“Demo-Karasy” ” ديمو الكراسي “: Qadafi breaks it down

A hilarious (and sad) video by dictator-unnyfan Qaddafi, in which he deconstructs the word “democracy”, alleging it is of Arabic origin and consists of two words: ديمو الكراسي “demo” (keep/retain forever) “karasy” (seats”)…in others words, he argues, democracy means that leaders should stay in power indefinitely. Watch how the anchor can’t help but laugh at the response.

March 15

A media release from the Stop the Wall Campaign regarding tomorrow’s planed Palestinian unity protests…

March 15 protests: Palestinian youth for unity and PLO reform

Date: Tuesday, March 15 2011
Time: 1 pm
Place: Ramallah, al Manara and central squares, West Bank and Gaza cities

Palestinian youth, inspired by the uprisings across the Arab world, have called for mobilizations which will take place in the main squares in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as in some cities around the world.

In their statements and calls, the March 15 Group (Gaza and West Bank), the June 5 Group (West Bank and Gaza), Youth for Change (Gaza) and student groups have all demanded for an end to the divisions within Palestinian politics, and in particular between the West Bank and Gaza. Moreover, they add in one of their statements:

“As youth we demand a radical solution and not the maintenance of the status quo. First of all, we demand that elections for a new National Council of the PLO are held and that they are implemented through an electoral mechanism that guarantees the participation of all parts of the Palestinian people around the world (the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Palestinians inside the Green Line, the refugees, and Palestinians in the Diaspora).

[…]This is our day to clearly demand elections for the Palestinian National Council as a beginning to reorganize our ranks internally and rebuild our national project with the aim of resisting Israeli oppression in all its forms.”

In their words, this mobilization is set to challenge the current mood of defeatism within parts of the Palestinian liberation movement and push for efforts on all levels to guarantee Palestinian inalienable rights, including the right to self-determination, an end to Israeli occupation, colonization and apartheid, as well as the right of the refugees to return to their homes.

They finally caution of attempts by some groups to endorse the activities of March 15 in the interest of partisan political goals.

Palestine calling

Over the past few weeks, I was asked a lot of questions, but perhaps none more than -what about Palestine? Why aren’t the youth rising up there?

Besides the fact that Palestine is a different paradigm altogether-what with an Israeli occupying regime on one hand-and two pseudo non-sovereign governments on the other, we also have the precedent of Palestinians already having risen up-twice (first and second Intifadas) against the Israeli Occupation-and setting the example for the first truly democratic elections in the Arab Middle East in 2006, which in and of itself a monumental act of change by the people.

Still, Palestinians are rising up-again. This time it is to demand the end of Palestinian disunity whose effects are felt deep within Palestinians society and families everywhere. Of course how we got there is important-it was the result of the CIA and regional sabotage of the Palestinian unity government brokered in Saudi Arabia and elections that took place years earlier. Which goes to show, change isn’t easy, and its not always what you expect; but “power concedes nothing without a struggle”…

Nevertheless, this was history, and here we are today, two Palestinians governments, both of whose terms have expired; a blockade on Gaza; and a continuing and ever-more viscous occupation. Palestinians have had enough-and view the first step towards true liberation from the Israeli apartheid regime as Palestinians unity; getting our house in order; defeating the self-defeatism and apathy and disillusionment that has slowly engulfed Palestinian society. In line with this hundreds of Palestinians took to the streets of Gaza City today, and hundreds more began camping out in Ramallah’s Manara Square, in anticipation of tomorrow’s planned March 15 protests for Palestinian Unity, according to fellow bloggers and tweeps.


Palestinian protesters call for unity of factions in Gaza City. Picture by Ibtiahl Aloul

Among the demands (besides the obvious call for Palestinian Unity and Reconciliation) are:

-The release of all political prisoners held by the government in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
-Full democratic representation for Palestinians all over the world-Gaza Strip, West Bank, 48 territories, refugee camps, and in the Diaspora (*remember, based on the Oslo principles, only Palestinians with Israeli-issued Apartheid ID cards who were physically present in the Occupied Territories could vote; no refugees on the outside; not even Palestinians stranded due to border closures, as I was at the time of the presidential elections).
-A complete overhaul of the PNC’s structures and the establishment of new electoral procedures.

There are several groups involved in organizing the decentralized protests, including the March 15 Group (Gaza and West Bank), the June 5 Group (West Bank and Gaza), Youth for Change (Gaza) student groups, and Palestinians in diaspora. Many issues statements specifically decrying attempts by either Palestinian government (both of which have vowed to allow them to continue unhindered) to co-opt the protests and consider the protests a first step on the path to achieving true liberation from Israeli Apartheid:

We affirm that the March 15th movement is by the people for the people, and is independent of any political party or institutional backing. It is being organized by non-partisan youth groups who dream of a better future for their people.

We invite all Palestinians, and particularly Palestinian youth, to come down to the street on March 15th. We will only carry Palestinian flags, and chant and sing for freedom, unity, and justice. March 15th shall be the day we stand in unity to demand democratic representation for all Palestinians as an affirmative step in our struggle for Freedom from Israeli Apartheid.

Goldstone’s betrayal

Much to comment on. I have been sadly observing, reading, contemplating recent events in Gaza, Palestine, the larger Middle East…here are my thoughts on the Goldstone about-face. A version of this op-ed was published in the Baltimore Sun on Monday April 2011.

On April 3, Judge Richard Goldstone, chairman of the fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict of 2009, published an op-ed in The Washington Post reconsidering one of the allegations in the report: that Israel intentionally targeted Palestinian civilians during the assault.

Judge Goldstone’s co-authors, Hina Jilani, Christine Chinkin and Desmond Travers, sharply disagreed with him in a statement issued in the Guardian on April 14. In it, they stood by the report in its entirety, saying “there is no justification for any demand or expectation for reconsideration of the report as nothing of substance has appeared that would in any way change the context, findings or conclusions…”

The report was the final product of an independent, international fact-finding mission established during the assault to investigate violations in connection with the conflict. It found that Israel had a policy of deliberately targeting civilians, willfully causing great suffering to protected peoples, using civilians as human shields, and using disproportionate force against civilians, willfully and wantonly killing and maiming people, and destroying property (the Dahiya Doctrine policy that was also applied in Lebanon in 2006). The Mission also concluded that the assault was collective punishment directed at “the people of Gaza as a whole” and was not solely a “response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self-defence” as the Israeli government claimed, due in part to statements by Israeli leaders themselves (‘destroy 100 homes for every rocket fired’ said Eli Yishai).

To recap: Two years ago, Israeli forces unleashed a torrent of U.S.-supplied war planes, tanks and naval ships, unloading tons of bombs and flesh-searing white phosphorus shells against the men, women and children of the besieged Gaza Strip. Its residents, of whom 800,000 are children and more than 80 percent U.N.-registered refugees, had nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

“They destroyed everything living and beautiful and ordinary,” recalled my father, a retired physician who survived the onslaught, along with my mother, in the imposed darkness of their Gaza City home.

By the time the three-week assault known as Cast Lead had ended on Jan. 18, 2009, more than 1,400 Palestinians were dead. Around 5,300 remain permanently wounded. The attacks, planned more than six months in advance by the admission of Israeli politicians, targeted and destroyed critical infrastructure such as water treatment and electrical plants, farms and factories, schools, mosques and municipal buildings. More than 50,000 people were displaced.

Yet no one has been held accountable — unless you count one soldier who got 71/2 months for credit card theft and two soldiers who got suspended sentences for using a 9-year-old child as a human shield.

The Goldstone Report meant to accomplish accountability, reporting not only on the destruction and massacres committed during the Gaza attack but calling for an examination of the intent of senior leaders and for action against perpetrators of war crimes.

But Judge Goldstone’s op-ed is an affront to the rights of victims, both Palestinian and Israeli, and our desire — our right — to truth and justice.

Palestinians feel abandoned by Judge Goldstone. Here is a leading advocate for human rights giving every impression of deserting a civilian and refugee population — particularly the Samouni family, which lost 29 members over several terrifying days, but also Palestinians like Dr. Ezzeldeen Abu al-Aish, who was present when three daughters and a niece were killed by Israeli shelling.

Meanwhile, the Israeli army continues to operate with complete impunity, killing 19 Palestinians in Gaza earlier this month. On Jan. 10, they shot dead a 65-year-old farmer tending to his land along Gaza’s border — a repeat of an incident I reported in September, when Israeli forces killed a 92-year-old shepherd, his 14-year-old grandson and his 17-year-old friend with a series of artillery shells, even though they were clearly visible (by the army’s own admission days later).

It merits reminding that the Goldstone Report had many other damning conclusions, including finding that the ongoing blockade of Gaza constitutes a violation of Israel’s obligations as an occupying power. The blockade deprives Palestinians of their most basic freedoms: freedom to build, to move in and out of one’s home to the rest of the occupied Palestinian Territories or to the world, to fish more than three miles out to sea, to marry who you want and live where you want, to study, to read, to farm, to build, to live, to prosper. It dysfunctionalizes life and cripples livelihoods.

There has been plenty written in the past two weeks about Judge Goldstone. Some say he buckled under pressure after being ostracized from the Jewish community. Some say he had a change of mind and others that he actually did not retract much.

One thing is certain: Though Judge Goldstone’s opinion may have changed on the deliberateness of Israel’s killings, the facts on the ground and the eyewitness testimonies one hears on every corner of the Gaza Strip have not. They are the greatest evidence.

The need to hold Israel accountable for its crimes and to implement the recommendations of the Goldstone Report have never been more salient. To quote Judge Goldstone himself, “the debate should continue, not attempt to be silenced.”

To Gaza, With Love

One of a series of videos created by solidarity activists in NYC in preparation for the June flotilla to Gaza, the Audacity of Hope. A new one featuring Noura Erekat and I is coming soon.