Thursday, July 30, 2009

Arrests in Sheik Jarrah: Not all tours end in arrest - but mine did.

Dear friends,

My friend Sarah is currently back in Palestine (she was there a few years ago as well) doing volunteer Palestine solidarity work. While she is there she is sending out regular updates to friends and family about her activities and what she witnesses during her time in Palestine.

Sarah's writing is informative and insightful and quite irrevent at times, highlighting not only the absurdity of the Israeli state's policies but also their heartbreaking and anger-inducing impact.

Sarah has given me permission to make public some of her emails, so I hope you find them as informative, engaging and as passionate as I do.

Recently Sarah was one of the internationals arrested in Sheik Jarrah, a beautiful old Palestinian neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem, when she and other international human rights workers were trying to stop illegal Israeli settlers from taking over a Palestinain house. This is her account of what happened.

In solidarity,

Not all tours end in arrest - but mine did.
From Sarah:

I am volunteering with the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). This is an Israeli human rights group with a focus on house demolitions both in solidarity with the Palestinians who suffer the devastation of losing their home, but also to debunk the Israeli myths about actions based on security: Destroying peoples homes can have no security justification- instead it is a tool in what the convener of the group, Jeff Halper, describes as the 'matrix of control'.

For a detailed account of the strategy of settlement, this article by ICAHD is pretty exhaustive:

As I mentioned in an earlier email there is a hotly contested area in East Jerusalem called Sheihk Jarrah - it has even made it on to Obama's radar, with specific mention. There is a group of fanatical setters who want to create a new settlement complex in this neighbourhood, which means first expelling all the Palestinian residents, taking over their homes, then eventually razing the area for this new settlement.

Everytime settlers move into a neighbourhood means the Army also moves in to protect them, Palestinians are restricted from moving in the area, and the flavour of the neighbourhood of course changes. This is already a heartbreaking situation for Palestinians who's national aspirations both depend on East Jerusalem as capital for any future economically viable state, but also who's very cultural desire is tied up in this city.

Photo take on day of Sarah's arrest - settlers broke into Palestinian house with the protection of the Israeli military

The other point is that every home taken away from Palestinians is one less home available for Palestinians - not just in that neighbourhood, but in toto. They do not have the option to buy somewhere else in Jerusalem or Israel so they become homeless, or squish in with over-crowded relatives. In some cases, as per the policy design, they will give up their Jerusalem residency and privileges and job opportunities, and instead move to the West Bank. As my Israeli tour guide said yesterday, "we politely make it impossible for them to live here".

So. As the tour was almost finished, we got a message that settlers were in the process of occupying a home in this neighbourhood, which we were just about to pass. We jumped off and proceeded to the house (with a little difficulty as the neighbourhood, unlike the new settlements, is still somewhat like a refugee camp and does not really have addresses).

The home in question is claimed to have been bought by American bingo centre millionaire Irwin Moskowitz, who is integral to the fanatical settler movement (see this article by Israeli peace group Gush Shalom: The sale is disputed by the locals who have a court case pending. This means the settlers should not take any action until the court has made a ruling on the 'sale', but they have tried to move in on several occasions since the legally protected woman living there died recently.

This time they had turned up with the police and when we got there they were already taking to the house with sledge hammers, and putting up a tin fence (not actually demolishing, apparently just renovating). Neighbours watched helplessly. The police are notorious for helping the settlers, and often pretend not to know about court orders until they are presented with a new emergency injunction when a demolition has already started - then they declare the house structurally unsafe and the demolition continues on this new logic!

This was the first time I had observed a demolition, and it really made me so sad. I could feel my heart in my chest, and the tightness of my throat. I wanted to cry with the Palestinians watching the process from the sidelines.

Sheik Jarrah

Anyhoo, 6 of us from ICAHD and ISM (International Solidarity Movement) sat down at the front of the alley way and linked arms to block the path of a small earth mover. After about 20 minutes the police told us to move, we didn't move, so they bodily removed us one at a time. They were very efficient. Five of us were put in a police van and taken to the station (4 internationals, 1 Israeli).

So far, pretty normal Israeli police response to non-violent action here. We expected to be held for a couple of hours and then released on condition not to return to the area for a few weeks. A lawyer paid by the Rabbis for Human Rights arrived and began negotiating for our release.

Three more ISM activists arrived. They had been arrested 2 hours after us for taking photos. They had walked into the area without being stopped, took some photos, the settlers told them not to, they asked why, the police told them not to, they asked why, the police told to leave, they started to leave, they were arrested.

Meanwhile we were separated and interrogated. Some people got good cop, some got bad cop. Israeli girl of course got a major grilling, told she has ruined her life with an arrest, asked why she is a self-hating Jew etc etc. She has to go through a similar spiel with pretty much every single cop, guard, driver, gaol officer, and paper-work processor we encounter, and then again after shift change. Some just ranted at her, several actually seemed to listen to her perspective.

I got bored cop. I confirmed my name and nationality (he had my passport, it was moot), and then for each question I answered "I have no response for that question" - ranging from "what's your mobile number here" to "did you come to Israel to disrupt the police". He told me I was held on suspicion of disrupting the peace and hindering police (I think - his English wasn't great). Then he asked with a sigh if I would sign a document about our interview, I said I wouldn't as it was in Hebrew and I didn't understand it.

After interrogations we were eventually put in a holding area with the police lockers, and were allowed to talk to each other. Our lawyer asked if we would agree to release on condition that we not enter the area for month, we said we would if ICAHD supported it, which they did... then nothing. Apparently the chief decided during these negotiations that we were being held overnight and our lawyer left.

Several people had their phone confiscated at the beginning but I still had mine and had credit, it was our link outside.

Then a new, mean cop came into our holding area and yelled at me for playing solitaire. The Israeli girl translated this as "NO! you don't play cards here, this is not a fun fair. Would you play cards in the police station in Australia?"... well, firstly the police would not have already held me for 5 hours, and if they had, and I had cards, well yes - I would play with them!

When we received a phone call he really spat the dummy and yelled at the other cops "what kind of a police station are you running here? you let them keep their phones all this time?". So that was that... my phone gone, I was now in communication silence. Sorry to panic my boyf with my sudden dropping off the radar there!

In the final analysis, I believe the court found us guilty of something along the lines of obstructing the peace and we are not to go within 500m of Sheikh Jarrah for 3 weeks - if we are caught there we will be deported and the Rabbis for Human Rights will pay NIS 5000 (AUD$2000 - more than they can afford). The prosecutor wanted us to be banned from the whole of Jerusalem and be forbidden from entering Israel for "some time" but our lawyer was very good at presenting case law from right-wing demonstrations where the perpetrators who threw rocks at Palestinians were only banned from the precise location (not a whole neighbourhood) and only for 15 days. She also made the prosecutor look a fool as he could not supply any examples of us being violent, and he could not demonstrate that police were obstructed as the work was completed on the day as planned.

The judge berated the police for holding us overnight which is good for precedent.

The earthmover did go in and do its business, but the media attention meant that the court injunction was rushed and the settlers must now stop (or at least the police will stop protecting them). Last night settlers tried to evict another family in the neighbourhood. There were internationals there, a group was mobilised to attend (not me) and media arrived. The police, with their recent admonition and the pressure of a US delegation apparently visiting the area yesterday, told the settlers to leave. A stay of execution, and a small victory.

Back to me!

Why were we held for so long? (24 hours till the court case, and then another 3 until we were released, then another hour until we got our stuff back)...

Either the police chief was in a bad mood. Or they were trying to scare internationals from taking actions, for fear of spending a night in gaol. In which case they failed because goal is only marginally skankier than my hostel and is mostly just boring. In any case the judge has pretty much put paid to that precedent for a while.

Sarah and Abbey leg shackled together in prison

Timeline of my incarceration (kind of vague, I wasn't really noting times):

12:15 - arrive at Sheikh Jarrah
12:45 - bodily removed by police
1-3pm - separated, interrogated, fingerprinted, waited, read my book, interrogated, advised of 24 hour arrest, paperwork
3-6pm - sit around and chat, phones removed. Fed at 5:30pm (bread, creamcheese, Israeli couscous).
6-7:30pm - ankle shackled to Abbey from Ireland
7:30pm - driven to Russian Hill gaol. Boys processed, girls wait in that room where you can talk through a phone to your loved ones (if they're there, obviously).
8:30pm - bags removed, we're moved to holding pen with gross bathroom. I pee while still shackled to Abbey, sticking my right leg under the door on the left and balancing so I don't actually touch the rim. gross. Female guard who we've been waiting for to search us takes one look and decides she has a call to be somewhere else.
9pm - back to phone room and unshackled. Paperwork starts again. My jewellery and watch are removed (in case I use them as currency to buy chocolate, says the guard).
10pm ? - back to holding pen and individually strip searched
10 - 11pm ? - questioned by doctor to make sure we're fit to be in gaol (are you pregnant, do you need drugs, are you healthy?)
11pm- 12:30pm ? - back to phone room. We're a novelty, they seem to enjoy keeping us there. Eventually our bags are individually searched, each valuable itemised and sealed.
12:30am - issued with prison goody bag: towel, sheet, 2 small soaps, shampoo, shaving cream (no razor)
1am (confirmed by guard) - shown to our cells - I share with Abbey and a Palestinian woman who was arrested because of a visa problem (I think her East Jerusalem ID had expired?). No toilet paper. No blanket, airco too cold. I slept on the top bunk with my skirt as a sheet, but had to eventually crawl under the sheet, directly on the not too skanky mattress.
5am? - lights on, stand up, be counted. That's when it really hit me that we're in prison!
8am (confirmed by guard) - breakfast (white bread, boiled egg, weird jam, olives, triangle cheese). Back to sleep.
10am - due in court, told that we are not going to court yet. Chat with Abbey.
11am - hand cuffed and ankle cuffed. Wait in phone room
12pm - driven to court 100m away (which seemed excessive, until I realised how much those ankle cuffs hurt)
12:15 - 1pm - court case
1pm - back to phone room. Observe 2 old Palestinian men brought in hand and ankle cuffed and also blind folded. Nice.
1:30pm - un-cuffed, back to cell... I have a "shower" under the pipe from the wall. The pressure is good but I have some complaints about the temperature adjustment which got very hot. I do some yoga. We're told we missed lunch because we were in court. Excuse us our foolish schedule! but we have bread remaining from breakfast - bread and water! prison!
3pm - moved to police office next door (no cuffs!) to be photographed, and have prints taken (Right hand, each finger and thumb, thumb again, whole palm and fingers. Left hand, repeat).
4pm - lurk around gaol window waiting for the hilarious guards to drip fee us our personals.
5pm - THE END!

I called my parents who sounded... annoyed. I had promised I wouldn't go seeking trouble and here I am getting tear-gassed on Friday, and arrested on Sunday. But in neither case did I feel that I was in an unusual or dangerous situation. This is the normal functioning of the Occupation. Apologies for those who were worried about me, but really I am fine, and being safe.

Most Israelis would be horrified to think of the tax shekels wasted in processing, feeding, sheltering and guarding us, plus court costs (or in fact it should be Americans horrified that their tax/ aid dollars are wasted this way).

It's time to tell our governments to join the Boycott, Sanction and Divestment campaign, until Israel complies with international law!


Convict Sarah.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Obama and Netanyahu offer Palestinians more of the same

By Kim Bullimore
Direct Action, Issue 13, July 2009

The much anticipated speeches on the Middle East “peace process” by US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month have been touted by the international corporate media as significant steps toward resolving conflict in the region. However, neither speech was a step forward. They simply regurgitated the long-held positions of both Washington and Tel Aviv, which have sought to ensure the ongoing subjugation and colonial oppression of the Palestinian people.

In his June 14 speech at Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu repeated the Zionist position that “no preconditions” can be imposed on Israel in relation to negotiations. He then went on to demand that a raft of preconditions be met by the Palestinian Authority before Israel would consider recognising a Palestinian state. Veteran Israeli journalist Akiva Eldar noted in Haaretz the day after the speech : “Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a patriarchal, colonialist address in the best neoconservative tradition: The Arabs are the bad guys, or at best ungrateful terrorists; the Jews, of course, are the good guys, rational people who need to raise and care for their children,” Eldar observed that the purpose of the speech had nothing to do with the Palestinians or peace; instead it was to “appease Tzipi Hotovely, the settler Likud lawmaker, and make it possible to live peaceably with the settler foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman”.
New Israeli preconditions

According to Netanyahu, “a fundamental prerequisite for ending the conflict is a public, binding and unequivocal Palestinian recognition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people”. Netanyahu’s second precondition for a Palestinian state was that it must be “demilitarised”. Throughout, Netanyahu also made it clear that Israel had no intention of dismantling its illegal settlements, that Palestinian refugees forcibly exiled by Zionist terrorists in 1948 would have no right of return, that Israel wouldn’t define its borders until the “final peace agreement” and that Jerusalem would be the “united” capital of Israel and therefore not the capital of any future Palestinian state.

Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians recognise Israel as “a Jewish state” is relatively new, having first been formally advocated by then prime minister Ehud Olmert at Annapolis in 2007. Prior to 2007, the key demand was the acknowledgement that Israel had the “right to exist in peace and security”. This demand, for example, was stated in a 1967 speech by Abba Eban, Israel’s then foreign minister, to the United Nations in the wake of the Six Day War, in which Israel captured and occupied the Golan Heights, the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. Eban said repeatedly that the key to the conflict was the failure of the Arab states and peoples to accept Israel’s “right to exist” (not as a “Jewish state”) and that this right meant accepting “Israel’s rights to peace, security, sovereignty, economic development and maritime freedom”. From 1967 until 2007, this remained the key Israeli demand in relation to the Arab world.

The right of Israel to “live in peace and security” was recognised by the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) in 1988 in a political statement accompanying the PLO Declaration of Independence. The statement recognised UN Security Council Resolution 242, which stated in part that there should be “respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries free from acts of force”. Yasser Arafat further confirmed the PLO’s position in a September 1993 letter to Israel’s then prime minister, Yitzhak Rabin, stating that he recognised “the right of the State of Israel to exist in peace and security”. The letter also stated that “the PLO renounces the use of terrorism and other acts of violence”.

Arafat's 1993 letter to Rabin

However, Israel offered no commitment to end its violence and state terrorism against the Palestinian people or to recognise the right of the Palestinians to a state or their right to live in peace and security. Instead, it only “recognise[d] the PLO as the representatives of the Palestinian people” and agreed to begin negotiations. The demand that the Palestinians now recognise Israel as a “Jewish state” is the latest ploy to ensure that a Palestinian state doesn’t come into existence in the near future, so that Israel can continue to expand its illegal settlements and create “facts on the ground”.


Netanyahu’s demand that any Palestinian state be completely demilitarised and under Israeli military sovereignty also runs counter to previous negotiations. Resolution 242 called for the establishment of “demilitarised zones” between Israel and an independent Palestine state, not the latter’s demilitarisation. While the issue of possible “demilitarisation” was raised as part of a speech given by then US president Bill Clinton in 2000, it was in a vastly different context. In his December 2000 speech, Clinton noted that while Israel wanted a future Palestinian state to be defined as “demilitarised”, the Palestinians had proposed “a state with limited arms”. As a compromise, Clinton suggested that a Palestinian state would be “non-militarised” but would have “a strong Palestinian security force”, “an international force for border security and deterrence purposes” and “sovereignty over its airspace”

This is vastly different from what Netanyahu demanded in his Bar-Ilan speech. According to Netanyahu, any “territory controlled by the Palestinians will be demilitarised — namely, without an army, without control of its airspace, and with effective security measures to prevent weapons smuggling into the territory; real monitoring, and not what occurs in Gaza today. And obviously, the Palestinians will not be able to forge military pacts.”

Clinton had also called for the evacuation of 80% of settlers from the West Bank and Gaza, for joint control of Jerusalem’s holy places and the “acknowledg[ment of] the moral and material suffering caused to the Palestinian people as a result of the 1948 war”. Clinton called for any agreement on refugees not to “negate the aspiration of the Palestinian people to return to the area”. Netanyahu rejected all of this in his speech. As Eldar noted in his Haaretz article, “The difference between these documents and the Bar-Ilan address is not only that the former recognise the Palestinians’ full rights to the West Bank and East Jerusalem”; “the real difference lies in the tone — in the degrading and disrespectful nature of Netanyahu’s remarks”. This is “not how one brings down a wall of enmity between two nations, that’s not how trust is built”.

Obama’s advice

Netanyahu’s speech was hailed by Obama and the international corporate media as a “step in the right direction”. This is unsurprising given the tone and nature of Obama’s Cairo speech 10 days earlier. Obama’s June 4 speech revealed that Washington also has no real interest in advancing the “peace process”. Stripped of its flowery prose and flourishing references to the Koran, Obama’s speech revealed that Washington’s current Middle East policy is little different from that of his predecessor, George W. Bush.

Rather than advocating a real change in policy, Obama reconfirmed the “unbreakable” bonds between Israel and the United States, while demanding that the “Palestinians must abandon violence”. He made no demand that Israel put an end to its state violence, which has resulted in four times more Palestinian civilians killed than Israeli civilians killed by Palestinian resistance fighters. Obama, like Bush, continued to perpetrate the myth that “Palestinian violence” exists in a vacuum, separate from the greater violence of Israel’s brutal occupation.

Obama also failed to mention, even once, the word “occupation” and failed to call for the dismantling of Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, instead calling, as Bush did, simply for an end to settlement expansion. Obama also made it clear that he had no intention of cutting military or economic aid to Israel if Netanyahu failed to stop the expansions.

Instead, as respected commentator Jennifer Loewenstein noted in a June 5 Counterpunch article, Obama “sent Benjamin Netanyahu the message he most seeks, whether Netanyahu recognizes it or not: continue your colonial-settler project as you have been doing; just change the vocabulary you use to describe it. Then nobody will get upset or notice that the status quo … persists”. Netanyahu’s speech two weeks later revealed that he had heard Obama’s message loud and clear.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Free Gaza Movement: We need your help for our next mission

Dear friends,
the Free Gaza Movement has issued an appeal for financial support and solidarity action in order to help them make their next trip to Gaza. If you can help please contact that Free Gaza Movement at the details below.

Please find below also footage from the latest moments on the Free Gaza Movement ship, the Spirit of Humanity, before it was attacked and boarded by the Israeli navy. The unarmed human rights workers were forcibly kidnapped by Israel and held in prison for several days. This was despite the fact they were in international water and had no intention of entering Israeli waters and posed no threat to the Israeli state or the Israeli military.

In solidarity, Kim


We need your help to prepare the next mission to Gaza

Dear friends,

As part of our Summer of Hope campaign, the Free Gaza Movement was planning to make 3 boat voyages to Gaza this summer, one in June, one in July and one in August. On our July and August voyages we had planned to take into Gaza all of the books that you have sent us as part of our Right to Read campaign (see below for update).

Due to Israel’s hijacking of our boat, the Spirit of Humanity last month, we have had to change our plans. No, we are not backing down. Now, more than ever, we believe it’s critical to continue these missions, and demonstrate the power of the international civilian community to stand up to cruelty, human rights abuses, and oppression. If we let Israel’s attack on our last mission stop us, we will be giving in to the violence that is perpetrated 100-fold against the occupied Palestinian people. The risks that we take by getting on these boats are nothing compared to the existential threats that Palestinians face every day of their lives. But to make this next voyage happen, we need your help urgently! We need to raise a substantial sum of money and engage in considerable outreach over the next few weeks in order to be able to send the next mission before the weather changes and the Mediterranean Sea starts becoming unpredictable.

Earlier Free Gaza Boats arriving in Gaza

Earlier Free Gaza boats arriving in Gaza

Please share this email with friends and family and decide on one or more ways you can get involved. We will not be able to do this without you.
Suggestions for things that you can do:

(1) Donate. You have donated to us so generously to us in the past, we need you to do it again. Please consider making a donation of $100 ( 100 or £100) and asking 9 friends to do the same. Go to: Please do it now.

(2) Fundraise. Plan a fundraiser for the Free Gaza Movement in your home or community. A dinner, movie screening, house party or other could be a great way to get your friends and family more aware of and involved in our efforts, while contributing to our goal of purchasing a cargo ship and accompanying passenger boats to go to Gaza.

(3) Educate. We have volunteers in various countries that might be available to come speak at your school, university or other venue about their experiences in Gaza, the horrifying effects of Israel’s illegal blockade, and what the Free Gaza Movement is doing to break the siege. Consider hosting an event or a speaking tour for the Free Gaza Movement. For help in doing this, please contact us (

(4) Outreach. We would like to get celebrities, dignitaries, and community leaders to join our next mission in order to draw more attention to the dire situation in Gaza and the need for immediate action. If you have contact to an actor, singer, athlete, artist, producer, politician or other public personality, including prominent human and civil rights leaders, ask them to lend their voice and presence to this nonviolent action in defense of human rights. Reach out to your member of congress or parliament and ask him/her to join us. If someone is not able to physically be on our boat, ask him or her for a statement or letter or endorsement.

VIDEO by Ishmahil Blagrove - RicenPeas. Video time: 9.16 minutes

(5) Contribute. We would like to get as many local, national, and international groups and organizations involved in the success of this mission as possible. Approach a local group or organization about donating cargo to send to Gaza on the next Free Gaza boats. One of the two areas our next mission will focus on is education, taking in books (see information about Right to Read campaign below), paper, ink and school supplies. Ask your local school, church, mosque, synagogue, social justice group, or other NGO to commit to this effort. Even primary schools can contribute to breaking the siege on Gaza by writing letters to schoolchildren in Gaza. Please contact us ( about the items that we are accepting for cargo.

The second area our mission will focus on is building supplies. It is now more than six months since the end of Israel's brutal 22-day assault on the Gaza Strip, which led to the killing of over 1400 Palestinians, and the people of Gaza are still living in rubble. Consider approaching a local business about sponsoring reconstruction cargo for Gaza. Please contact us ( for details.

(6) Right to Read campaign. The response to the Right to Read ( campaign has been heartening. In addition to the books that the universities in Gaza requested, some of you sent us school supplies for children, as you know that paper, pencils and crayons are among the thousands of items that the Israeli authorities do not allow into Gaza. Others approached their local universities about offering free e-library and other database access to Palestinian universities; this is invaluable! Also a few authors have donated copies of their books to the campaign; thank you! As great as the response has been, we still have not acquired all of the books we need. Please, let’s keep going! We will start taking these books in on the next voyage. Visit:

How soon we can make this next voyage happens will depend on our collective effort. We are aiming for September/October. Let’s make it happen!

In solidarity & struggle,

Monday, July 20, 2009

What a real soccer match between IOF soldiers and Palestinians looks like: video response to Cellcom normalisation advert

Dear friends,
some of you may have already heard about the Israeli advert by Israeli telecommunications Cellcom which seeks to "normalise" and downplay the impact of Israel's occupation of the Palestinian people. The advert shows soldiers playing a "friendly" game of soccer near the apartheid wall supposedly with Palestinian youth on the other side of the wall.

In response to the advert, Ayyad Mediqa has made his own advert using footage of Bil'in, showing what a real soccer 'match' between real Israeli Occupation Soliders and Palestinians look like.

I have also included the article by Joharah Baker from MIFTAH on the Cellcom advert.

in solidarity, Kim

Response to Israeli Cellcom advert: What a real soccer match between IOF soldiers and Palestinians looks like

Original Cellcom advert which normalises Israeli occupation


Cellcom Commercials 'Clearly Not The Best'
July 13, 2009
By Joharah Baker for MIFTAH

Preposterous' is almost too mild a word to describe the new Cellcom commercial that many Palestinians and Israelis alike are calling for to be pulled. The advert portrays an Israeli army jeep patrolling near the West Bank separation wall when a soccer ball suddenly flies over from the other "Palestinian side", hitting the hood of the jeep. For the first brief moment after the boom of the ball-on-jeep impact, the soldiers go into combat-mode, a hint of fear sweeping over their faces, fingers on triggers. Jumping out of the vehicle, the soldiers first hold still in caution, not knowing what to expect from the "other side," the commander clearly waving his hand to stay his troops.

The final decision is to kick the ball over the wall to the other side (the players who, of course, are never shown). A "game of soccer" ensues between the two sides after one Israeli soldier calls some of his army buddies (on his Cellcom cell phone obviously) to join the game. The catchphrase of the commercial? "After all, what are we all after? Just a little fun."

It is no wonder so many groups – including one on the popular social network Facebook, has demanded that the Israeli mobile phone company cancel the advertisement. There are almost too many offensive and insulting aspects of the commercial to tick off. For starters, the idea that the separation wall can double as a volleyball net of sorts, undercuts and belittles the actual purpose and impact of this hideous structure.

Then, take the fact that the commercial reinforces stereotypes right from the get-go. The Palestinians are never seen, perpetuating the idea that "they" are too horrible or too dangerous to engage face to face. One only has to look at the soldiers' initial reaction to the soccer ball loudly bouncing off the jeep's hood to reveal the great divide between the two peoples. The Israelis are scared – perhaps thinking a Molotov Cocktail has been thrown at them, or at best, a rock. In any case, this is the way the bulk of Israelis perceive Palestinians, isn't it?

But then, the most dangerous part of all comes. Deciding to be "nice and playful" soldiers, they kick the ball back, hardly thinking the Palestinians will volley it right over again. Some may wonder why the elusive Palestinians do not come over on their own to retrieve their ball. Simple. According to the rules of this game, if they try to cross, jump over or in any way surpass the cement edifice they will be shot on the spot (or at best, arrested) for illegally entering "Israeli" territory.
This point opens yet another can of worms. Given that the wall, which Israel claims was built to prevent Palestinian suicide bombers from entering Israeli cities, actually cuts into approximately 40 percent of the West Bank in areas that are conveniently adjacent to illegal Jewish settlements, the wall in this commercial just may be between Palestinian and Palestinian territory and not Israeli at all.

The soldiers in the commercial call up "reinforcements", including attractive young women soldiers to cheer the men on. As the ball goes back and forth, so do the laughs and pats on the backs between Israel's occupying soldiers. Then the line, "After all, what are we all after? Just a little fun."

Actually, no. If anything, the Palestinian "ghosts" on the other side of the wall would much rather find a way to tear down that wall than kick their ball back and forth with an army whose presence there has one purpose and one purpose only – to oppress and occupy their entire people. What Cellcom tried to portray – in poor taste, it should be added – was that this oppressive, imposing and discriminatory wall, can be viewed in no different of a light than say a volleyball net on the sandy beaches of Tel Aviv. That "neighbors" could be "neighborly" if they chose, even when one is an occupied people not allowed to freely move a few hundred meters around a cement wall to find their ball, and the others is a heavily armed, militarily superior occupying army that protects this wall and the illegal settlers behind it.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Palestinians (and conscientious Israelis) find nothing amusing about this advertisement. The separation wall, which has caused considerable everyday suffering to Palestinians not to mention its long term purpose of grabbing as much Palestinian land as possible, is nothing to make light of.

Coincidently (or not), the commercial's release coincided with the fifth anniversary of the International Court of Justice's ruling on the illegality of the separation wall in July, 2004. Cellcom's commercial not only belittled the wall's impact on the Palestinians, it gave it an image of 'normalcy' and, most importantly one of a benign nature, which it is clearly not.

If anything positive comes of this, it hopefully will be the opposite of what Cellcom intended. Instead of portraying the Israeli army as playful and kind and the wall as an instrument of entertainment between two warring neighbors, perhaps the feedback from all those who feel so strongly against the advert will educate those ignorant minds that Israel's separation wall is no laughing matter.

Joharah Baker is a Writer for the Media and Information Program at the Palestinian Initiative for the Promotion of Global Dialogue and Democracy (MIFTAH). She can be contacted at

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Action Alert:campaign to release Palestinian activist arrested in Bil'in

Dear friends,
the following action alert and call has been sent out in relation to the campaign to release Adeeb Abu Rahme, one of the leaders of the Bil'in non-violent struggle against the wall.

Many of us of have spent time in Bil'in have met Adeeb on a number of occassions. He is a tireless and dedicated activist. As the call notes, he and other leaders of the Bil'in struggle are being target in a new wave of intimidation by the Israeli occupation forces.

Please consider if you are able to send through a letter in support of Adeeb.

in solidarity, Kim


letters are needed before Thursday! subject line should be Adeeb Abu Rahme

Adeeb Abu Rahme, a leading Palestinian non-violent peace activist was arrested in the weekly Bil’in demonstration against the Apartheid Wall (see the video, Adeeb is the protester in the orange shirt with the mega-phone ). The Israeli military is charging Adeeb with “incitement to violence,” a charge that could bring a serious jail term. This charge is the culmination of a new attempt to “break” the non-violent resistance in Palestine by targeting the leaders of the non-violent protests.

Adeeb is currently in detention and will be taken in front of a military judge on Thursday, 16 July 2009. The military prosecutor intends to request for Adeeb to remain in detention until the end of the proceedings against him. This could mean months or a year in military prison for Adeeb, who is the sole provider for his family of 9 children, wife and mother.

In the past five years, many attempts have been made by the to break the spirit of the Bil’in protests. Every new commander in Bil’in has promised to break the resistance, using new weapons and increasing the level of violence against unarmed demonstrators. But the spirit and resilience of Bil’in residents and their supporters cannot be broken; every Friday they continue to march and chant against the theft of Palestinian land and the systemic violence of the Occupation.

In the past month, Israeli forces have attacked Bil’in and other villages with renewed vigor, raiding homes in the early hours of the morning to seize suspected demonstrators. Mostly children under the age of 18, they are interrogated and pressured to ‘confess’ that they throw stones at the instructions of the village leaders. The truth remains that village leaders discourage stone throwing and recognize that it is used as a tool by the Occupation to falsely accuse the demonstrations of instigating violence. The Bil’in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements requested the presence of Israeli and international solidarity activists to document and discourage the night raids.

Anyone of the thousands who have marched with Adeeb can testify that despite provocation and serious attacks on his person, he has never responded violently. Attempts to criminalize the leadership of non-violent protests where curbed in the past with the help of an outpouring of support from people committed to justice from all over the world. We need you now to testify to Adeeb’s commitment to non-violence and to hold the Israeli military accountable for trying to destroy the resistance.

Please email your letter to


To whom it may concern,

I was disturbed to learn that Mr. Adeeb Abu Rahme, a leader in his village and participant in the non-violent demonstrations that take place in Bil’in every Friday, was arrested for peacefully demonstrating against Israel’s separation fence on July 10th, 2009 and is still being held in prison. Over the past five years Mr. Rahme and the leaders in Bil’in village have displayed an unshakable commitment to non-violence and dignified action.

Mr. Rahme in particular is well known for his commitment to the struggle for peace through non-violent means and for his willingness to work in partnership with Israelis. He is a respected member of the community. I am impressed with his honesty and commitment to non-violence. My understanding of Israeli law is that the right to demonstrate peacefully is protected. Mr. Rahme should be commended and not punished for his efforts.

I hope and trust that Mr. Rahme will be allowed to return to his family, including his 9 children, wife and mother for whom he is the sole supporter, and community without further delay and that his name be cleared of all accusations.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

International Human Rights Volunteers Needed in Palestine

Dear friends,
the International Women's Peace Service in Palestine is currently inviting applications for women to join them as long term volunteers working on the ground in Palestine.

Please find below the details of how to apply or visit the IWPS website at

in solidarity, Kim

The International Women’s Peace Service in Palestine (IWPS-Palestine) is a team of women human rights workers, who provide international accompaniment to Palestinian civilians, document and non-violently intervene in human rights abuses and support acts of non-violent resistance to end the illegal Israeli occupation and building of the apartheid wall.

IWPS-Palestine is currently inviting applicants from women who would like to join our team of longer term volunteers. Successful applicants will serve a minimum of one three month term in Palestine and support our on-going work outside. Preference will be given to women able to commit to further terms in Palestine (1-3 months). Deadline for application 30.09.09. Please contact: for more info and application form. More information about IWPS see: