Monday, 15 February 2010

An Attack on Peaceful Protest - Israel's Answer to 'Terrorism'

This is an important article as is the report below about the denial of visas.

The ‘expert’ pundits in the West never tire of saying that if the Palestinians stopped resorting to ‘terrorism’ then all would be fine. If only Palestinians wouldn’t fire those rockets then Gaza would not be under siege.

Of course the reason why Israel has laid siege to Gaza and why Mubarak has joined them is simple. The Palestinians in 2006 elected the wrong people to government.

Comparison is often made with Ghandi in India and how the Palestinians should follow suit. Leaving aside that the creation of the myth about Ghandi’s non-violence was a British myth, including the starvation of over 2 million people in Bengal during the war and the fierce British reprisals against the Quit India movement, Israel has made it clear that violence or no violence, it wants Palestinian out of Israel or confined to becoming hewers of wood and drawers of water.

The article below from the liberal Israeli Ha’aretz gives the lie to this idea. In fact there is nothing Israel loves more than violence from its opponents. It provides the ideal excuse for Israel to launch another war.

In Bi’ilin, where protesters have waged a campaign for over 3 years, obtaining in the process one of those rare things, a favourable decision of Israel’s High Court to reroute the Apartheid Wall which is cutting off the villagers from their land, Israel has waged a bitter war against the protest campaign. One Palestinian demonstrator was shot at point blank range with a tear gas grenada, killing him. Others have been arrested at the dead of night, incarcerated for months on end and tortured. But the will of the people is such that they have not backed down.Finally the Israeli army has begun to implement the High Court decision (in Israel the army decides whether to comply with a court decision, there is nothing to stop them flouting a decision and this they have also done).

But whilst the right of the Palestinians to use violence against their oppressors is an inherent right belong to any occupied people, tactically it makes sense, given the massive disparity in force of arms, for the Palestinians to use peaceful protest to make their point and show who are the real aggressors in this situation.Extremely worry also is the short report below the Ha’aretz article. Israel is now refusing to issue work visas to the 120 NGOs in the West Bank. Now they must have tourist visas and it seems clear that Israel is actively trying to clear NGOs out of the occupied territories.

Tony Greenstein

Israeli security forces have recently intensified their fight against peace activists from here and abroad who seek to protest against the occupation and identify with the Palestinian inhabitants. This week, Israeli soldiers raided the Ramallah offices of the International Solidarity Movement a number of times. They arrested two activists – one a Spanish citizen and the other an Australian. They confiscated office equipment, T-shirts and bracelets bearing the word “Palestine.” They also raided the offices of Stop the Wall and the Palestinian Communist Party in Ramallah.

According to data provided by the activists, since December, Israeli forces have undertaken more than 20 nighttime raids on the villages of Na’alin and Bil’in and have arrested more than 30 people. They are all suspected of taking part in protests against the separation fence, which invades these villages and very severely harms the inhabitants’ welfare. None of them were charged with involvement in terror operations or criminal activities to justify persecuting, arresting and deporting them.

At the same time, the Israel Police used force to suppress protests identifying with the Palestinians in East Jerusalem’s Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood; these Palestinians had been forced to vacate their homes. Dozens of protesters are arrested every week and brought to court. All these steps were taken to deter human rights activists from implementing their right to free speech – the life’s breath of a democratic society.Out of a passion to root out protest, the Israel Defense Forces was sent into parts of Area A, which is under full control of the Palestinian Authority. Entering these areas breaches the Oslo Accords and damages the prestige of the moderate Palestinian leadership, that same leadership that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continually offers “good neighborliness.”

More serious is that members of the Interior Ministry’s Oz unit joined the “assault” on Ramallah. Oz repeated the trick of arresting foreign activists on the pretext that they were illegal labor immigrants. Although a Jerusalem court ordered them freed, we needed a ruling by the High Court of Justice and the intervention of the governments of the two detained activists to redress the distortion and release them.

It could be expected that a country that has ruled another nation for many years would show tolerance toward manifestations of unarmed protest against the occupation and its ills. The state should also respect the right of other countries’ citizens to show solidarity with the local people and join protests alongside Israeli and Palestinian activists.The harassment of individuals who do not toe the line and posters in the streets that incite against human rights groups should arouse concern in the heart of every Israeli. The suppression of public protest under the transparent guise of protecting state security does not augment Israel’s international standing. Such a policy gives a bad name to “the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Attack on NGOs

Officials at the top of government must instruct the security forces and the Interior Ministry to immediately stop these heavy-handed attacks on nonviolent protest.The Israeli interior ministry has stopped issuing work permits to foreigners working for international non-governmental organisations (NGOs). In the last few weeks, NGO staff have been given tourist visas instead, making it virtually impossible for them to carry out their work.The new Israeli policy affects 120 international NGOs, many of which provide vital developmental and humanitarian aid to Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.Many NGO members have said that Israel's actions are illegal because the country is obligated under Geneva and humanitarian law to issue them visas and let them work freely there.

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