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jailed for "talking too much" in Israel

Jamal Juma’, coordinator of the Palestinian grass-roots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, writes about trying to bring about non-violent change while living under Israeli oppression:

Yet, every Friday, Palestinian villagers losing precious agricultural land to Israel’s wall turn out to protest peacefully. Unarmed farmers and entire families march to defend their lands. They do so though 16 have been killed, many just kids. They continue to show up though thousands have been injured.

In October, I expressed concern over the arrest of my colleague Mohammed Othman. Shortly before his arrest, Israeli soldiers at a West Bank checkpoint took him aside and warned, “We’re going to arrest you, but it’s difficult with you because all you do is talk.” I wrote then, “If talking is a crime, if urging the international community to hold Israel accountable for theft of our land is a crime, then we all are vulnerable.”

Less than two months later I, too, was sitting in an Israeli prison cell – for talking too much.

As they dragged me from my house, Israeli occupation forces threatened my family’s well-being, saying they would only see me again after a prisoner exchange.

Because we Palestinians are under military occupation, where military decrees sharply limit political activity, the struggle for our most basic human rights is, by default, criminalized. Once arrested, protesters do not face civil courts, but military courts which blatantly violate international standards of fair trial.

Meanwhile, the U.S. continues to enable Israel's oppression and theft of land to the tune of $5.5 billion annually, fueling more anti-American feeling in the Middle East.

I've been thinking for a while that there are (at least) two unlikely pre-conditions that must be met before there will be peace in this region:

  1. The existence of Israel must be recognized a fait accompli. It has no special "right to exist" any more than than did the U.S.S.R., Austria–Hungary, or any of the other nations that have come and gone; but the people living there now are there and, so long as they respect the rights of others, have the right to be free from violence. This does not mean that the Palestinian people give up the right of self-defense.
  2. The existence of Israel must be recognized and admitted to be based on a huge crime, dating back to the 1917 Balfour Declaration when the U.K. decided it could exploit the Zionist movement for its own geopolitical benefit by supporting a "the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people," and never mind all the people already living there. This does not mean that the people of Israel all have to pack up and leave, any more than the fact that the United States was founded on the genocide of the Native peoples means that I need to move to the homeland of my ancestors.

But so long as so many Americans believe that Palestine was essentially empty until Israel was formed, and so many Palestinians still think it's possible to expel the invaders, and so many Israelis actually believe that they have some divine right to that land, and so long as we ignore the fact that most of the trouble can be traced to the goddamn British Empire and fail to demand aid and compensation for the region from the U.K., the blood and the tears will continue.



The Arab world *might* have gone for the okey-doke on Israel *if* the Allied powers had kept their words. In order to get the Arabs to join the fight on the Allied side (instead of siding with the Ottomans and the Germans), the Allies more-or-less promised various groups of Arabs that the Hejaz would be Arab-governed. The McMahon-Husayn correspondence put at least some of these promises in black and white: the Hejaz for Arabs, modulo a chunk of Palestine (for the Jews) and a long-term lease on Mesopotamia (for Britain's oil supplies).

Instead, the post-Great War negotiations left the British holding mandates in Palestine, Trans-Jordan, and Mesopotamia, and the French overseeing Syria and Lebanon. Lebanon (I think) expressed a preference that, if it had to be under mandate, that the US hold its mandate, but we had not declared war on the Ottomans, and we hadn't ratified the Treaty of Versailles. We might have f'd up, but it'd be hard to imagine f'ing up as badly as the French: the first Governor-General they appoited to Lebanon seemed to think himself the reincarnation of a Frankish Crusader.

The Arab world oppresses it's people and seizing land from others repeatedly. After the return of the Sinai to Egypt in the 1980's , the Egyptians threw Beduins who had been swelling on the coast for ages off the land to develop by private companies. The writer has no place to criticize the crime of Israel The birth of Israel was born out of the desperaion of the Jews escaping extermination. Not everything was done ethically and the two sides need to figure out how to work it out. the Palestinians could benefit from a relationship with the Israelis in a peaceful time. Expressing hate and vitrolic perpetuates the problem.

Do you not see some irony between your first sentence, where you make hateful sweeping statements about the entire Arab world, and your last, where you claim that expressing hate perpetuates the problem?

How do the actions of Egypt justify the oppression of Palestinians by Israel?

It's funny how apologists for Israel want the world to forgive and forget the violent crimes committed in that nation's founding as "born out of desperation", and yet condemn -- to the point of being willing to violate human rights -- Palestinians who commit violent crimes out of desperation.

All people have the place to criticize crimes done against our fellow human beings. Or do you think that only Jews have a place to criticize the Holocaust, that only Americans have the right to condemn the 9/11 attacks, that you have to live in Darfur to speak of the crimes of the Janjaweed?

Tom Swiss - proprietor,

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