25 April 2011




(Posted in Homophobia)

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The Palestinian Bar-Mitzvah
By Bassam Aramin
Translated from Arabic by Miriam Asnes
My son Arab is 14, just past the age that his Jewish Israeli peers are celebrating their bar mitzvahs. This ceremony in Jewish culture is a rite of passage that marks a boy’s entrance into the realities and responsibilities of adulthood. And last week, my son experienced something akin to the Palestinian bar-mitzvah.
It was a beautiful day on Friday the 12th of July when Arab went with his friends to the beach in Tiberias. He spent all of his time in the days leading up to the trip trying to convince me that I should let him go. At first I refused—he’s young to be traveling so far in a group without his parents. But then I remembered the regret I still feel about the death of my daughter Abir.
Abir was ten when she was killed by the Israeli Occupation Force on January 16th, 2007 in front of her school in Anata. That morning, when she asked her mother and me for permission to play with her friends after school, I’d refused. I told her, "Don’t even think of coming home late, come back right away so you can prepare for your next exam." And she answered me with the last words I ever heard from her, petulant and innocent. "Well, I’m going to be late." She was angry with me. She was late that day, but not because she met her friends. A bullet from an Israeli border patrolman found her instead, and she never came back. I regret having refused her request, not knowing that it would be her last—that she would be late despite me and despite herself.
When I saw how much Arab wanted to go, I thought of Abir and gave my permission with the condition that he look after himself and be in constant phone contact with me.
Arab and his friends Rafet, Saleh and Mohammad got themselves ready for a day at the beach, and the bus set out at 7am. There were about 45 passengers: Arab and nine of his peers, who range in age from 14 to 17; the rest were families and children and a group of girls Arab’s age, all legal residents of Israel with East Jerusalem IDs. I was pleased with how happy Arab was during the time he called to check in. Arab loved Abir fiercely, and her death was an awful blow especially to him, the oldest of her siblings. I was so glad to hear joy in his voice again.
At 11pm Arab called me and said they had almost made it back and he’d be home in half an hour. But 11:30 came and went. At exactly 12am I called him, angry that he was late. He answered in a hushed voice with words that chilled me.
"There are a lot of soldiers here. The police stopped the bus, we don’t know why, and we’re in Jerusalem —the soldier is asking us not to talk on the phone, I’ll call back later." And he hung up the phone. I didn’t know why they went all the way into Jerusalem proper and where exactly they were in the city, and I was in this terrible state of not knowing what was happening to my son, trying to call him and getting no answer until an hour and a half later when he answered the phone and said quickly, "we are now in the Israeli police station, they’ve detained everyone from the bus, they are checking us all and I am not allowed to talk to you now and they’ll let us go soon"—and again he hung up.
There are no words for the state I was in during those hours, waiting for his next call and dreading it would not come. Then at 2:30am he called again to say that they were at the Maskubiyah detention center in Jerusalem. I asked him why they were being detained, and he said he did not know. I told him, "Go up to the solider and tell him, you have to talk to my father, he does not know where I am."
He replied that he was scared to do so; they’d already beaten many of the kids there because they had talked and talking was not allowed. "But I trust you, Dad."
I told him he was brave, and that he shouldn’t be scared of the soldier. "Talk to him in Hebrew," I said. I made sure to teach all my children Hebrew from a young age. I could hear Arab go up to the soldier and tell him, "Please, can you talk to my father?" But the solider told him to shut his mouth and hang up the phone.
"If your father wants to see you tell him to come here," he said.
I was beside myself. I yelled in my loudest voice, "You murderers! Where is my son? Do you want to kill him as you killed his sister a year ago?" I told Arab to turn on the speakerphone so the soldier could hear what I was saying, but he had a better eye on the situation and said to me, "Dad, don’t be afraid. I am okay. They are going to let us go in a bit like they said; I’ll talk with you soon." And he hung up.
At exactly 3am the Israeli Occupying Forces let the group go, and I waited on pins and needles until 3:40am for Arab to come home. He was exhausted, so I told him to please go to sleep and we could talk in the morning. The most important thing was that he was okay.
The next day I returned from work in the evening to find Arab and Rafet in the house, and I heard what had happened.
In the industrial neighborhood of Wad Al-Joz in Jerusalem, a group of Israeli Special Forces troops on motorcycles along with police and army reinforcements were stationed on the path the bus from Tiberias was taking to get its passengers, all legal residents of Israel, home. They demanded that the driver stop immediately. One of the soldiers got on the bus and said, "Anyone who moves his head, I’ll put a bullet in it." Arab said to me, "At that moment all I could think of was Abir, who really was shot in the head by a bullet."
The soldier continued, "We are from national security." He then told the young men, about ten of them, to begin taking off their clothes in the bus, in front of the women and girls. Then he took them out one by one and had them lie down on the filthy street, littered with stones and pieces of glass. They began with Ahmed, who was 16 years old. Then all the young men had to strip and get out of the bus and lie on the ground. One of them was injured in the stomach by a piece of glass. Arab asked me, "How can they ask the men to undress in front of the women? They don’t have morals!"
I asked him, "Do you think they perhaps have at least some basic morals?"
His answer was definitive: "None at all." I explained to him that humiliation by forced nakedness didn’t just happen to his friends: it is a longstanding problem in the Israeli military. When we were in their prisons without any way to defend ourselves, our guards would take sadistic pleasure in seeing us naked, in humiliating us.
Arab, the youngest of the boys, stayed in the bus with the women and children. Then one of the female soldiers got on the bus and called out to another soldier who he couldn’t see, "Avichai, come bring the dog."
Arab said, "At first I thought that Avichai was Avichai Sharon," my friend and colleague in Combatants For Peace who also is a part of the partner organization Breaking the Silence, an organization that publicizes the barbaric and criminal practices of the Israeli Occupying Forces in Hebron. Arab wasn’t so scared of the idea of a military dog because he thought that the Avichai that he knew would be its master. But then he saw that this Avichai was not our friend, and he didn’t resemble him in any manner except his first name. This soldier would let out the dog’s leash in the direction of women and children and then pull him back at the last second. He looked pleased with himself when the leader of the trip, Um Shams, fainted, and he also smiled when two children, ages 4 and 5, urinated out of fear and terror. The soldiers checked everyone, even taking off the diaper of a baby who was under one year old. "They’re even afraid of our unweaned babies," said Arab in amazement. "They cursed us with all the ugly expressions and slurs they could think of. One of them said that all Arabs are trash—they are racist!" All the passengers on the bus had the absolute legal right as residents of East Jerusalem to travel anywhere within Israel that they please.
I told my son, "Some of them are, but not every Jewish Israeli is like that. There are a few who aren’t affected by this racism, but nevertheless it colors Israeli society. It’s no wonder that the United Nations determined that Zionism was a racist movement over 30 years ago." True, that decision was overturned, but the racism has remained deeply ingrained. Most don’t consider the continual discrimination against Palestinians, be they residents of the West Bank and Gaza, residents of East Jerusalem, or Israeli citizens to be racist. They try to spin it as necessary "for ongoing security reasons." But at least some people in Israeli society see the shameful truth as it is, without attempting to whitewash it. And they are not alone. Recently a delegation of human rights activists, lawyers and judges from South Africa, a country which suffered under the yoke of Apartheid, visited our region. They declared that what they saw in Israel was more than just racial segregation—it was government-sponsored racism, discriminatory policies against Palestinians.
Arab kept asking me why the Israeli soldiers were doing what they were doing to the Palestinians. At one point I thought he was about to explode in anger. And then his voice changed, and he said something very unexpected. "I wish that you had been there with us, Dad. I’m sure you would have taught them a lesson, and spared all of us that indignity. You would have spoken to them in Hebrew and made them understand that they were wrong, like you always do with soldiers at checkpoints, like when that soldier yelled at us at the Wad al-Nar checkpoint when we were going to visit the Galilee. Then, you spoke with him and he ended up apologizing to you and wishing that we could all live together in peace."
Then he said something even more surprising. "I want you to take me with you when you go to one of your lectures in Israel so I can tell the Israelis about the practices of their soldiers on that night." I asked him if he was serious—Arab has always questioned my willingness to talk with the other side and sit down with Israelis in forums like those Combatants for Peace provides. But he insisted, saying, "They have to know what happened so the parents of those soldiers can forbid their children to act that way towards women and children again."
The final indignity of that Friday night was when Saleh, Arab’s friend, had to go to the bathroom and asked many times if he could get up from his prone position on the asphalt to go relieve himself. Avichai refused his request each time. Saleh talked quietly with Rafet, who has a limited range of motion in his hand and left foot, and they decided that Rafet would ask if he could go and Saleh could volunteer to help him. At last Avichai gave his permission to let Rafet go to the bathroom on the condition that Saleh would not relieve himself. Saleh did not know this protector of the security of the State of Israel was following them on their base errand until he was squatting in the middle of his "terrorist operation," trying to relieve himself, and Avichai began using his hands and feet to hit him across the face and head as a lesson to others as to what happens when you fail to carry out a military order. Let me remind you, Saleh and Rafet are legal residents of the State of Israel.
What happened is deeply embarrassing and shameful, but it is the truth. I asked Arab, "Did they apologize to you when they finally let you go?"
He said, "Sure they did. They said to us, ‘Looks like you were naked on the beach in Tiberias by day, and naked on the "beach" of Wad al-Joz by night. Now scram.’" He repeated these words to me with an ironic expression on his face that I have never seen before. And I thought, with an equal measure of irony, "Today, he is a man."

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

(Posted in Jewish and Israel and Palestine)

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It is difficult not to be cynical about those zionist fanatics who still call Melbourne home, but tell everyone in Australia who will listen that Israel is the only democracy in the middle east and it must be supported so that it is not destroyed by the Palestinians and other enemies intent on seeing the end of the zionist state.
Many are of course prominent in the Australian zionist/Jewish communities and assume to act as spokespeople for all Jews and Israel supporters.
Names that come immediately to mind are Colin Rubenstein, Philip Mendes, Peter Cohen, Merv Morris, Michael Danby and others who are so determined to assist that poor little country that they spend their time telling everyone what they need to do to ensure Israel's survival.
What they DON'T do is move to Israel to defend its illegal borders from Palestinian residents of their own territory who, unsurprisingly, do what they can to regain that which has been stolen from them by settlers and the apartheid wall (South Africa never had anything like THIS!!!!!) for the last 60 years!
And the war against the Palestinians in the land of Palestine is already 60 years old and will continue until such time as the Israelis learn that you can't keep on stealing other people's land and then imposing prison terms on them by locking them up in their rapidly-shrinking pressure cookers!! Pressure cookers evntually explode if they don't have safety valves!

(Posted in Jewish and Israel and Palestine)

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TUESDAY 15 JULY - SUNDAY 20 JULY 2008 - GAY WORLD YOUTH WEEK- details as follows:

Join all the boys and girls - all dressed up in dresses and other fancy dress as they dance their way through this carnival week of great atmosphere: Morrie, Tones, Georgie, Ratzie, and all the other gorgeous people, and dazzle the world with the splendour of the event!

Witness also the
featuring the gayest costumes, the campest actors, a fantastic story about some mythical creature who lives in the sky and tells us all how to live our lives and have the greatest, gayest times imaginable! It also tells us how not to fuck with condoms - they prevent babies being made and HIV being distributed amongst the unsuspecting ignorant. WHAT A SHOW IT IS GOING TO BE!
The show that has cost millions and millions of dollars to produce - YOUR DOLLARS - is another reason not to miss it!

(Posted in Atheists and religions)

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Two items received today, 3 July 2008, reflect the growing anger at the Iemma government's approach to the pope and the catholic faith in new south wales - one disgraceful, long, arse-licking, toadying, grovelling, disgusting saga of ugliness in the guise of "security"! Please!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mr Watkins's war on everything

WORLD YOUTH DAY, the mass gathering of mostly Catholic young people in
Sydney later this month, is supposed to be "a happy and positive
celebration of youth", according to the State Government. But it is
shaping up as a festival of intolerance, not so much on the part of the
Catholic Church as on the part of state authorities.
We suddenly learn that under regulations which were gazetted by the
Police Minister, John Watkins, last Friday, the police and thousands of
volunteer marshals have sweeping powers over the behaviour of citizens
at hundreds of sites around the city for the entire month of July.
Police and marshals from outfits like the State Emergency Services or
bushfire brigades are empowered to stop such personal expressions as
wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with a message, carrying out Chaser-style
spoofs, or handing out condoms.
Those who defy orders to desist from conduct that "causes annoyance or
inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day event" will be liable
to a $5500 fine - which, it has been pointed out, is five times the
maximum fine for indecent exposure, though at least the alternative of
six months' jail is not attached.
The assumption that participants in such an event need to be protected
from embarrassment is misplaced, repugnant and dangerous. This is not a
gathering of the world's top leaders, like last year's APEC summit, that
might attract the attention of terrorists and assassins to all
participants. Specific security arrangements can be made for the focus
of World Youth Day, Pope Benedict. If there is a perceived threat of a
terrorist mass atrocity, there are adequate laws empowering police and
intelligence services already. Volunteer marshals would be better tasked
to look for suspicious packages or search bags than vet T-shirts or
decide whether an object is a balloon or an inflated condom.
Naturally, the NSW Government wants this event to be a resounding
success, "badging" Sydney for future extravaganzas. We suspect Mr
Watkins and his policemen are also still smarting over the humiliation
given by the Chaser comedians at APEC, when a car carrying a passenger
dressed as Osama bin Laden managed to penetrate deep into the heart of
the security zone. They should try to recover their sense of humour. The
regulations should be refined forthwith. No one should object to
sensible measures like bag searches, pat-downs or metal detectors at the
entry to venues. But Mr Watkins has gone over the line into enforced
Crack annoyance squad wanted

Thanks to the World Youth Day Amendment Regulation signed by the Deputy Premier, John Watkins, on June 25, doing something which "causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day" could now lead to a criminal conviction.
It is astounding this law was signed off by Mr Watkins, who is also the Minister for Transport. One of the main causes of annoyance and inconvenience in this state - and one likely to affect World Youth Day participants - is the public transport system. Atheism notwithstanding, I pray to God that Mr Watkins will cop a fine under his ridiculous law.
One easy way to identify a bad law, other than simply reading it, is to think about what types of conduct might fall foul of it. And it's fun, too.
First, "inconvenience". My preliminary list of things that could cause inconvenience to participants at World Youth Day includes being ahead of them in a toilet queue, obscuring their view of the Pope, or maybe just situating your convenience store too far away. Ironically enough, excessive security checks can also be a major source of inconvenience, as the citizens of Sydney may recall from the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit last year.
Then there's "annoyance". On pain of a $5500 fine, all mobile phone ring tones should be set to silent until the Pope leaves. All banks should drop their infuriating ATM fees in World Youth Day areas. And if being annoying is now a crime, Frank Sartor and Michael Costa should steer well clear of Randwick.
The point here is that the new offence is built on concepts - inconvenience and annoyance - which are vague, subjective and not sufficiently serious to justify imposing a criminal sanction.
The laws are also deviously authoritarian. What will get you into trouble is failing to comply with a direction from an authorised person: "In the name of the law, please stop being annoying." The law gives a wide licence to meddlesome officials to stop legitimate conduct just because another person doesn't like it. And it's not just the Fun Police: members of the SES or even the Rural Fire Service can lead crackdowns, too.

Governments in liberal democracies should not pass anti-liberal, anti-democratic laws. But they do, more and more, and regardless of political persuasion. Sadly, repressive legislation is one of the few areas where the Iemma Government is not below average. It is simply average.
So what should citizens do when governments fail them? Put simply, bad laws should be defied. But defying a law does not necessarily mean breaking it. (I tend to agree with Rosa Parks, Mahatma Gandhi and Simon Townsend that sometimes breaking a law is justified, something our politicians and even judges can and should recognise … but that's another story).
The Chaser got lucky with the APEC motorcade stunt, not least because the charges were dropped. (Thanks, Nick Cowdrey.) But there were lots of aspects of our "fauxtorcade" that were not illegal. It's not illegal to hire some black limos. It's not illegal to wear a dark suit and sunnies, or a name tag that says "this is a joke" or - as far as I'm aware - to display the Canadian flag. It also wasn't illegal to drive into the green zone, although we knew we would have to comply with a direction to leave.
An attention-grabbing act of defiance can be just as effective as breaking a bad law, not to mention far less hassle. Lord knows World Youth Day is appealing: it's the chance to take on two decrepit authoritarian institutions for the price of one. So if these laws have got you thinking about doing something less bland and boring than writing a self-righteous opinion piece for a newspaper, here's my advice.
First, don't be intimidated. That's what they want. Second, try to be smart about it and prepare carefully. For example, even under this awful law it's not illegal to annoy World Youth Day participants (although you can't obstruct the event) - it's only illegal to not comply with a direction to stop. With the right idea, it may be possible to make a good statement, or even just a good joke, before anyone asks you to stop.
Remember, you're not committing an offence if you have a reasonable excuse - in the end, a court will decide what's reasonable. But if you conduct yourself in a calm and sensible way and try to stick to the rules, you'll give yourself a better chance of getting away with it.
Finally, film everything for as long as you possibly can (mobile phones are great for this) and try to make sure you keep the footage. Even just seeing the ridiculous situations this law creates, and potentially the heavy-handed way it gets enforced, might help turn the tide against bad governments passing bad laws.
And my last bit of advice: whatever you do, don't rely on my advice.
Julian Morrow is a lapsed Catholic, a lapsed lawyer, a lapsed Chaser comedian and a practising criminal. Miranda Devine is on leave.
Julian Morrow
July 3, 2008 Morris Iemma leads a Government whose members have displayed a truly impressive array of human failings. If we limit the list just to convicted criminals, it has harboured in its ranks a drink driver and a pedophile, not to mention a number of serial speeders. So it's no wonder an official visit from a man who can absolve sins is appealing to the State Government. But it's probably also not a surprise that the Government has, yet again, demonstrated bad judgment and made a bad law. Now I support muzzling idiotic pranksters as much as the next member of The Chaser team. But these laws could also be used to suppress the dignified and heartfelt protests of the many, many people who have suffered disgraceful abuse, cruelty or discrimination at the hands of the Catholic Church. That is unforgivable, even by a Pope. The new law offends the most basic principles of freedom (of speech, of association, of conscience) upon which our society - though not the Vatican's - is based.
(Posted in Australian politics and politicians)

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This report by John Pilger on the Israeli assault of a young Palestinian journalist is a must-read item for those who wonder when the Israelis will be held accountable for the human rights abuses they have been guilty of perpetrating on the Palestinians for at least the last 60 years since the establishment of the zionist state. Also for the years before that when the zionists thought that taking Palestine for themselves would solve the problem of anti-semitism and pogroms in Europe and around the world. How wrong could they be?
From triumph to torture
Israel's treatment of an award-winning young Palestinian journalist is part of a terrible pattern

o John Pilger
o The Guardian,
o Wednesday July 2, 2008
Two weeks ago, I presented a young Palestinian, Mohammed Omer, with the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism. Awarded in memory of the great US war correspondent, the prize goes to journalists who expose establishment propaganda, or "official drivel", as Gellhorn called it. Mohammed shares the prize of £5,000 with Dahr Jamail. At 24, he is the youngest winner. His citation reads: "Every day, he reports from a war zone, where he is also a prisoner. His homeland, Gaza, is surrounded, starved, attacked, forgotten. He is a profoundly humane witness to one of the great injustices of our time. He is the voice of the voiceless." The eldest of eight, Mohammed has seen most of his siblings killed or wounded or maimed. An Israeli bulldozer crushed his home while the family were inside, seriously injuring his mother. And yet, says a former Dutch ambassador, Jan Wijenberg, "he is a moderating voice, urging Palestinian youth not to court hatred but seek peace with Israel".
Getting Mohammed to London to receive his prize was a major diplomatic operation. Israel has perfidious control over Gaza's borders, and only with a Dutch embassy escort was he allowed out. Last Thursday, on his return journey, he was met at the Allenby Bridge crossing (to Jordan) by a Dutch official, who waited outside the Israeli building, unaware Mohammed had been seized by Shin Bet, Israel's infamous security organisation. Mohammed was told to turn off his mobile and remove the battery. He asked if he could call his embassy escort and was told forcefully he could not. A man stood over his luggage, picking through his documents. "Where's the money?" he demanded. Mohammed produced some US dollars. "Where is the English pound you have?"
"I realised," said Mohammed, "he was after the award stipend for the Martha Gellhorn prize. I told him I didn't have it with me. 'You are lying', he said. I was now surrounded by eight Shin Bet officers, all armed. The man called Avi ordered me to take off my clothes. I had already been through an x-ray machine. I stripped down to my underwear and was told to take off everything. When I refused, Avi put his hand on his gun. I began to cry: 'Why are you treating me this way? I am a human being.' He said, 'This is nothing compared with what you will see now.' He took his gun out, pressing it to my head and with his full body weight pinning me on my side, he forcibly removed my underwear. He then made me do a concocted sort of dance. Another man, who was laughing, said, 'Why are you bringing perfumes?' I replied, 'They are gifts for the people I love'. He said, 'Oh, do you have love in your culture?'
"As they ridiculed me, they took delight most in mocking letters I had received from readers in England. I had now been without food and water and the toilet for 12 hours, and having been made to stand, my legs buckled. I vomited and passed out. All I remember is one of them gouging, scraping and clawing with his nails at the tender flesh beneath my eyes. He scooped my head and dug his fingers in near the auditory nerves between my head and eardrum. The pain became sharper as he dug in two fingers at a time. Another man had his combat boot on my neck, pressing into the hard floor. I lay there for over an hour. The room became a menagerie of pain, sound and terror."
An ambulance was called and told to take Mohammed to a hospital, but only after he had signed a statement indemnifying the Israelis from his suffering in their custody. The Palestinian medic refused, courageously, and said he would contact the Dutch embassy escort. Alarmed, the Israelis let the ambulance go. The Israeli response has been the familiar line that Mohammed was "suspected" of smuggling and "lost his balance" during a "fair" interrogation, Reuters reported yesterday.
Israeli human rights groups have documented the routine torture of Palestinians by Shin Bet agents with "beatings, painful binding, back bending, body stretching and prolonged sleep deprivation". Amnesty has long reported the widespread use of torture by Israel, whose victims emerge as mere shadows of their former selves. Some never return. Israel is high in an international league table for its murder of journalists, especially Palestinian journalists, who receive barely a fraction of the kind of coverage given to the BBC's Alan Johnston.
The Dutch government says it is shocked by Mohammed Omer's treatment. The former ambassador Jan Wijenberg said: "This is by no means an isolated incident, but part of a long-term strategy to demolish Palestinian social, economic and cultural life ... I am aware of the possibility that Mohammed Omer might be murdered by Israeli snipers or bomb attack in the near future."
While Mohammed was receiving his prize in London, the new Israeli ambassador to Britain, Ron Proser, was publicly complaining that many Britons no longer appreciated the uniqueness of Israel's democracy. Perhaps they do now.

(Posted in Jewish and Israel and Palestine)

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This item arrived by email on 1 July 2008, and is yet another indication, if another was indeed necessary, of Israel's total disregard for the opinions of the rest of the world. Now what other government does this remind one of? Could it be that of Robert Mugabe? The difference is that Israel is supported by the USA because it is that country's staging post for its control of the whole of the middle east, where of course all the oil is! Zimbabwe has none of the above - not strategic, no oil!
MIDEAST: Israelis Assault Award Winning IPS (Inter Press Service News Agency) Journalist
By Mel Frykberg

GAZA CITY, Jun 28 (IPS) - Mohammed Omer, the Gaza correspondent of IPS, and joint winner of the 2008 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, was strip-searched at gunpoint, assaulted and abused by Israeli security officials at the Allenby border crossing between Jordan and the West Bank on Thursday as he tried to return home to Gaza.

Omer, a resident of Rafah in the south of Gaza, and previous recipient of the New America Media's Best Youth Voice award several years ago, was returning from London where he had just collected his Gellhorn Prize, and from several European capitals where he had speaking engagements, including a meeting with Greek parliamentarians.

Omer's trip was sponsored by The Washington Report, and the Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv was responsible for coordinating Omer's travel plans and his security permit to leave Gaza with Israeli officials.

Israel controls the borders of Gaza and severely restricts the entrance and exit of Gazans allegedly on grounds of security. Human rights organisations accuse the Israelis of using security as a pretext to apply collective punishment indiscriminately.

While waiting in Amman on his way back, Omer eventually received the requisite coordination and security clearance from the Israelis to return to Gaza after this had initially been delayed by several days, he told IPS.

Accompanied by Dutch diplomats, Omer passed through the Jordanian side of the border without incident. However, after arrival on the Israeli side, trouble began. He informed a female soldier that he was returning home to Gaza. He was repeatedly asked where Gaza was, and told that he had neither a permit nor any coordination to cross.

Omer explained that he did indeed have permission and coordination but was nevertheless taken to a room by Israel's domestic intelligence agency the Shin Bet, where he was isolated for an hour and a half without explanation.

"Eventually I was asked whether I had a knife or gun on me even though I had already passed through the x-ray machine, had my luggage searched, and was in the company of Dutch diplomats," Omer said.

His luggage was again searched, and security then proceeded to go through every document and paper he had on him, taking down the names and numbers of the European parliamentary officials he had met.

The Shin Bet officials then started to make fun of the European parliamentarians, and mocked Omer for being "the prize-winning journalist".

The Gazan journalist was repeatedly asked why he was returning to "the hell of Gaza after we allowed you to leave." To this he responded that he wanted to be a voice for the voiceless. He was told he was a "trouble-maker".

The security men also demanded he show all the money he had on him, and particular attention was paid to the British pounds he was carrying. His Gellhorn prize money had been awarded in British pounds but he was not carrying the entire sum on him bodily, something the investigators refused to believe.

After being unable to produce the prize money, he was ordered to strip naked.

"At first I refused but then I had an M16 (gun) pointed in my face and my clothes were forcibly removed, even my underwear," Omer said.

At this point Omer broke down and pleaded for an end to such treatment. He said he was told, "you haven't seen anything yet." Every cavity of his body was searched as one of the investigators pinned him down on the floor, placing his boot on Omer's neck. Omer began vomiting, and fainted.

When he came round his eyelids were being forcibly opened and his eardrums probed by an Israeli military doctor, who was also armed. He was then dragged along the floor by his feet by the Shin Bet officials, with his head repeatedly banging on the floor, to a Palestinian ambulance which had been called.

"I eventually woke up in a Palestinian hospital with the doctors trying to reassure me," Omer told IPS.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry at the Hague told IPS that Foreign Minister Maxime Zerhagen spoke to the Israeli ambassador to The Netherlands and demanded an explanation.

The Dutch embassy in Tel Aviv has also raised the issue with the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which in turn has promised to investigate the incident and get back to the Dutch officials.

Ahmed Dadou, spokesman from the Dutch Foreign Ministry at the Hague told IPS, "We are taking this whole incident very seriously as we don't believe the behaviour of the Israeli officials is in accordance with a modern democracy.

"We are further concerned about the mistreatment of an internationally renowned journalist trying to go about his daily business," added Dadou.

A spokeswoman at the Israeli Foreign Press Association said she was unaware of the incident.

Lisa Dvir from the Israeli Airport Authority (IAA), the body responsible for controlling Israel's borders, told IPS that the IAA was neither aware of Omer's journalist credentials nor of his coordination.

"We would like to know who Omer spoke to in regard to receiving coordination to pass through Allenby. We offer journalists a special service when passing through our border crossings, and had we known about his arrival this would not have happened.

"I'm not aware of the events that followed his detention, and we are not responsible for the behaviour of the Shin Bet."

In the meantime, Omer is still traumatised and in pain. "I'm struggling to breathe and have pain in my head and stomach and will be going back to hospital for further medical examinations," he said. (END/2008)

(Posted in Jewish and Israel and Palestine)

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THE PROBLEM WITH PORN..... 19.6.2008

The article below, from The Age newspaper of 22 May 2008, by Seth Finkelstein, is about one type of censorship concerned with the internet and so-called porn filtering. It is interesting that the article appeared a short time after another Finkelstein was censored elsewhere in an act which can only be described as another form of pornography - censorship of an academic and intellectual who dares to be critical of Israel and who was sacked from his "university" of employment in that haven of democracy, the United States of America.
The person in question is none other than Norman Finkelstein, who has been turned into a pariah by the USA and Israel. What makes the treatment of Norman Finkelstein even more appalling was when he arrived to enter Israel and was immediately deported before he had time to enter that benighted country (the country which has the Law of Return for Jews from around the world to come to Israel) , and the fact that a week or two later Walt and Mearsheimer, two academic writers from the USA who have published several controversial articles and books critical of the state of Israel, were allowed to enter Israel and give lectures across the country which were, apparently, well attended!
Whether the two Finkelsteins are related or not doesn't really matter - the one writes about censorship and pornography and the other writes about and lectures on Israel and is given censorship and pornographical treatment by those two beacons of "democracy", the USA and Israel!
Again, a great deal of information about both Israel and the United States can be gathered by reading Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine". It is indeed just that!
The problem with porn ...
May 22, 2008

Seth Finkelstein looks at the insidious control that governments and corporations want over your internet use.
CENSORWARE was never just about teens looking at porn or workers goofing off.
The issue of whether the internet can be censored and how governments try to do it is being fought around the world.
The OpenNet Initiative (opennet.net), a partnership of four leading academic institutions, has published an analysis, Access Denied: The Practice and Policy of Global Internet Filtering (http://tinyurl.com/4v5ofh).
It's a primer in methods and an atlas of studies, and prohibitions are examined across dozens of countries.
The results show that the idea of the internet destroying nations, arguably nations are domesticating the internet - or at least trying hard. As one telling sentence puts it: "A key aspect of control online is that states have, on an individual basis, defied the cyber libertarians by asserting control over the online acts of their own citizens in their own states."
In 1996, during a conference on Computers, Freedom and Privacy, I literally talked myself hoarse trying to convince civil libertarians that censorware (a more accurate term than "filters") would be a serious threat to free speech (sethf.com/pioneer).
Prevailing views at the time were an odd doublethink - that censorware should be touted as a solution for parents who wanted to prevent their kids reading forbidden material but that the internet couldn't be censored by governments. More than a decade on, this book details how extensively governments have been attempting internet censorship.
The book's very existence is a milestone. Over time an issue can work its way up the political food chain from often-ignored grassroots activists to marginal but significant mentions in white papers by think-tanks, to full-scale consideration by policymakers.
And the issues here encompass everything from the complicity of US censorware companies with censorious regimes to the collaboration of information storage giants such as Google and Yahoo! with repressive state actions.
When I speak about censorware, I often try to impress on people that technical architecture is different from personal values. That is, if parents can limit what teenagers can see, then governments can limit what citizens see. And the other side is if citizens can circumvent governments, teenagers can circumvent parents.
But there's a refinement I usually don't have room to discuss. That is, it's arguably futile to try to eliminate sexual material in general due to the sheer amount and possible interest by virtually all (male) adolescents and adults. The number of people interested in, say, independence of Tibet from China or dissent in Burma is by contrast much smaller.
And that difference may make for a far more manageable banning problem. The details of how human rights reports or opposition sites have been blocked are putting this speculation to a practical test. Although it would be ironic if, at ground level, pornography-seeking uses of projects such as the Psiphon (psiphon.civisec.org) social networks-based program or the Tor anonymity system (torproject.org) ended up popularising the programs for political uses.
It's sometimes suggested that we are entering a new internet era with blogs and syndication feeds and massive digital sharecropping sites that will, on the whole, be more difficult to censor.
My response is to remind people that identical rhetoric was heard at the start of the internet's popularisation. And we're all witnessing how wrong those predictions were.
Indeed, there's every reason to expect that similar trends such as centralisation, willingness of corporations to collaborate, the power of the market for repression and so on will be applied to these forms of communication.
The failure of technological determinism just a short while ago should argue strongly against such baseless optimism.
Access Denied will certainly become a standard reference. But it's sadly not clear whether it will be more as a foundation for anti-censorship efforts or as an initial chronicle of how visions of freedom turned into realities of control.

(Posted in Censorship)

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Antony Loewenstein published the following item in his blog after Philip Mendes left his response at SBS after the Rachel Corrie item appeared on that TV channel.
Philip Mendes still calls Melbourne home, but is a passionate defender of the faith - the zionist faith, and he tolerates no dissidents who argue against his passion.
It is still difficult to understand what 6 million Jews who live in countries other than Israel expect to achieve by their "my country right or wrong" approach to the zionist "dream" turned nightmare. Israel is under siege and will continue to be so until it is understood by them, the USA and the rest of the world that they dispossessed the Palestinians, continue to do so, persecute them by locking them in a prison and creating an exclusive zionist state which perpetrates excesses worse than those of apartheid South Africa - and they were bad enough!!!
If these Jews are so passionate about Israel, why don't they go and live there? Israel is, of course incapable of absorbing all the Jews from around the world, even if they suffered abuse such as the Nazis perpetrated during the Holocaust. And for the most part, the Jews are very comfortable in their home countries, where they can take to task those Jews - and others - who do not support their zionist enthusiasms. They can call them names like anti-semites, self-hating Jews, and other terms of abuse, but they can't stop them from seeing the injustices perpetrated on a weaker group by a stronger - and well supported by its external lobbyists - group of rich and powerful political adversaries.
I would suggest that a good educational beginning for people like Philip Mendes, who thinks he has all the answers, would be to read Naomi Klein's ground-breaking book "The Shock Doctrine" which goes a long way to explain who is doing what to whom, and why they are doing it.
There is no two-state solution - there hasn't been for many years - if ever (it was never the zionist intention!) - and it is time for reality to be allowed into the discourse.
Be prepared for some unpleasant truths! Some of us even believe that a sort of genocide is being perpetrated by those very people who were the victims of one of the 20th century's many appalling genocidal crimes against humanity.
Name-calling by the blind
Published by
Antony Loewenstein
11 June 2008 in General and Israel. 3 Comments
Following my debate last week on SBS Television regarding Israel/Palestine and the death of American peace activist Rachel Corrie, the following comment was left on the program’s website by Melbourne-based Jewish writer, Philip Mendes:
Rachel Corrie’s death is no more or less tragic than the deaths of many Israelis and Palestinians in this horrendous conflict. It is unfortunate that some of your contributors wish to use her death to promote further hate and violence against one side. It is worth noting that the ISM which organized Rachel’s involvement is not a pro-peace or pro-compromise group. Whilst the ISM may favour non-violent rather than violent “resistance” to the Israeli occupation, it does not support a two-state solution. Rather, it favours the elimination of Israel and its replacement by an Arab State of Greater Palestine. Hence it is part of the problem, not the solution. I would also point out to Alex from Perth that Bren Carlile from AIJAC is not Jewish. He is actually a Christian Zionist. And Antony - despite his Jewish background - is probably the chief pro-Palestinian propagandist in this country.
The rules of the games explained. Supporting Palestinian rights (and being critical of Israel and its occupation) makes me a “propagandist”. Supporting Israel would make me balanced and rational. Talking about the two-state “solution” for decades, as Mendes continually claims he has, makes him a good Zionist, a figure to be warmly welcomed into the mainstream Jewish community.
One day soon people like Mendes will wake up to find that their two-state dream is no longer possible, the hundreds of thousands of illegal Jewish settlers on Palestinian land unwilling or unable to be moved. Then what?
I’m pro-human rights, not pro-anything or anybody.

(Posted in Jewish and Israel and Palestine)

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When I got up today (Wednesday 28 May 2008) and saw the main news item on the front page of The Age newspaper concerning the ongoing censorship of Bill Henson's art work I felt personally violated. It seems that people in Australia are living in the nanny state extended and intensified by John Howard from 1996 onwards, and which we had hoped against hope would change with the change of government to Kevin Rudd and his cohorts.
How wrong can one be - or how wrong one can be!! We did believe that there would not be significant social changes under a Rudd government, but to end up going backwards and finding oneself living, yet again, in a police state such as the one I left in 1978 (South Africa), is a total violation of one's freedoms as a human being - known as human rights.
It seems as if some of those present at KRudd's talkfest 2020 have felt equally violated, believing that something better would come out of this new government that seemed to offer to listen to "the people", and discuss the social, politcal and economic way forward, but KRudd is just another megalomaniac of the Howard, Keating, Hawke, Fraser, Whitlam, Menzies types with which Australia seems to be overpopulated in 2008.
Censorship establishes regimens of thinking, seeing, hearing, controlled by Big Brother to ensure conformity and brainwashing at the lowest levels of intellectual challenge.
Not only did the Sydney exhibition, raided by the NSW police farce, get closed down, subsequent raids in Newcastle, Albury and other places have resulted in similar outcomes.
We even have the spectacle that as many of the country's politicians as possible are getting in on the act to destroy a famous artist, the Victorian premier being the latest - and everybody knows he is already as unpopular as Paul Lennon!
This has all happened before - very much in the 20th century by all the dictators that century produced - but also by so-called democratically elected governments around the world.
To see it all in perspective is to necessitate reading Naomi Klein's book "The Shock Doctrine" because so much of what happens to us in our daily lives is explained by her analysis of the politics of the world dictated to a great degree by that greatest of democracies, the United States of America!
If it wasn't for the fact that in all my 81 years I have retained some measure of optimism for the future of the world, and also because my personal daily life is one I would not be anxious to leave, I would ask: what is the point of it all?
We feel in some small way we are able to contribute to the struggle to improve the circumstances in which we live, and the mere fact that we have this fantastic tool called the World Wide Web means we are able to be in touch with anybody and everybody in the hope that we may be able to convince some doubters about the rights and wrongs of the global village in which we live.

(Posted in Censorship)

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CENSORED!! 25.5.2008

A new international television series has been launched to universal acclaim. The series is called “Hetty Johnson Investigates” and features a woman who has a grudge against society and is determined to right the wrongs she sees around her.

Episode 1 features our intrepid hero tackling art exhibitions which feature nudes – female actually, not male, and her success sets her out on an international crusade to stop child pornography in areas such as Africa where child soldiers are imprisoned as regulars to fight illegal and terrorizing wars. The other African area this intrepid fighter is involved with in her fight for universal justice for young people is in South Africa, where men have sex with 3 month old female babies because they believe it will prevent them from acquiring HIV or, if they are already infected, it will “cure” them!

We can’t say too much about other incidents in the first episode because it will give too much away. Suffice to say Johnson goes into battle with all flags flying and banners blowing in the wind!

Future episodes planned involve:
1) Melbourne University’s gagging of a public transport spokesperson because he told the truth,
2) Melbourne’s lord mayor Soho, who has banned the showing of two art works because he “disapproves”,
3) Leichhardt Council’s removal of an exhibition from its library because the zionists didn’t like the fact that the exhibition was about Palestine and the Palestinians,
4) the University of Western Sydney because it closed down the communications and media faculty because one of the lecturers was teaching people to seek the truth in the media and not accept everything on face value,
5) the University of New South Wales because it behaved with a brutality unseen in many years to a protester who was complaining about the presence at a conference on “terrorism and the law” of the federal attorney general who was promulgating the laws.

There are so many other features of this new series which make it so attractive, one of the main ones being that it has the total support of the current prime minister, the current leader of the federal opposition, the New South Wales premier and opposition leader, the festival of light (read darkness) leaders and several other “top honchos” of Australian cultural society, or as Jean Brodie would have said, the “crème de la crème”.

With this new series, Australia is advancing backwards into the 19th century at a rate of knots, or as we used to be advised when landing from a plane at Jan Smuts airport during the apartheid years “We are about to land at Jan Smuts airport. Please turn your clocks back 300 years”!

In a Churchillian quote we would say, “Never has so much been censored in so short a time by so few for so many”!

And of course we invite all who are interested in this new series to read the book “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein, which will explain how the world we live in thinks and acts.

They can censor what we see, hear, read, but they cannot censor our minds!

The following quotation is from Sarah, who contributes to the anti-censorship email list on a regular basis. In this one sentence, she says it all!!!
They are developing the technology and gaining world wide support using child porn as an excuse. Then when they are ready they will start clamping down on what they are really afraid of, and that is the common person having forums to whip up anti government support whatever the reason.

Naked Girl – Letter in The Age 26 May 2008:

I can’t wait for the painting over of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Not only does it contain images of nude children but it was foisted upon us by a homosexual! What an abomination.
Brendan L Strauch, Moorabbin
(my editing of Brendan's letter - for emphasis!)

(Posted in Censorship)

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The following item was sent to us by the Middle East News Service and is from an article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald.
Who else, other than zionists in Sydney, would have complained about a Palestinian exhibition being held in Leichhardt? And who else, other than zionists in Sydney, would pull out all stops to ensure the exhibition did not take place.
And Leichhardt Council allowing itself to be so intimidated that it pulled the plug? The whole story is disgraceful and smacks of intimidation of one section of the community by another - scandalous in every way!
Exhibition axed after police visit

Arjun Ramachandran
May 14, 2008

THE decision by a Sydney library to dump an exhibition about Palestinian refugees after a visit by counter-terrorism police the night before it opened has been criticised as an act of censorship.

Leichhardt municipal library was to launch the Al-Nakba pictorial exhibition last Friday. A local community group, Friends of Hebron, had developed the display of photos, poems and articles over eight months.

"We set up the exhibition at the library on Thursday night and the librarian … approved the exhibition, and said that it could be seen by children and other people who come into the library," said Carole Lawson, a Friends of Hebron member.

But that night, shortly before the library closed at 8pm, officers from the police counter-terrorism operations arrived at the library.

A police spokesman said the officers were from the operations' community contact unit and had come only to "say hi" to Friends of Hebron members. "They went to introduce themselves just to let them know who they are and what they are about. [Speaking with community groups] is part of their charter,"he said. "When they got there the librarian was the only one there … they just had a quick chat to the librarian."

But Ms Lawson said: "They wanted to put the fear of god into the library staff and wanted the staff to feel threatened."

The librarian, Marilyn Taylor, would not speak publicly. But the Mayor of Leichhardt, Carolyn Allen, confirmed Ms Taylor later contacted her boss, the council's director of corporate services, David Marshall, on Thursday evening to discuss the exhibit.

They arranged a meeting for the next morning, and a decision was made to cancel the exhibition at about 9.30am.

Ms Lawson was informed of the decision later that morning. "It's the censorship of Palestine - apparently the anti-terrorism squad decides what we can see on the public walls of a library," she said.

The president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties, Terry O'Gorman, said it was clear the police visit on the eve of the exhibition had influenced the council's decision. "The terrorism unit's explanation [of coming to introduce themselves] is unacceptable," he said. "The fact that they turn up as a display is being mounted is entitled to be interpreted as a threat."

Cr Allen maintains the decision was made by the council and the library, and not influenced by police. The council had decided last year that exhibitions such as Al-Nakba would need to be assessed by a panel of councillors to ensure they were not divisive, she said. This had not happened earlier with Al-Nakba because of a "a breakdown of managerial process".

But Mr O'Gorman criticised the library for being "too-ready [with] self-censorship". .

Shane McArdle, a council spokesman present when the decision to cancel was made, said some photo captions were deemed capable of causing anxiety and "undue angst".

But Ms Lawson said there was nothing alarming in the exhibition and that it merely highlighted the plight of many Palestinian refugees in Hebron, about 30 kilometres south of Jerusalem.

"The exhibition was taken down because it was about Palestine, the dispossession of Palestinians and what's going on in Hebron," she said.

She said the group would now look to hold the exhibition at another venue, promoting it as "the exhibition the council didn't want you to see".

(Posted in Jewish and Israel and Palestine)

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Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne
PO Box 1675
Preston South
Vic 3072
Email: josken_at_zipworld_com_au
Web: http://www.zipworld.com.au/~josken

I refer to your letter dated 6 May 2007 (sic) (REF: MF:HE) in which you write to advise of the Rudd government’s attempts to placate homosexual Australians by having “some discriminations” removed, while leaving others untouched.

As Gertrude Stein might have said: “Discrimination is discrimination is discrimination”!

Reform is not what is required – equality is what is required, and an end to discrimination and homophobia.

It is not yet clear on what grounds the federal government intends, yet again, to interfere with the ACT’s attempts to bring equality to its citizens, but it does show that the Rudd government is just as determined as the Howard government to placate the religious right and leave marriage as between a man and a woman. This is, in any event, a biblical interpretation in a secular state and has no place in the 21st century in Australia.

The following definitions might help you and your government to understand the English language a little better:

Concise Oxford Dictionary, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1990:

Homophobia: a hatred or fear of homosexuals

Discrimination: unfavourable treatment based on prejudice, especially regarding race, colour or sex

Equality: the state of being equal.

Gay, lesbian, transgender and HIV/AIDS people demand rights which are the same for all members of the Australian population, in other words, equal rights.

Equal rights are not special rights.

The reforms of legislation by this federal government provide limited "equality" which ends as soon as the current attorney general, no less than the previous one, says marriage is between a man and a woman.

The religious right has got this government where it wants it, that is, no partnership rights because it will break up the religious aspects of a man owning a woman and will be a desecration of the marriage ceremony! In 2008 the divorce rate is at an all time high with more than one in three marriages breaking up after a few years, and many couples living together and choosing not to marry at all!

What gay, lesbian and transgender people want is equal rights, not special rights, and although I heartily disapprove of marriage as an institution, if some couples want such certificated approval, it should be their right to have it.

What this government has done is to provide a sop to those who think they have achieved law reform as recommended by the report of the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission report which advised of 58 areas of inequality in the law, but there have since been discovered to be over 100 items.

Discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgenders continues to be government policy, no matter which party is in government, and none can be trusted to provide equality! Homophobia is alive and well and certainly living in Canberra!

Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne

(Posted in Homophobia)

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As Gertrude Stein might have said of the Rudd government: A DISCRIMINATION IS A DISCRIMINATION IS A DISCRIMINATION!
Today, 30 April 2008, we get an announcement from the federal attorney general that the government is committed to ending discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgenders by altering about 100 pieces of legislation affecting superannuation, hospital benefits and other financial related issues.
They also announced in their most pompous and self-righteous manner: "Marriage is between a man and a woman!"
There is a major problem with their patronising attitude and the revised legislation. Marriage between a man and a woman as an institution has been failing for at least the last 50 years and continues to do so.
What is marriage? Ownership in a heterosexual arrangement of a woman by a man.
Gays, lesbians, transgenders do not want anything other than equal rights under the law, not special rights which is what the government is doing yet again in its discriminatory legislation.
Who needs marriage? I certainly don't! Been there, done that, wouldn't ever make the same mistake a second time, and my gay partner and I wouldn't contemplate marriage if it was offered to us on a platter!
BUT! and this is the big but - many people in our communities feel that marriage or its equivalent legal registration process would allow them the same rights as heterosexuals enjoy - adoption rights, IVF rights and other related rights.
So, what do we get? We get the slop bucket of the Howard/Rudd governments waste material thrown at us as a sop.
Is it good enough? Of course not!
What do we want?
Equal rights!
When do we want them?
Mannie De Saxe, Lesbian and Gay Solidarity, Melbourne

(Posted in Homophobia)

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This was in an email received on 21 April 2008 and is an extension of issues on Israel/Palestine about which I have been writing in earlier blogs.
The Disgrace of Hebron

by Jeremy Salt

(sent by author)
20 April 2008

I was in Hebron in 1984. The only point in mentioning this is because in
1984, Hebron was still a complete Arab city, despite the presence of a
settler colony on its outskirts and the penetration of the city centre by a
small number of the followers of Rabbi Moshe Levinger. The Ibrahimi Mosque
had also been taken over and divided into two, one part for Muslim
worshippers and one part for Jews. But despite these disturbing signs of
what was to come, Hebron was still an integrated Palestinian Arab city.

Just before we (me and my children) arrived, the central bus station had
been taken over, closed down and converted into a military outpost,
sandbagged and was teeming with soldiers, following a ‘terrorist’ attack.
But the souk, the central market, was still ancient. Ancient - it was what
travel writers would no doubt describe as a maze of colorful lanes, packed
with buyers and sellers, a lot of noise and the smell of spices and cooking
food. We dropped in to see Mustafa Natshe, then the mayor, an
extraordinarily hospitable man. We simply knocked at the front door and his
wife let us in so I could talk to her husband about the besieged state of
his city.

Since then, and especially since Yasser Arafat agreed to the creation of a
Jewish enclave inside Hebron in the late 1990s, the city has been subjected
to a form of state-sanctioned racism that can only be called urbanicide. It
is slowly being put to death, strangled as a living organism in the place of
which another one will gradually arise. The market has been closed down for
reasons of ‘security’. In its place stands a ghost market, whose shuttered
doors and lanes, empty apart from patrolling Israeli soldiers, are the only
reminders of what was there in the past. There were 1400 shops in the
market. Hundreds of families lived around it. They and the shopowners have
all gone, driven out in the same name of ‘security’. Their houses have been
vandalized by settlers coming down from the heights at night so that they
can never return.

About 35,000 people lived in this part of Hebron. Most of them – some 25,000
– have now gone. They have not left voluntarily. They have been driven out
by the unrelenting pressure of settlers protected by Israeli soldiers. The
soldiers are there at the orders of the state. It is the state that wants
Arab Hebron put to death and the settlers are the blunt weapon being
utilized behind the official mask of concern at settler excesses to get the
job done. The Israelis hate it when they are compared to Nazis but there is
no other parallel for the settlers of Hebron. They abuse the Arabs as a
matter of course. They scrawl graffiti on the walls. ‘Death to the
Arabs’.’Gas the Arabs’. ‘Arabs out’. In a somewhat different context,
haven’t we seen or heard all this before?

They beat and occasionally they kill. They bring their children up to be
just as deranged as themselves. These little monsters will run up and take a
kick at a middle-aged woman, while their parents do nothing to restrain
them. Outsiders who comes to Hebron to assess the situation for themselves
will get the same treatment. Christian peacemakers have been beaten up by
these jeering thugs. Only last week Israeli soldiers stood by as settlers
threatened and insulted a visiting group of German parliamentarians. They
were called Nazis. Paint was poured on their cars. They felt so endangered
they cut their trip short. What will Angela Merkel, who made a disgraceful,
slavishly sycophantic speech of support for Israel in the Knesset, make of
all this?

The epicenter of this hatred and fanaticism is the Tel Rumeida district.
Most of the Palestinians have been driven out. The small number that remain
live inside the wire cages they have erected around their houses to protect
themselves from the settlers. They are stoned and abused. Attempts are made
to break into their homes. They dare not leave them empty because of the
danger that the settlers will take them over. The novelist Maria Vargas
Llosa wrote recently after a visit to Hebron: ‘Some 25,000 residents have
been cleared from their homes in H-2 zone in five years. In the Tel Rumeida
neighborhood alone, where there is a [Jewish] settlement of the same name,
barely 50 out of 500 Arab families remain. The extraordinary thing is that
they haven’t already gone, subjected as they are to systematic and ferocious
harassment by settlers, who stone them, throw rubbish and excrement at their
houses, invade and destroy their homes and attack their children when they
return from school, to the absolute indifference of Israeli soldiers who
witness these atrocities’.[i] The behavior of the soldiers is
scarcely any better than the behavior, as revealed in testimonies just
published (along with others previously published) by Breaking the Silence
(Shovrim Shtika), a group of dissident soldiers.[ii] The army
has a code of conduct but in reality soldiers can do whatever they want,
including the looting of homes and shops, the shooting of unarmed civilians
and the routine beating of civilians of all ages, including children. The
chances that they will be punished are low.

Outside the city the settlers harass farmers, prevent them from harvesting
their crops and tear the trees from their soil. Behind all of this stands
the state. The settlers are no more than the blunt instrument used in
pursuit of state policies. The official expressions of concern at their
‘excesses’ are rank hypocrisy. It is the state that wants the settlers in
Hebron, that puts the soldiers there to protect them and tells them not to
interfere in the harassment and persecution of the Palestinian civilian
population. The criminal actions of soldiers and settlers alike are
sanctioned and promoted by the same state that Kevin Rudd and Brendan
Nelson congratulated only recently in the Australian parliament on the basis
of its fine achievements over the past sixty years. Perhaps they should be
challenged to go to Hebron to see for themselves.
[i] ‘Maria Vargas Llosa ‘How Arabs have been driven out of Hebron’, the Independent, April 19, 2008.

[ii] As of April 19 the organisation’s web site appears to have been purged of all material.


Jeremy Salt is associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at
Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Previously, he taught at Bosporus
University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne in the Departments of
Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. Professor Salt has written
many articles on Middle East issues, particularly Palestine, and was a
journalist for The Age newspaper when he lived in Melbourne. Later when
living overseas, he continued to contribute numerous articles to The Age and
The Australian until it was deemed that his views ran contrary to the
editorial line of both newspapers. (My bold and italics - josken1)
(Posted in Jewish and Israel and Palestine)

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South African union refuses to unload Chinese arms destined for Zimbabwe 21.4.2008

This article from the International Herald Tribune is the first indication that there are those in South Africa who are not allowing Mbeki to dictate his support of Mugabe to them to adhere to as a matter of national policy.
It is also encouraging to note that a South African trade union is standing up to the Chinese dictatorship and that China is not getting everything its own way in its attempts to buy up the whole of Africa's resources.
And what is in Zimbabwe that China is so desperate to control?

South African union refuses to unload Chinese arms destined for Zimbabwe

Friday, April 18, 2008
JOHANNESBURG: A South African union has refused to unload arms from a Chinese ship destined for Zimbabwe, in a politically charged move challenging President Thabo Mbeki's handling of relations with the neighboring state.
Unions have been highly critical of Mbeki for not taking a tougher line against President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, who is locked in an election stalemate with the opposition over the delay of results from a March 29 election that has raised fears of violence.
The 300,000-strong South African Transport and Allied Workers Union, known as Satawu, said it would not unload the weapons in the port city of Durban because Mugabe's government might use them to crack down on opponents in the disputed election.
The weapons were to be transported to land-locked Zimbabwe.
"We are concerned that the current standoff could mean the arms would fall into the hands of those who want to use military force against the people of Zimbabwe," the union's general secretary, Randall Howard, said on Friday.
"The South African government cannot be seen as propping up a military regime," he said.
Howard said the union refused to handle four containers on the vessel which contain arms and ammunition.
A South African government spokesman has confirmed there are weapons on the ship, but said his country would not interfere in a trade matter between China and Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe's deputy information minister, Bright Matonga, said on Friday that no party had the right to stop the shipment.
"Every country has got a right to acquire arms. There is nothing wrong with that. If they are for Zimbabwe, they will definitely come to Zimbabwe," he told South Africa's SAfm radio.
"How they are used, when they are going to be used is none of anybody's business."
The vessel, An Yue Jiang, has been cleared to dock and unload its cargo in Durban, transport officials said.
China is under an international spotlight over its human rights record and rule in Tibet ahead of hosting the Olympics in August. Violent protests have followed the Olympic torch across the globe.
China's foreign ministry said in a short faxed statement to Reuters that it had seen the reports about the ship, but "did not understand the actual situation."
"China and Zimbabwe maintain normal trade relations. What we want to stress is, China has always had a prudent and responsible attitude towards arms sales, and one of the most important principles is not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries," said the statement.

Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com

(Posted in South African Issues)

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This article, from The Age newspaper on 16 April 2008 is further proof, if proof were needed, that China’s human rights record is even worse than that of the United States, and that is indeed something NOT to be proud of!
China tops list for death penalties
April 16, 2008
AT LEAST 1200 people were executed globally last year, with China leading the way among the world's most prolific users of the death penalty, Amnesty International says.
The London-based human rights group warned, however, that those figures were only minimum estimates. The true extent of the use of capital punishment could not be known because in many countries state executions were shrouded in official secrecy.
"The secretive use of the death penalty must stop: the veil of secrecy surrounding the death penalty must be lifted," Amnesty said in a statement. "Many governments claim that executions take place with public support. People therefore have a right to know what is being done in their name."
In its report, released on Monday, Amnesty said that at least 1252 people had been executed in 24 countries around the world in 2007, 88% of which took place in China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the US.
"The true figures were certainly higher," its report read.
Of the countries using the death penalty, China led the way with at least 470 executions, followed by Iran with more than 317, Saudi Arabia with a minimum of 143 and Pakistan with at least 135, according to Amnesty.
It challenged Beijing in particular to "end its secretive use of the death penalty and provide detailed information about the use of capital punishment" as China prepared to host the Olympic Games in August.
"In a country as vast as China with tight government controls on information and the media, only the authorities know the reality behind the use of the death penalty," the report read.
Nearly 70 crimes can carry the death penalty in China, including tax fraud, stealing government tax receipts, damaging electric power facilities, selling counterfeit medicine, embezzlement, accepting bribes and drug offences, said Amnesty.
In another report earlier this month, Amnesty warned that China's human rights record was getting worse as Beijing tries to present a united front by cracking down on dissent.
China's hopes of winning international prestige by sending the Olympic torch through 135 cities on five continents before the Games have already been severely dented.
The early stages in London and Paris were overshadowed by demonstrations against Beijing's repression of protests in Tibet, and the San Francisco leg was also drastically curtailed and seen by relatively few people.

(Posted in Human Rights)

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