ongoing resistance. This resistance may not be able to turn back the clock, and we may not be able to live as if the past 60 years never happened, but at least we can work to prevent further suffering and destruction of our city and our society, and we can work to rebuild the eminence that was the Bride of the Sea.

Sami Abu Shehadeh and Fadi Shbaytah are residents of Jaffa, and members of the Jaffa Popular Committee for the Defense of Land and Housing Rights. This article was translated from Arabic by Hazem Jamjoum, and was originally published in the upcoming (Autumn 2008/Winter 2009) issue of al-Majdal, the quarterly magazine of the Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights (http://www.badil.org/).

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