Six good news items and more

Mazin Qumsiyeh

In this week’s email, I bring you one bad news item, six good news items, and action calls regarding human rights.

There are a number of actions being organized around Palestine this weekend. They include demonstrations and vigils and marches after Friday prayers in places like Al-Walaja, Nebi Saleh, Bilin and on Saturday at noon at Qalandia apartheid wall-gate (organized by the General union of Palestinian Women meet at Qalandia Cooperative society) and at 1 PM Saturday at Beit Ummar among many other places. I hope people join and act on their convictions/beliefs whether in Palestine or by creating or joining actions in their own countries (e.g. by BDS).

Bad news: The country that set up a high level commission to look into the feasibility of establishing “Jewish colonies in Palestine” (their words not mine) in 1845, and the country that issued a declaration to promise someone else’s land (Palestine) to a third party in 1917, and the country that appointed the first Zionist foreign ruler on Palestine in 1921, this country just changed its law to allow war criminals to enter it without risk of being arrested by its courts. This country of course is no other than the one that also created much of the conflict around the world and drew much of the borders like in Pakistan/India, divided the Arab world, divided many countries in Africa etc. But, Britain is also the country that has one of the most active boycotts, divestments, and sanctions movements on earth. This again shows that countries have good and bad in them and usually governments do bad things and people try to do the decent and honorable thing.

Good news:

1) A-The Turkish government under pressure from its people expelled the Israeli ambassador and his staff (after Israel fails to even apologize for murdering 9 Turkish humanitarian activists). B- The Egyptian people forced the Israeli ambassador in Egypt to flee after Israel murdered 5 Egyptian Policemen. C-There were planned demonstrations in Jordan against the Israeli embassy in Amman Thursday so Israeli government decided to pull its ambassador and staff out. This after people called for ending the shameful “peace treaty” between the ruling monarchy in Jordan and the apartheid state. Hopefully other countries will follow suit.

2) Paris court rejects Zionist attempts and declares boycott of apartheid Israel as freedom of expression and association. The tribunal of the 17th magistrate’s court of the Paris law court, which specializes in matters regarding press rights, the defamation of public figures and the freedom of expression, has given a most important and clear ruling on the right of citizens and consumers to call for a boycott of Israel and its products. Congratulations to our partners in EuroPalestine campaign. We will now redouble our efforts in BDS in France.

3) Netanyahu Congress speech interrupter sues four she says ‘roughed her up’

4) Pro-Palestinian protesters who demonstrated outside Israeli chocolate shops across Australia have not breached the law, the nation’s consumer watchdog ruled.

5) There was a very large Israeli demonstration in front of the house of Israeli prime minister Bejamin Netanyahu calling for his dismissal for failing to deal with political, social, and economic issues.

6) There are hundreds of meetings being organized around the Arab world including in Palestine to talk about everything from the September bid at the UN to the Arab revolutions, to the economic catastrophes caused by neoliberal and neoconservative policies. Apathy is being replaced slowly around the world (including here) by participation and action. One can only hope that this is just the beginning of the long anticipated global uprising.

Rumors of good news (confirmation pending): that the pressures by the US and Israel to prevent a full-fledged show-down at the UN are failing and that Netanyahu will go himself to the UN instead of sending the older and more diplomatic (but equally racist) Shimon Peres. It seems more likely that the submission will be to the security council forcing the US to use its veto and thus lose what little credibility remains (if any) for its hijacked foreign policy.

Stay tuned

Palestinians on statehood: ‘We want action, not votes at the UN’

Villagers who have often been at the sharp end of Palestinian-Israeli relations are skeptical about the UN route

Video on “9/11: A conspiracy theory”

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD

Israelis risk jail to smuggle Palestinians

Jonathan Cook

Jonathan Cook in Nazareth, 23 August 2010

Nearly 600 Israelis have signed up for a campaign of civil disobedience, vowing to risk jail to smuggle Palestinian women and children into Israel for a brief taste of life outside the occupied West Bank.

The Israelis say they have been inspired by the example of Ilana Hammerman, a writer who is threatened with prosecution after publishing an article in which she admitted breaking the law to bring three Palestinian teenagers into Israel for a day out.

Ms Hammerman said she wanted to give the young women, who had never left the West Bank, “some fun” and a chance to see the Mediterranean for the first time.

Her story has shocked many Israelis and led to a police investigation after right-wing groups called for her to be tried for security offences.

It is illegal to transport Palestinians through checkpoints into Israel without a permit, which few can obtain. If tried and found guilty, Ms Hammerman could be fined and face up to two years in jail.

But Israelis joining the campaign say they will not be put off by threats of imprisonment.

Last month, a group of 11 Israeli women joined Ms Hammerman in repeating her act of civil disobedience, driving a dozen Palestinian women and four children, including a baby, through a checkpoint into Israel.

The Israeli women say they are planning mass “smugglings” of Palestinians into Israel over the coming weeks.

“The Palestinians who join us are mainly looking to have a good time after years of confinement under the occupation, but for us what is most important is our act of defiance,” said Ofra Lyth, who helped establish an online forum of supporters after attending a speech by Ms Hammerman.

“We want to overturn this immoral law that gives rights to Jews to move freely around while keeping Palestinians imprisoned in their towns and villages,” she said, referring to regulations that bar most Palestinians in the occupied territories from entering Israel, and Israelis from assisting them. Exceptions are made for Palestinians with permits, sometimes issued for a medical emergency or to some labourers with security clearance.

For the Palestinian women, though, it is not about making a statement or defying an unjust law, said Ms Lyth.

“The Palestinian women tell us: ‘Go ahead and make your political point, but for us we’re breaking the law so that we can enjoy ourselves and remember how life was before the checkpoints and the wall.’ One woman told me: ‘I just want to be able to breathe again’.”

For Palestinians in the West Bank, it is not often easy to breathe. The territory is home to a growing population of 300,000 Jews in more than 100 settlements. The settlers are able to drive into Israel on roads that the army oversees with checkpoints.

It was through one such settler crossing, near Beitar Ilit, south of Jerusalem, that Ms Hammerman took the three Palestinian teenagers this year.

For their protection, she has not identifed the young women or the West Bank village where they live. She refers to the women as Aya, Lin and Yasmin. They, too, could face jail for breaking the law.

In Ms Hammerman’s article, published in the Haaretz newspaper in May, she admitted that she was aware her actions were illegal.

She told the women, who were 18 and 19, to take off their hijabs for the day and dress in western-style clothes to avoid attracting attention from soldiers at the checkpoint. She also taught them an easy Hebrew phrase — Hakull beseder, or “Everything is okay” — in case a soldier spoke to them.

She then took them on a tour of Tel Aviv, visiting the city’s university, a museum, a shopping mall and the beach, which she noted none of them had ever seen even though it is only about 40km from their village.

Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, said Israel introduced a permit system to limit Palestinian movement out of the West Bank in the early 1990s – about the time the young women were born.

Ms Hammerman wrote that the only dangerous moment during the trip was when a plain-clothes policeman stopped them and asked for the women’s identity cards. Ms Hammerman lied to the officer, telling him that the women were Palestinians from East Jerusalem and therefore entitled to enter Israel.

In June, Yehuda Weinstein, the attorney general, was reported to have approved a police investigation of Ms Hammerman after a settler organisation, the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel, complained.

The ranks of Ms Hammerman’s supporters have swollen since the group placed an advertisement, titled “We refuse to obey”, in Haaretz this month. The ad said the group was “acting in the spirit of Martin Luther King”, the US civil rights leader, and demanded that Palestinians be treated as “human beings, not terrorists”.

Over the past week, the online forum has attracted more than 590 Israelis signing up to repeat Ms Hammerman’s act of civil disobedience.

“That has really surprised and encouraged me,” she said. “I did not realise there were so many other Israelis who have had enough of this outrageous law.”

Still, the coverage of Ms Hammerman and her supporters in the Israeli media has been largely hostile. During a television interview last week, she was accused of endangering Israelis with her trips. The show’s host, Yaron London, asked whether she had inspected the Palestinian women’s underclothes for explosives before allowing them into her car.

She will will not be deterred, though. She said the group had discussed future trips for Palestinians, including taking them to pray at al-Aqsa, the mosque in Jerusalem that has been inaccessible to most Palestinians for at least a decade, and visits to Palestinian relatives they cannot see in Jerusalem and Israel.

“We need to get Israelis meeting Palestinians again, having fun with them and seeing that they are human beings with the same rights as us.”

She said her immediate goal was to kick-start a discussion among Israelis about the legality and morality of Israel’s laws and challenge the public’s “blind obedience” to authority.

Ms Lyth added that the Palestinian women “who have gone on our trips are the heroes of their village. They and their families know they are taking a big risk in breaking the law, but harassment is part of their daily lives anyway”.

Till now the trips have been restricted to smuggling Palestinian women and children only, said Ms Hammerman. “It is harder to bring men in without being discovered and the authorities would be likely to treat Palestinian men much more harshly if they were caught.”

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is

A version of this article originally appeared in The National (, published in Abu Dhabi.