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Friday, October 27, 2006

Eileen writes in praise of the Refuzniks

Alex Cohn, 19, is a Jewish Israeli conscientious objector and peace activist. Alex refused to serve in the Israeli army and was jailed for five months. He now guides a youth group about militarism.

He wrote the following article and stated:

"The issue of refusal and the war in Lebanon also affects me personally. I chose to refuse to serve in the Israeli military when I was first inducted when I turned 18 years old.

"I chose to refuse after I saw the occupied Palestinian territories and realized that the occupation is not only unjust and unnecessary, but also horrible and destructive for both people. I had already served five months in jail for my refusal and been permanently released from military duty when the war in Lebanon began, so I was not faced with a decision to refuse. Regardless, this war made it clear to me on a political and personal level how important it is to struggle against Israel’s aggressive military policy.

"My parents, who live in north of Israel, were threatened by the rocket fire from Lebanon. My brother was stationed in the military at Israel’s northern border and I feel he risked his life for no reason. Throughout the war there was anger inside of me against the government and the army that played with human lives and sent Israelis to fight Lebanese and Palestinians.

"The recent war made clear to me again that the problem in Israel is not just the military presence in the occupied Palestinian territories, but the racist and militaristic thought which leads the decision makers. Militaristic society observes reality through the sight of the gun: everything is us or them, life or death, kill or be killed. In this way every act of resistance to Israel becomes an existential threat. I see the Israeli refusal movement, in which I include the Palestinian citizens of Israel who do not have the chance to refuse, as an alternative to the militaristic way of life that leads Israel from one war to another."

By Alex Cohn
American Friends Service Committee
October 2006

`Someone has to be the first to break through the false consensus around this war`, Itzik Shabat announced before he became the first refusnik of the second Lebanon war. Shabat, 28, refused to serve in the West Bank where he was being sent to replace active duty soldiers who were being sent to Lebanon. Shabat explained that he felt that `refusing to serve in the military is the only way to end this madness, and break the false feeling that the whole country is united in supporting this unnecessary war`.

On July 12, 2006 Hezbollah killed 8 Israeli soldiers and captured 2 soldiers in a border skirmish along the Israel/Lebanon border. It is widely believed that Hezbollah carried out this attack in order to arrange a prisoner exchange with Israel for Lebanese and Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel. A similar exchange had been brokered in 2004. Instead Israel responded with an aerial attack that signaled the beginning of the second Lebanon war. Israel declared that its goals for the war were to release the captured soldiers, to disarm Hezbollah and to reinforce the deterrence power of the Israeli army. None of these goals were achieved during the five week war. However, 1,187 Lebanese citizens and 44 Israeli citizens were killed, over one million Lebanese were made refugees, hundreds of thousands of Lebanese houses were demolished and much of the Lebanese infrastructure was destroyed.

It is widely believed that the Israeli peace movement supported the war, but this is not entirely accurate. In order to understand what happened within the peace movement, it is important to know the Israeli left is traditionally divided into two general camps: the Zionist left and the radical left. Although this separation is simplistic, it is significant. The Zionist left shares a belief with the Israeli right that Israel needs to be an ethnic-Jewish state, their disagreement concerns the best way to fulfill this vision. The political differences between the Zionist left and right usually disappear in moments of crisis such as the beginning of the first Lebanon war in 1982, or in 2000 when the second Intifada started.

In general, the Israeli radical peace movement is characterized by an objection to the Zionist ideology. This is seen in several ways, but the most profound is the understanding of the root causes of the current conflict. Whereas the Zionist left traces the current conflict back to the 1967 Israeli occupation of Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the radical left believes that the conflict extends back to the beginning of the Jewish colonization in mandatory Palestine.

When the war began many in the Zionist left stood with right-wing political parties in support of the war and created the `false consensus` which Itzik Shabat referred to. This coalition in support of the war helped obscure the efforts of thousands of Jews and Palestinians who demonstrated against the war week after week in Tel-Aviv; the two thousand demonstrators in the Israeli-Palestinian city of Tira; the activists who blocked the entrance to the Israeli Air Force base in the north; and the decision of many Israelis to refuse to serve in the military.

`No chance I`m wearing uniforms`

Itzik Shabat wasn`t the only one to refuse to serve in the Lebanon war. Zohar Milchgrub, Amir Pasteur, Itamar Shapira, Daniel K., Nir A., A.A, Y.D. (only their initials were made publicly available) and others spent time in jail because they refused to serve the war. Dozens of others refused - most of them have been sent back to their homes, and others will be judged in the future for desertion. Still many others avoided reserve service by receiving medical exemptions or leaving the country.

The feminist movement New Profile which deals with the issue of militarism in the Israeli society runs a counseling program with soldiers who want to be released from military service. New Profile reported that it worked with 600 soldiers who did not want to serve in the Lebanon war. Currently, there are still over 100 soldiers who refused to report to their units during the war and face the possibility of time in military prison. In addition, it can be assumed that not all the soldiers who avoided service in Lebanon contacted New Profile for help, so the real numbers of refusers may be much higher.

The feelings of many refusers was summed up by the well known air force pilot refuser Yonatan Shapira. In an interview to the Israeli newspaper Ha`aretz, Shapira explained `there is no chance that I`m wearing a military uniform in any situation in this war while the military is doing what it is doing`. Shapira acknowledged that Hezbollah had violated Israeli sovereignty, but felt that Israel had turned the conflict into a `macho fight` and that Israel had `destroyed Lebanese villages, declared a blockade on it`s cities to feel that it was protecting the country. The actions that the air force are carrying out now are promoting silence just like Nasrallah`s rockets promote it.`

`If I am called, I will decide`

One of the issues that usually distinguish the Zionist left from the radical left is the question of refusing to take part in the Israeli military. On the boundary between the Zionist left, which mostly supports military service, and the radical left, which mostly oppose it, stands the organization Courage to Refuse. The Courage to Refuse movement (In Hebrew: Ometz Le’sarev) was founded in 2002 around a petition of Israeli soldiers and officers who identified as Zionist and refused to serve beyond Israel’s 1967 borders. This position, to both identify as Zionist and to refuse military service, often makes Courage to Refuse a target of criticism from both sides of the peace movement, and this tension was clear during the war in Lebanon.

David Zonsheine, one of the founders of Courage to Refuse demonstrated this when he was interviewed and asked if he would refuse to serve in Lebanon. Zonsheine explained, `If I`m called by the military, I will decide accordingly to the induction letter. We`ll see what I`m being ordered to do`. He continued, `The war now seems justified to me, even more justified than going to the war in Lebanon in 1982. It doesn`t have the moral distortion that is present in the military activity in the territories. Courage to Refuse would not have been established on this war`.

And yet Zonsheine also explained that he did not support the Israeli government’s handling of the war in Lebanon. Zonsheine added, `What`s bothering me now is the behavior of the government. I demand from the government proportionality and the appropriate standards for managing a crisis - and I now see an amateur government. For the Israeli Defense Force I would be ready to die. But for an army that behaves like a bully, and whose goals are incomprehensible to half of the world, I would not be ready to die. These are the issues I am weighing right now`.

As a movement, Courage to Refuse appeared to find the war legitimate, but was afraid that Israel had over reacted and was harming civilians. On the one hand like most of the Zionist left they accepted the notion that the war was a legitimate response to an assault on Israeli soldiers by a small group of guerillas. On the other hand the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories created a serious crisis of trust with the Army’s high command, and members of Courage to Refuse questioned the morality of the fighting in Lebanon. In the end, even though the war seemed justified, many members still hesitated before they agreed to take part in it.

`Refuse to accept the new Middle East`

On August 12, 2006 the Israeli refuser organization Yesh Gvul (Hebrew for “There is a Limit/Border) organized a demonstration against the war and in support of the refusers. The protest took place on a mountain facing Israeli Military Prison No. 6. The entire mountain is green and the view is so good you can see the Mediterranean Sea. The only thing that mars the environment is the prison which is surrounded with barbed wire. In the prison it is possible to hear demonstrations outside, and from several places even to see them, and that is one way the protests support the refusniks inside. In the demonstration people gave speeches and musicians performed. Yonatan Shapira, whose brother Itamar was in the prison refusing to serve in Lebanon, called to his brother, `If you can hear me, I know you arranged to yourself a shift on the prison`s roof. I wanted to say to you that we`re proud of you and love you”.

Khulood Badawi, a Palestinian activist in the Association for Civil Rights and one of the leaders of the protest, put the protest in a wider context. Badawi said that the refusers not only refused to serve in the war in Lebanon, but also rejected the vision for the Middle East that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had articulated at the beginning of the war.

Badawi explained, `I want to say to all of the refusniks sitting in the Israeli prisons that you are the merchants of freedom for the freedom of all of us. Because of you, the Arab citizens of the state of Israel still believe that we have a common place here and we still can live together. I can speak for myself, many times I`ve been on the edge of breaking down, of giving in to the racism I feel, but I am aware that this war is trying to recruit us, each one in his category, Arabs versus Jews, Palestinians versus Israelis, Lebanese versus Israelis, Shi`ites, Sunnis, and Jews. We`re refusing to accept “the new middle east” that will only bring us Iraq II in Israel`.

On May 14, 1948 The Declaration of the establishment of Israel affirmed:

"One the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations."

God bless and Godspeed on the refusniks to lead The Way to an "Israel... based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel"
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Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Wall, Senator Clinton, and Bob Marley

On November 15, 2005, Senator Clinton stood on the Jerusalem side of The Wall and was quoted in Ha'aretz, expressing support for The Wall because it "is against terrorists" and "not against the Palestinian people."

Senator Clinton did NOT visit the Little Town of Bethlehem in Occupied Territory, to see what The Wall has done to the Bethlehem economy. But I have.

On New Years Eve Day 2005, I visited a family who had just rebuilt their home in Dasheish, one of three fifty-eight year old refugee camps in Bethlehem.

The Habib [not real name] family had rebuilt on the very same spot after the Israeli Defense Force/IDF blew their former home up without reason and without any compensation. The usual reason given for home demolitions is for the building of The Wall, but the Habib residence is deep within the Dasheish refugee camp, and The Wall is at least three miles away. Mr. Habib told me that in 2004, the IDF banged on his door and informed the family that their home would be demolished within fifteen minutes. The family all got safely out but their home was but a memory a few moments later.

"No one in our family had ever been in any trouble with the Israeli government before and no family member had ever been arrested. They picked us to be an example of the power and control that Israel has to deny basic and inalienable human rights," Mr. Habib told me without any bitterness.

What impresses me most every time I go to Palestine, is that every Palestinian I speak with all have the most forgiving spirits and unflappable patience. I thought of Senator Clinton's inaccurate and insensitive remarks about The Wall not being against the Palestinian people, and wondered what she would say about Palestinian homes being destroyed without any reason at all.

An Uncle down the stairs from the Habib's also had his home blown away on the same day. Relatives took them all in, for the poor in Palestine take care of the poor and don't look to the government to do what people of good will, will do automatically: care for the widow, the orphan, the ill and the prisoner.

When ever I need a taxi while in Bethlehem or Jerusalem, I call Sam. He can comfortably transport eight and has an excellent sound system. Sam is an Orthodox Christian in the Syrian Church and has a gorgeous wife and two beautiful kids. Sam has VIP papers which enable him to chauffeur the Patriarchs around town without as much hassle as a regular Palestinian would have to endure at the checkpoints.

Sam, his wife and I rode to the Ben Gurion Airport, three hours prior to my 1 AM flight home on January 5, 2005. We talked a little but mostly we listened to the music of Bob Marley. When we arrived at the checkpoint at the entrance of the airport, Sam rolled down his window and smiled at the young soldier and said, "Shalom" but it sounded more like "Salaam."

Sam's VIP pass meant nothing to the soldier and we are all ordered to disembark and pull out all the luggage. My passport was demanded without a smile and Sam was led into the interrogation room while his wife and I stay out in the cold trying to laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Another soldier examines and probes the van as he thoroughly looks for b-o-m-b-s. The paranoia I see in many Israeli's has got to be, some kind of holocaust hangover blinding them to the fact that the oppressed have now become the oppressors.

After Sam's van is thoroughly examined for b-o-m-b-s, I received my passport back marked with a red sticker upon it. Back in Sam's van his wife expertly removed the sticker and all the glue from my passport. The sticker brands one as having come through occupied territory. Sam informs me that my third degree would be airport securities territory and that was why the soldier never asked me any questions.

Sam smiled wryly as he told me, "This is what the Nazi's did to the Jews before the Holocaust when they made them wear the Star of David. They marked them as the enemy. Now anyone who knows Palestinians or visits occupied territory gets a sticker on their passport to label them as friends of the enemy."

Bob Marley and the Wailers erupt through the speakers:

Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Don't give up the fight.

My luggage had been filled with Arabic nonviolent literature but Sam cautioned me to leave it all with him to avoid the extra hassle it could cause me during the routine questioning by airport security.

I left everything with him that I could get on the Internet but kept books, a CD and a DVD.

Sam warns me on what I shouldn't say when I undergo my interrogation from the inquisitive employees at the Ben Gurion Airport.

While in Bethlehem I shared with many about my experience of having my computer confiscated by EL AL employees at JFK Airport, during my pre-flight checking in process. Every Palestinian told me "don't worry about it."

But every American I spoke with during my time in Israel and Palestine, freaked out when I told them about El Al confiscating my lap top for over an hour before I boarded the plane at JFK for my second trip to the Holy Land. Every American believed that they had downloaded my files, read my emails and perhaps even injected a Trojan into my soft ware. Those Americans had fallen into fear and paranoia, but Bob Marley and the Wailers is the way I choose to go:

Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Stand up for your rights
Get up, stand up
Don't give up the fight.

I had no fear of any airport security and I was determined I would answer honestly every question and keep smiling. Every employee I encountered smiled back at me and nobody asked me any 'explosive' questions. While three different young women examined and swabbed every item and surface in all my luggage I experienced frisson: the chill in the thrill of the rush you experience in a moment of delight, excitement or fear.

A young lady examiner came upon the book from the Holy Land Trust conference I had attended December 27-30, 2005 entitled: Celebrating Nonviolent Resistance.

The young examiner never looked my way, but she read the cover and scanned all the pages most thoroughly.

I wondered if perhaps a few seeds of thought were left germinating in Tel Aviv that night, but I forgot all about that when I landed in JFK fourteen hours later.

I had crashed for five solid hours out of the eleven hour flight. I awoke to vivid images of The Wall that remain brutally fresh in my mind.

In my minds eye, I still see the concrete boa constrictor and electrified fence that divides, separates, humiliates, dominates, controls and denies inalienable human rights to every Palestinian.

When I landed at JFK Airport, Terminal Two to wait three hours for my connection home, all I could think about was The Wall and all the injustice's I had witnessed during my second of sixteen days in Israel and Palestine. [My first 16 days are documented in my first book, "Keep Hope Alive"]

In January 2005, every local, taxi driver and would be terrorist knew all the many ways around the concrete boa constrictor and electrified fence which had enormous gaps, holes, and other ways to get around checkpoints and avoid The Bethlehem Terminal which divides the sister city of and from Jerusalem.

The Israeli government and Senator Clinton both claim The Wall is all for Security. I know better.

The concrete boa constrictor and electrified fence is a master plan to divide, separate, humiliate, dominate, control and deny inalienable human rights to the indigenous people of the Holy Land.

In Palestine and the Unrecognized Villages there are olive trees that were rooted centuries ago, for olive trees can live for thousands of years, if they are not plowed down.

Twenty five olive trees can support a typical family in Gaza, the West Bank and in the Unrecognized Villages, Where every little child knows the names of the ancient olive trees, And they always be, Names of mommys, sisters and favorite aunts and uncles, For the olive trees are a member of their families.

In 1948, 20% of the total population of the Holy Land were Christian. Today they number less than 1.3% and continue to shrink fast.

Palestinian Christian roots go back to the first century when Christ promised: "BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS: THEY ARE THE CHILDREN OF GOD." [Matthew 5:9]

At The Terminal in Bethlehem, upon the thirty foot high Wall, a hundred square foot sign from The Minister of Tourism hangs and proclaims in Orwellian logic: PEACE, PEACE, PEACE.

"Peace, peace, peace, they say, when there is no peace."-Jeremiah 6:14

For twelve days around Christmas 2005, I lived in the Little Town of Bethlehem in occupied territory. For twelve days I walked "through streets that were dead" [Bob Dylan] in the morning, noon and night and everywhere I did go, shops were closed, restaurants empty. A few locals would be around and tour buses would quickly come and go at the Church of The Nativity.

But stores remain closed and restaurants empty because tourists don't want to see, hear or know about occupied territory.

The Terminal is not The Way tourists in buses and taxis go;
The Terminal is the way only Palestinians and the curious go,
Who want to know what's really going down In the Holy Land:
Which is in pieces.

Mr. Presidents, I plead, please tear down the concrete boa constrictor and electrified fence which has been deemed ILLEGAL by the International Court of Justice in the Hague.

Mr. Presidents, please imagine what a wonderful world it would be if you would plant olive trees and build playgrounds and construct bridges of community and global neighborhoods.

The Way to security is knowing ones neighbor, and ones neighbor is ones sister and brother, For everyone is a child of God.

To be blessed with Peace we must resist evil with good and God has already told us what is required: "Act justly, be merciful and walk humbly with your God."-Micah 6:8 "

And the best you can do is forgive."-The Traveling Wilburys

I am WAWA:
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Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Stephen writes on Global Warming

Ice core testing in the polar regions has enabled climate analysis going back some 600,000 years. Basically a core of ice is extracted reaching hundreds of metres into the ice caps and chemical analysis of air bubbles within the ice enables an assessment of the level of carbon dioxide and the temperature at the time the ice bubble was formed. The scientists can differentiate years because the ice is in layers (a bit like tree rings). No rocket science here.

Graphing these levels of carbon dioxide and temperature it is possible to see 6 major periods of variation over the available data. The drops in temperature match with time periods in other types of climate measurement data and highlight what we know as "ice ages" or periods when the global temperatures were low enough to freeze things over.

Carbon dioxide levels track the temperatures fairly closely over these years. The more recent (last 30 years) carbon dioxide levels are significantly increasing. In fact the increase is well above levels ever recorded before. The hottest 10 years ever recorded occurred in the past 15 years. 2005 was the hottest.

Climate modelling based on predicted increases in global carbon dioxide emissions suggests the global temperature rise could lead to summer temperatures in temperate zones like Sydney reaching 55 degrees Celcius in the next decade. It also predicts that equatorial zones will be inhabitable around 2030. Where will all the people from equatorial countries go? Given they are mostly 3rd world countries, do you think they might be a bit ticked-off with the developed world?

Some modelling indicates global sea level rises that will put cities like London and parts of Melbourne under water. One climate model indicates there is a 1 percent chance that life as we know it on earth will cease. The heating effects here remind one of aspects of the book of Revelation.

But it's not all bad news. There are still things we can do. Although USA and Australia (the big polluters) have not signed the Kyoto carbon dioxide emission control protocols, the ground swell of people political pressure will soon see this change. Many states and cities in the US have declared they will conform to Kyoto.

I want my children to have a future. I don't want to risk the big business push back that is trying to convince people that Greenhouse is all hog wash. Just think back to asbestos and smoking, we've heard these mistruths before.

An alternate view is that the predictions of revelations are meant to be.
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Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Peter Lovegrove writes on the history of Zionism

"Zionism" has absolutely NO imperialist aims was a 19th century movement of the Jews to return to the land that the ROMAN EMPIRE called Palestine."

The above is a comment on one of my posts on my blog site, where I argued against equating all Jews with Zionism.

The Romans called the territory Palestine ? So the term has stood for two millenia at least. Long enough to be accepted as its name, I should have thought.

As for Zionism not being imperialist :

Zionism’s avowed aim is for the Jewish people to return to their ancestral homeland, regardless of the indigenous inhabitants who have as much right to be considered as descending for the earliest inhabitants of the area as the Hebrews. This is plain all out European imperialistic colonialism.

The given reason, to escape persecution in Christendom is understandable and to be sympathized with. However, as with all imperialistic ventures, it is the natives who pay the price. The justification, that the Jews occupied the area two millenium before, is no justification. The Angles displaced the Britons only some thirteen hundred years ago. However impossible, would it therefore be a moral act for the English to return to Holland or wherever they built they boats and hand the Thames valley over to the Welsh?

Like all imperialist dogmas over the centuries, the Zionists considered the coveted land to be in effect, empty, which numbers the Palstinians as one of the countless numbers of peoples around the globe to be displaced and even exterminated by imperialist colonists. The Americas, South Africa and Australia being obvious examples.

The increasing numbers of Jewish settlers finally reached the point where they could confront the imperialist occupiers of the area, Britain. After a terrorist campaign which including the mass murder of guests in the King David Hotel and the hanging of two captured British soldiers in retaliation fo the execution of a convicted murderer, they forced the British, worn out after the struggle against Hitler, to depart.

A Jewish Defence League (JDL) member (recently killed in prison) was charged with conspiring to bomb the King Fahd Mosque in Culver City, Los Angeles as well as the field office of the Republican congressman, Darrell Issa. Why him ? I don’t know.

The JDL, an ominous manifestation of one side of Zionism was established in 1968 by the openly rascist rabbi Mier Kahane, who called for the forcible removal of all arabs from Israel. Whether he included Christian arabs in that I don’t know either.

So Zionism is not all sugar and spice about a persecuted minority seeking peace, security and sustenance in the land of their distant forebears, as Paul Newman in « The Exodus » had it. It has mutated to suit the times.

It is now the philosophy of a dominatiing and domineering power, far removed from its early ideals and is utilised by bigots and rascists to further their aims to drive out the indigenous inhabitants and take over an expanding territory. Some taking it so far as to want to retake King David’s empire, which contained at least the eastern part of the Kingdom of Jordan, parts of Lebanon and stretched to way beyond Damascus. So there are three future wars to go on with. If what I describe above is not imperialism, what is ?