Friday, February 24, 2006

PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY HYPOCRISY: an excerpt from my letter to Holy Land Trust regarding its cancellation of visit by Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama

Rather than expressing solidarity with another people living under occupation, the Palestinian Authority has sided with the occupier -- the Chinese government -- against the Tibetan people. The PA's citation of the Dalai Lama's "separatist ambitions for Tibet" is so obviously and egregiously hypocritical that it hardly seems worth noting.

I feel deeply uncomfortable making such comparisons but quite frankly, the plight of Tibetans living under Chinese rule is more dire than that of the Palestinians living under Israeli occupation. The situation in Palestine -- the settlements, the military incursions, the checkpoints, the apartheid wall, the economic strangulation -- is abhorrent and demands the world's attention and solidarity. But the situation in Tibet is sadly even more desperate, as no nation or international institution has ever applied any meaningful pressure on China for an end to the ongoing injustice in Tibet.

Tibetans have absolutely no freedom of speech, assembly, press, or religion. In many cases, they are forbidden from receiving an education in their own language. They can be arrested and imprisoned for seven years for simply possessing a photo of their most beloved religious leader. Uttering the words "free Tibet" or being found in possession of political materials such as a Tibetan flag is illegal. Many Tibetans have suffered for years in prison for such nonviolent "transgressions." Reliable statistics suggest that since China's invasion began in 1949 (not ancient history but a year after Israel was declared), over one million Tibetans have died as a direct result of China's occupation.

Unlike in some Palestinian areas, Tibetans enjoy no autonomy or even semi-autonomy. In December, I attended the International Nonviolence Conference in Bethlehem, sponsored by your organization. It was excellent to see that it was attended by many Palestinians and a large number of activists from all over the world who came to express solidarity with the Palestinian cause (and some of whom actively work for the end of the Israeli occupation). The idea of such a conference being held in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa -- or anywhere else in occupied Tibet -- is laughable. Visas would not be granted. Travel would not be permitted. The Tibetans who launched the idea would be quickly rounded up, beaten, tortured and handed long prison sentences out of the view of the news media. The families of the arrested Tibetans would be threatened, maybe fired from their jobs. Anyone else associated with those suspected of political activities would be scrutinized and surveillance and security would be stepped up immediately.

I have traveled in both Tibet and Palestine and have known many Tibetans and Palestinians. While I have found a way to compare the relative plights of these two peoples, I believe both struggles for self-determination have equal and undeniable merit.

The Palestinian Authority's statement announcing the cancellation of the Dalai Lama's visit reads as if it was drafted by the Chinese Foreign Ministry. I half hope it was as otherwise it would betray the PA's total ignorance of the Tibetan cause or the role of the Dalai Lama. As noted above, the statement cites his "separatist ambitions for Tibet." While most Tibetans want to see a return to Tibetan independence, the Dalai Lama has, since 1988, repeatedly expressed a desire only for "meaningful autonomy" for Tibet. He has candidly said that Tibet should "remain within the People's Republic of China." He has preached nonviolence and forgiveness to Tibetans frustrated at the ongoing repression they suffer. He has continued to attempt to engage the Chinese government in dialogue about how to resolve the Tibetan plight in a way that would simply offer Tibetans fundamental rights to practice and preserve their ancient culture, which is gravely endangered. Despite the fact that self-determination is also a fundamental right of all people guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Dalai Lama has given up on that basic right in the hope that he can simply find a way to end China's continued brutal repression of Tibetans.

The blatant hypocrisy of the Palestinian Authority's condemnation of the Tibetan struggle under occupation as "separatism" is unforgivable. It belies all of the PA's and its predecessor's bold declarations about liberty, inalienable rights, and the prerogative to fight occupation.

My support for the Palestinian people's struggle for an end to the Israeli occupation is unconditional. But the Palestinian Authority's particular struggle has been shown to be nothing more than a desire to play the field in the great geopolitical game and get what they think is theirs. Courting the authoritarian Chinese government may bring money and guns but such a short-sighted, hypocritical approach runs the risk of squandering the international solidarity that has been indispensable to the advancements the Palestinian cause has made over the years.

I wish you all the best.


Development Director
Students for a Free Tibet*

*For affiliation/identification purposes. This letter represents my opinion and does not necessarily reflect the position of Students for a Free Tibet

Monday, February 13, 2006

Open Letter of Palestinian Filmmakers

Feb. 7th, 2006

Last month, forty Palestinian filmmakers and cultural workers signed a letter addressed to Ms. Catherine Colomb-Nancy at the Europeaid Office in Brussels regarding their concerns about the Euromed Audiovisual II Project and suggested a meeting in which they could exchange views about the proposal. The letter was sent via fax, email and a hard copy via regular mail. Alarmingly, no one from Euromed responded to the letter, let alone even acknowledged it.

The major concerns outlined in the letter were twofold:

1) That this entity calling itself the Ramallah Film Institute is in fact not registered in Palestine: Euromed lists the partners of the project to be the New Foundation for Cinema and Television (Israel) and the Ramallah Film Institute (Palestinian Authority). Attached is an official letter from the Palestinian Ministry itself stating that the Ramallah Film Institute is not registered anywhere within the Palestinian Authority. The Ramallah Film Institute, aside from having no relationship with the local Palestinian cultural community is, in fact, an Israeli-registered organization.

2) The fact that the Israeli partner is a government organization (established by the Ministry of Education, Culture & Sport with the assistance of The Israel Film Council) - a government that continues its illegal and harsh occupation of Palestine and continues to deny Palestinians their rights. In addition, the New Foundation for Cinema and Television has refused to openly reject occupation nor work actively for its removal. (Our objections are not with individual Israelis nor with organizations that work towards Palestinian freedom but rather with government organizations such as the New Foundation for Cinema & Television who refuse to recognize our rights).

A follow up letter was sent to the E.U office three weeks later and was also subsequently ignored. Clearly the concerns of forty of Palestines preeminent artists, including those we have defined Palestinian cinema itself internationally including Elia Suleiman, Hany Abu Assad, Rashid Masharawi, and Mai Masri mean nothing to the Euromed Project. Clearly the fact that the former board members of the Ramallah Film Festival, like George Khleifi, who quit because financial reports were not given to the board when requested, appears to be meaningless to Euromed. And the interest and concerns of Palestines numerous community and cultural organizations have no value.

Two months ago, in December, when rumors first emerged that this project was forming, Adam Zuabi himself was requested to provide more information about the project to an e-mail list of filmmakers. He chose not to respond and to this day has not addressed us nor provided any information about the project, including its upcoming launch at the Berlinale.

The question is, why was this letter disregarded? Why were the concerns of Palestinian individuals working in the cultural scene, many who have previous experience working with the Ramallah Film Festival in the past, thrown to the side?

We are forty Palestinians we are from here, we live here, we work here, we part of this community. We refuse to be ignored. We do not want well-funded projects imposed upon us from the outside without any regard for our concerns. It is a slap in the face of Palestinian filmmakers, intellectuals and cultural workers who have been working for decades to be seen as independent, respected artists. We have contacted Euromed professionally and openly. We demand acknowledgement.

Adam Zoabi (and his Ramallah Film Institute) is free to do whatever he wants. That is his right. And Euromed is free to support whoever they choose. And we are very aware that joint Israeli-Palestinian projects are sexy and lucrative, especially in Europe.

However Palestine is not a jungle and there are people in this community who are working very hard to better our situation. Financial transparency and accountability is vital to this. We are working against organizations who believe that financial records are private rather than public. We ask organizations who claim to serve the community to actually have a relationship with that community. And organizations who wish to publicly claim they are registered within the Palestinian Authority to actually be registered. Throwing funding and/or projects at less wealthy countries who are struggling with corruption and supporting projects that are not rooted within the community nor take into consideration the concerns of the local community they purport to be helping hurt the Palestinian community considerably.

We demand that Euromed immediately correct its statement and all publicity and other materials which falsely claim that this project (Greenhouse) is a partnership between Israel and the Palestinian Authority before the grand launch at the Berlinale in Germany. This is not a partnership between an Israeli organization and a Palestinian Authority organization. Euromeds Greenhouse Project is a partnership between two Israeli-registered organizations and we demand that this be amended in their publications and that the name of Palestine is not used to promote a partnership which actually does not exist and which only serves to benefit a few individuals rather than the community it claims to be serving.

We challenge David Fisher and the New Foundation for Cinema and Television to openly reject occupation and the illegal actions of their government and come out in support of the full rights of Palestinian to be free and equal. We call on those who can pressure Israel from within, especially artists and cultural institutions, who have mostly stood silent for years in the face of wanton destruction, oppression and injustice, and perhaps even benefited from occupation, to make their voices heard. We ask that Israelis no longer stand silent in the face of terrible injustices taking place. We believe that it is high time that Israeli institutions wake up to realities and fulfill their moral obligation to resist occupation, and begin to protest the actions of their state. It is time that the international and Israeli communities wake up to the challenge.

And we ask the international community and fellow artists to consider carefully the implications of participating in the Greenhouse Project (Euromed Audiovisual II, proposal Nr. 15). We would hope that, considering that we live under a harsh military occupation and an apartheid system, that it is understandable why we would not want to work with organizations that are part of the same government that imposes this system on us.

Cultural support cannot come in the form of charity or to make oneself feel better without addressing the root causes of the problems and ignoring the concerns of the Palestinian community. To us, this is not only un-desirable, but also objectionable. We have worked and will continue to work with those that have struggled with us to change political realities, to help us improve our lives and who have been mutually respectful.

-Original Letter to Europeaid Office
-Follow up letter to Europeaid Office
-Official Letter from the Palestinian Ministry of Interior & Civil Affairs stating that the Ramallah Film Institute is not registered
-Translation of letter from Ministry of Interior & Civil Affairs


(Original letter to Europeaid Office)

Jan. 2, 2006

Europeaid Office de Cooop�ration A
Rue de la Loi, 200
B-1049 Bruxelles

Dear Ms. Catherine Colomb-Nancy

We, the undersigned, a group of Palestinian filmmakers and cultural workers, are writing to you to kindly request your attention to a matter of some importance.

We have just learned of your Short List for the Euromed Audiovisual II, for the development of documentary film. Among the short-listed recipients are the Ramallah Film Institute (Palestinian Authority) & The New Foundation for Cinema and Television (Israel) (proposal Nr. 15).

We realize how important this funding can be for the development of documentary film practices in the region and especially in Palestine. However, in order for Palestinian filmmakers to benefit from such an opportunity to develop their film careers, we believe this funding must be channeled in an acceptable framework, that is transparent, trusted, and rooted in the community.

We have two major concerns about this proposal. First, we would hope that the Euromed funding would be directed to a reputable and trustworthy Palestinian institution. This is not how most who work in the Palestinian film and arts community feel towards what is termed the Ramallah Film Institute, a project administered by Mr. Adam Zuabi. Second, we have great many reservations regarding the partnership of the aforementioned institute with the New Foundation in Israel, a government-funded organization.

On the latter issue, we would like to note that partnering or collaborating with Israeli government sponsored institutions is a very sensitive issue here in Palestine due to such a partnership assuming an equal relationship between two such partners when in fact one is supported by a government that occupies the other. A great many promising projects have failed to achieve their goals because they failed to take into consideration the complexities involved and thus alienated the majority of the communities targeted. We wish not to see the Euromed project end as a failure. On the contrary, we believe that such an opportunity for funding can play a major rule in nurturing documentary film practices in Palestine but money alone cannot achieve this. In order for this to happen we need the community of filmmakers to believe in the project and to trust in it enough to participate in it.

The main issue at hand is that we Palestinian filmmakers, many of us based in Ramallah, have never even heard of the Ramallah Film Institute. We do not know who they are, what their purpose is, and seriously question the legitimacy of such an institution as it seems not to be registered in Palestine, either as a school, an organization, or a company.

We also have many reservations stemming from previous activities carried out by Mr. Zuabi in the name of Palestinian cinema and Palestinian filmmakers. In particular, his work as the director of the Ramallah Film Festival has significantly alienated the local community and many cultural organizations in Palestine. One example is that after requesting of him to provide financial reports following last years Ramallah Film Festival, his entire board of directors resigned as they were never provided with this important data involving the project. Therefore, we would like to raise these concerns and to signal the reservations of a great many established cultural figures here towards any project involving Mr. Zuabi, before the Euromed fund decisions are finalized.

We are writing to you kindly asking that you take these concerns into account before you arrive at a decision. We would be grateful for the opportunity to meet with you or any other official in charge of this project in the organization. We believe such a meeting or exchange of views and concerns can greatly assist in ensuring that the Euromed project will succeed in achieving its goals.

Sincerely yours,

1. Sobhi al-Zobaidi, Filmmaker & Academic. Ramallah, Palestine
2. Annemarie Jacir, Filmmaker & Curator, Ramallah, Palestine
3. Najwa Najjar, Filmmaker, Ramallah, Palestine
4. Elia Sulieman, Filmmaker, Paris/Nazareth, Palestine
5. Hany Abu Assad, Director, Netherlands/Nazareth, Palestine
6. Rashid Masharawi, Palestinian Filmmaker
7. Mai Masri, Filmmaker, Nablus/Beirut
9. Raed Al-Helou, Filmmaker, Ramallah
10. Ismail Habbash, Filmmaker, Ramallah
11. Rowan Faqih, Filmmaker, Ramallah
12. Ahmad Habash, Director/Animator, Ramallah
13. Nizar Hasan, Filmmaker, Nazareth
14. Raed Andoni, Producer, Ramallah
15. Hanna Elias, Director, Los Angeles /Ramallah
16. Dr. Alia Arasoughly, Filmmaker, Sociologist of Culture (Cinema)
17. Hanna Atallah,Filmmaker, Ramallah,Palestine
18. Abdel Salam Shehada, Filmmaker, Gaza
19. Emily Jacir, Artist, Rome/Ramallah
20. Dima Abu Ghoush, Filmmaker, Ramallah
21. Fatin Farhat, Director, Sakakini Cultural Center, Ramallah
22. Adania Shibli, Writer, London/Jerusalem
23. Shadi Zmorrod, Theater actor and Director, Palestine
24. Liana Badr, Minstry of Culture, Palestine
25. Hicham Kayed, Filmmaker, Lebanon
26. Khaled Katamish, Director, El-Funon Dance Troupe
27. Noora Baker, Activity Coordinator, Popular Art Center, Palestine
28. Mohammed Atta, Director, Wishah Dance Troupe, Palestine
29. Iman Hammouri, Director, Popular Art Center, Palestine
30. Tareq Abu-Lughod, Filmmaker, Amman
31. Issa Freij, D.P., Filmmaker, Jerusalem
32. Azza Al Hassan, Filmmaker, Amman, Jordan
33. Nahed Awwad, Filmmaker, Ramallah
34. Saed Andoni, Producer/Director, Ramallah
35. Ghada Terawi, Filmmaker, Palestine
36. Rawan Sharaf, Production Designer, Jerusalem, Palestine
37. George Khleifi, Filmmaker & Academic, Ramallah
38. Kamal Aljafari, Cologne/Ramle, Palestine
39. Reem Fadda, Director, Palestinian Association for Contemporary Art (PACA)
40. Khaled Elayyan, Alkasaba Theater, Ramallah


(follow up letter to EU)

Jan. 29th, 2006

Dear Ms. Carla Montesi

We sent a letter to Ms. Catherine Colomb-Nancy three weeks ago but did not receive any response nor acknowledgement of our letter. We have also tried calling her office but received no answer.

The attached letter is a petition from 40 Palestinian filmmakers who are very concerned of the short listing of a partnership proposal between the Ramallah Film Institute and the New Foundation for Cinema and Television (Israel).

We have voiced our reasons for our concerns in addition to the fact that the Ramallah Film Institute is only an Israeli-registered Institution in Jerusalem and is not registered in the Palestinian Authority as is noted in the Euromed proposal. Aside from meaning that it is therfore not eligible for funds allocated to the Palestinian territories, it is also misleading on the part of both the Ramallah Film Institute and Euromed.

We would very much like to further discuss this matter with you. Our letter of three weeks ago was sent to Ms. Catherine Colomb-Nancy via fax, email, and regular mail. We would be very appreciative if there was some kind of acknowledgement of our correspondence.

Looking forward to hearing from you.


Najwa Najjar, Annemarie Jacir and Sobi Zobaidi
on behalf of the Filmmakers and Cultural Institutions

ccd: Catherine Colomb-Nancy


translation of official document

Palestine Liberation Organization
The Palestinian National Authority
Ministry of Interior & Civil Affairs

(December 31st, 2005)

To : Mr. Falah Abu Al-Rob
Director of Licensing Department - Ministry of Culture

Subject: Ramallah Film Institute

Regarding the above-mentioned subject, we inform you that the Ramallah Film Institute is not officially registered in the Ministry of Interior & Civil Affairs, and we support that you will not deal with the Institute until they officially register.

With thanks,

Fadwa Al-Shaar
General Administrator for Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs)
Palestinian National Authority

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Hamas Election Victory: A Vote for Clarity

Hamas Election Victory: A Vote for Clarity

By Ali Abunimah

The Electronic Intifada
26 January 2006

Hamas' victory in the Palestinian Authority legislative
elections has everyone asking "what next"? The answer, and
whether the result should be seen as a good or bad thing,
depends very much on who is asking the question.

Although a Hamas success was heavily trailed, the scale of
the victory has been widely termed a "shock." Several
factors explain the dramatic rise of Hamas, including
disillusionment and disgust with the corruption, cynicism
and lack of strategy of the Fatah faction which has
dominated the Palestinian movement for decades and had
arrogantly come to view itself as the natural and
indisputable leader.

The election result is not entirely surprising, however,
and has been foreshadowed by recent events. Take for
example the city of Qalqilya in the north of the West
Bank. Hemmed in by Israeli settlements and now completely
surrounded by a concrete wall, the city's fifty thousand
residents are prisoners of a giant Israeli-controlled
ghetto. For years Qalqilya was controlled by Fatah but
after the completion of the wall, voters in last years'
municipal elections awarded every single city council seat
to Hamas. The Qalqilya effect has now spread across the
occcupied territories, with Hamas reportedly winning
virtually all of the seats elected on a geographic basis.
Thus Hamas' success is as much an expression of the
determination of Palestinians to resist Israel's efforts
to force their surrender as it is a rejection of Fatah. It
reduces the conflict to its most fundamental elements:
there is occupation, and there is resistance.

For Palestinians under occupation, it is not yet clear
what Hamas' win will mean. It is now common to speak of a
Palestinian "government" being formed out of the election
results, as though Palestine were already a sovereign and
independent state. But if the first duty of a government
is to protect its people's lives, liberty and property,
then the Palestinian Authority has never deserved to be
called a government. Since its inception, it has not been
able to protect Palestinians from lethal daily attacks by
the Israeli army in the heart of their towns and refugee
camps, or to prevent a single dunum of land being seized
for settlements, nor to save a single sapling of the more
than one million trees uprooted by Israel in the past ten
years. Rather, the Palestinian Authority was supposed to
crush Palestinian resistance to make the occupied
territories safe for continued Israeli colonization. Hamas
will certainly not allow that to continue, but whether it
will be able to tranform the Authority into an arm of the
struggle against Israel is by no means certain. Hamas,
which has observed a unilateral truce with Israel for a
year, has signalled that it wants to continue this if
Israel "reciprocates." The movement clearly believes it
can make such an offer from a position of strength and it
is to its tactical advantage to leave uncertainty about
when and how it might resume full-scale armed resistance.

Elements of the Palestinian Authority security services
controlled by Fatah figures may be unwilling to put
themselves under the control of a Hamas-led authority,
which could lead to the collapse of what is left of the
Authority's structure, or even its break-up into personal
militias. Israel and the United States which refuses to
accept the outcome of the election may see an interest in
encouraging such an internal conflict. Israel is likely to
use Hamas' win as a further pretext to tighten repression
and accelerate its unilateral imposition of walls and
settlements on the West Bank designed to annex the maximum
number of land with the minimum not of Palestinians. Such
developments increase the risks of a dramatic escalation
of Israeli-Palestinian violence.

As for the majority of Palestinians, who live as refugees
and exiles in the diaspora, they have been progressively
excluded and marginalized from efforts to solve the
conflict. Whereas the US and its allies, with UN
assistance, went to extraordinary lengths to allow Iraqi
"out of country voters" to participate in that country's
elections, the same powers have shown no interest in
giving Palestinian refugees a voice. Fatah, which many
Palestinian refugees suspect would sell out their rights
in peace deal with Israel, obviously had no incentive to
demand such participation. It remains to be seen if Hamas,
born in Gaza where ninety percent of the population are
refugees, will be able to articulate an agenda that speaks
to the concerns of the diaspora.

For the "international community" -- principally the
'Quartet' made up of the United States, the European
Union, Russia and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the
election result is a major embarassment. They, and the
coterie of well- funded NGOs and think tanks that generate
so much of their intellectual guff have built their
approach on the notion that Palestinian "reform" rather
than an end to the Israeli occupation, is the way to
resolve the conflict. While nominally committing
themselves to a two-state solution, these powers dragged
the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority into an endless game
where Palestinians have to jump through hoops to prove
their worthiness of basic rights, while at the same time
no pressure has been applied to Israel to end the
confiscation of land and expansion of settlements. This
peace process industry chose to hail Israel's tactical
withdrawal of eight thousand settlers from Gaza last
summer, while ignoring the far larger number of settlers
Israel has continued to plant all over the West Bank
effectively rendering a two-state solution unachievable.

The principal purpose of this game is not to bring about a
just and lasting peace but merely to inoculate the players
from the charge that they were doing nothing to resolve a
conflict that remains an enduring focus of regional and
worldwide concern. A true peace effort would require
confronting Israel and holding it accountable, something
none of the Quartet members have the political will to do.
There is no doubt that Fatah was entirely complicit in the
game, to which it had become both a prisoner and an
indispensable partner. Why else would the United States
have desperately tried to shore Fatah up by spending
millions of dollars on projects in recent months designed
to buy votes, and why else would the EU have threatened to
cut off aid if Palestinians voted for Hamas? Most
Palestinians could see clearly that after years of
negotiations and billions of dollars of foreign aid they
are poorer and less free than ever before as more of their
land has been seized. It is no wonder that this kind of
bribery and blackmail had no power over them and probably
had the opposite effect, increasing Hamas support.

Hamas' victory pulls the rug from under the project of
trying to deflect the blame for the conflict from Israeli
colonization to Palestinian internal pathologies. The
peace process industry will not give up easily, however,
and will now urge Hamas to act "responsibly" and to
"moderate" its positions -- which means in effect to
abandoning all forms of resistance and assuming the docile
and complicit role hitherto played by Fatah.

The instant US demand that Hamas "recognize Israel" is
like rewinding the clock twenty-five years to when this
same demand was the pretext to ignore and exclude the PLO
from peace negotiations. But as Hamas has observed, all
the PLO's submission to these demands did not lead to any
loosening of Israel's grip or any lessening of US support
for Israel. Hamas is unlikely to do as the US demands, and
even if it did, it would probably only give rise to new
resistance groups responding to the worsening conditions
on the ground generated by the occupation.

Ali Abunimah is a co-founder of The Electronic Intifada

ABOUT US: The Electronic Intifada (EI) is a
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Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Critical Material on Munich

Three pieces:
- The Angry Arab : Long but very interesting.
- A leter by Mike Odetalla : Summing up Palestinian Criticism
- Charles Krauthammer : Zionist Criticism
Monday, December 26, 2005

Spielberg on Munich: the humanization of Israeli killers, and the dehumanization of Palestinian civilians. Or the Celebration of the Israeli Killing Machine. And who is retaliating against whom in the Arab-Israeli conflict? THIS is the question.

by As'ad AbuKhalil

It reminds me of a line that George Carlin�yes, that Carlin�used to use in his comedy routine and went roughly like this: �why do �we� call Israeli terrorists commandos, and we call Palestinian commandos terrorists?� That line never got a laugh the two times I saw him use it with a live audience. The thrust of the Spielberg movie is simple, fanfare notwithstanding: Israeli killers are conscientious and humane people, while Palestinians are always--no matter what--killers. But a Spielberg movie about current affairs is like a Thomas Friedman column about�Emanuel Kant.

What do you expect? Did you notice how one lone critical opinion of the movie by one Israeli diplomat, which only mildly criticized the movie, got so much press in the US? It was needed; and it even helped to promote the movie to give a �balanced� cast to the narrative, that it of course does not deserve. This one critical opinion reminded me of O�Reilly; how he every night finds one email from somebody in Montana who tells him that he is too liberal. He needs that to maintain an image that does not exist, just as Spielberg needs to maintain an image that he does not deserve.

This movie could easily have been a paid Israeli advertisement for its killing machine. In fact, it could be a recruitment movie for Israeli killing squads. I mean that. In fact, it is a celebratory movie of Israeli murder of Palestinians. Israel killing is always moral, and always careful, and always on target.

Today, yet another New York Times reviewer who also thinks that Spielberg was not sympathetic enough to the Israeli killers, even had the audacity to describe Israeli killings at the time as "targeted assassinations" when even Israel had not invented that propaganda term back then. He must have forgotten to remember.

That's all. Where do I begin? I mean yes, I was quite angry watching it; and I got more angry as I watched the Berkeley liberal audience react sympathetically to the movie, rooting for the Israel head killer, as he went about his "civilized" killing. I watched the audience root for an Israeli killing team, and this WAS a true story, and Palestinian victims were real people, with real blood.

The most emotional moment for Spielberg, and presumably for American audiences was when the head killer talked with his baby daughter in New York, that he missed very much. Oh, yeah. That was the point at which you were expected to shed a tear or two; the music got particularly sentimental at that point. It had to be.

But where to begin; the movie was based on a book that took the Israeli account as it was delivered. But the book was honest and more accurate at least on one count: in the book by George Jonas titled Vengeance (only Israelis are entitled to vengeance as you know, the more violent the better as far as some US movie audiences are concerned), the killers did not express regret or second thoughts. None. In the book but not in the movie, the killers, according to Jonas, had "absolutely no qualms about anything they did." How could Spielberg miss that? Well, he just managed. Hell, that was the whole movie, and the whole political project behind it.

Of course, it was not easy for me to watch this movie, I mean not only at the political and intellectual levels, but also at the personal level. I can connect to the story, in its details and personalities. The first victim of the movie was Wa�il Zu`aytir, and I knew his niece; I went to school with Abu Hasan Salamah�s son--he was younger; and I knew the street and building where the three PLO leaders were massacred in Beirut. And let me tell you that NONE of the five people mentioned here had anything to do with Munich--but more on that later. NONE.

But why should this movie, a Spielberg movie for potato�s sake, bother with facts, especially if they come in the way of a smooth pro-Israeli narrative? But this movie is intended for mass audiences who know nothing about the facts of the conflict. That is exactly why it will work, and why it will deliver the (propaganda) goods.

Let me start by saying this: this, Munich that is, was not as planned an operation as has often been maintained. This was not planned months in advance, as Abu Iyad maintained in his account with Eric Rouleau (translated into English as My Home, My Land by dear Linda Butler). Abu Iyad for years exaggerated the claims about the �carefully planned� operation, and PLO media at the time lied about how the PLO gunmen threw grenades into the helicopters, so as to make the last shootout more of a fight that it actually was.

Angry Palestinians who were being hit by Israeli fighter jets in their refugee camps demanded heroes and heroism, and the PLO had to give them some, even if they were not legitimate heroes. The German troops were going to take them out, no matter what, and no matter how much they, the Germans in this case, endangered the lives of the hostages, and they presumably had Israeli consent.

The Arab League diplomat talked about this recently when he broke his silence in an interview on Ziyarah Khassah on Al-Jazeera. He should know: he was the negotiator with the Palestinian team in Munich. Yes, I know. It can be argued that the Palestinian attackers risked the lives of the hostages by taking them hostages, even if they did not intend to kill them. That is true. This is like hijacking: the hijackers, any hijackers, are responsible, and should be held responsible for whatever endangerment to the lives and health of victims. That is true. But it is also true that the State of Israel has taken a nation as a hostage, and has been endangering the lives of Palestinians since the inception of the state of Israel. This is why it is all a question of who is retaliating against whom?

One of the many false premises of the movie is that Israel only went on a killing rampage�and only against Palestinian �killers�--after Munich. That Munich was a watershed. Watershed it was not, except in Israeli propaganda brochures. Israel has been going on killing rampages against Palestinians, civilians mostly, since before the creation of the state of Israel.

And how could you even talk about Golda Meir and forget to mention her most memorable quote: that �there is no such thing as the Palestinian people.� Spielberg must have missed that, just as he needed to show her as grandma goodness who was pushed into vengeance by Palestinian cruelty. More humanization. That is why we had to see the head Israeli killer with his child: you need to see him as a human being. Do you know that not a single Palestinian in the movie appeared unarmed? They all were terrorists, and their murder had to be justified, and Spielberg did a great service for the state of Israel in that regard. They should name some stolen Palestinian property in Israel in his honor, I argue. A street, a destroyed Arab village, or a stolen olive tree. Anything. He deserves it.

And let us see what Israel was doing before Munich. Before Munich, NOT AFTER�did you get that, Israel placed a bomb under the car seat of Palestinian writer/artist, Ghassan Kanafani and killed him and killed his niece. The niece was not plotting the Munich operation when she was murdered by the Israelis; nor was her uncle. That was BEFORE Munich.
Kanafani was best friends with my uncle; they both used to write in Al-Hurriyyah magazine during their days at the Movement of Arab Nationalists.

Israel also�BEFORE Munich�sent a letter bomb to Bassam Abu Sharif (a writer and journalist with the PFLP), and left him with life-long scars and bodily damage, and they also sent a letter bomb to Anis Sayigh, a scholar and researcher, who was not a member of any group. But he was a really diligent researcher, and Israel did not appreciate it--I am assuming.

This is not easy for me; I have shaken the hands--or what was left of their hands--of both of those men, and Abu Sharif never had a military role�I say this although I never liked Abu Sharif or respected him (read my review of his memoir in Journal of Palestine Studies a few years ago). But those were innocent victims of Israeli killing. They never held guns those two, or those three, or four. This story is personal for me, of course. I see them as human beings, and not as armed and vengeful characters that they appear in Spielberg�s movie.

And typical of US movies where Arabs appear, Arabs when they speak Arabic never need subtitles. We need them when people speak in French and German, but Arabic is not important. It is not important to know what cheap natives say; we only need to know what expensive people say: Europeans and Israelis. And do you notice that Hollywood still portrays Israelis as Europeans: they still don�t want to accept that some half of all Israelis come from Asian and African countries. This makes it easier for the White Man to identify with them.

And there is this element that is never mentioned about Palestinian attacks: and this is true of the present and of the past. It is not that some Palestinian leaders recruit or compel Palestinians to attack Israelis. It is the other way round. Palestinians, regular rank-and-file and sometimes civilians, pressure Palestinian leaders and commanders to send them on military or suicidal missions against Israeli targets.

Munich occurred exactly like that. Palestinians in the camps in Lebanon, those who were trained by Fateh and by other groups, were lobbying for �action.� Why, you may ask? Well, not only for the loss of Palestine but also because Israel was KILLING Palestinians. In February of the same year PRIOR to Munich, Israeli jets bombed Palestinian refugee camps, and killed tens of innocent people. This is what is missing in the movie, among many other things. Most Palestinians who are killed by Israelis are unarmed and are killed not by assassins who are conscientious and sensitive�as they are outrageously portrayed in this movie�but by pilots who bomb refugee camps filled with unarmed civilians. Palestinians who are bombed from the air, long before Munich, are elderly and people and children in their beds. These are the victims that you will never see in a Spielberg movie. So Israel was killing Palestinians, and this was the context of pre-Munich.

So a small group decided to do something, but they were not sure what, and this was only 3 months before Munich. And one of the handful of people who knew about this, and this will never make it into the press was Abu Mazin--yes, that Abu Mazin, the head of the puppet Palestinian Authority.

But do you notice that US/Israel always forgive the past of those who submit to Israeli dictates? Look at how US and Israel forgave Anwar Sadat for his anti-Semitic Nazi past. Abu Mazin was the money guy, and he dispersed the funds for Abu Dawud, who engineered the operation. And the American public in US media and popular culture is so enamored with the Mossad, that the image of the Mossad does not match its actual reality.

The best evidence is this movie: look at this obsession with Abu Hasan Salamah as the �mastermind� of Munich when he had nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with Munich. To be sure, Abu Hasan was a braggart, and had a big mouth, and would take credit for things he did not do, and would distance himself from failed �operations� that he planned, like the Sabena failed hijacking in 1972. That was Abu Hasan: he lived the life of a playboy, and enjoyed a unique indulgent pampering from Abu `Ammar [Arafat], who treated him like a son. Abu `Ammar would never say no to Abu Hasan, on anything. But Abu Hasan had nothing to do with Munich, and this ostensibly all-knowing Mossad, did not know it, and probably still does not know it.

Former CIA director, Stansfield Turner, once said that the Mossad is a mediocre organization, but that it is outstanding in PR--only in PR. Former CIA man in Beirut Robert Baer said this about the Mossad--I am translating this from an interview he gave to Al-Jazeera: �Let me tell you something, where people most err in the Middle East, and I am responsible for my words to the end, is related to Israeli intelligence. To be sure, they can kill somebody in Paris or Rome or killing the wrong person in Finland or wherever else they did that in [he meant Norway]. To be sure they know Europe and Palestinians, and they know many things about Palestinians, but when it comes to the rest of the Middle East, I have not seen anything from their part that indicated their knowledge of those countries.�

But this can never be maintained in a country that wants to exaggerate the prowess and knowledge of an intelligence agency not only to help feed the Israeli propaganda myth, but to also prepare the American public for more ruthless times and ways. So a very small number of people knew about it, and of course Abu Iyad was one of them. And Abu Iyad is the most important person on the list, and yet his name was NOT on the list, just to show you about how much--or how little-- Israel knew.
Abu Iyad spoke more than he needed not only because he wanted to send a message to the enemy, but also because the wars of factions and "Abu"s within Fateh necessitated a game of one-up-manship, and of wild exaggerations at times. And while Black September was a paper name, and did not have a separate organizational existence or structure, several factions used the name for their own ends. Nobody consulted with Abu Iyad about Abu Hasan�s use of the name for the Sabena�s failed hijacking mentioned above.

Abu Dawud is a key person here. And while his name was mentioned in passing, it was added after the fact in Israeli propaganda accounts. Abu Dawud was arrested in France for another reason in 1977, and he was released because there were no German or Israeli warrants about his involvement in Munich.
That shows you. Now, I will not give a blow-by-blow account of Munich. But I personally believe the account of Abu Dawud more than I believe Spielberg, i.e. Israeli propaganda claims, or even German police. (Abu Dawud's account is found in Abu Dawud, Filastin: Mina-l-Quds Ila-Muikh (Beirut: Dar An-Nahar, 1999)).

German police lied quite a bit about the case; they leaked to the press fanciful accounts of Palestinian infiltration of the workforce at the Olympic city, when none of that actually took place. They were too embarrassed to tell the truth. Similarly, the Israelis wanted to back the German account, especially as the violence at Munich was a propaganda bonanza for the Israelis in the West, just as Munich�this is not known in the West�was a propaganda bonanza for Fateh in the Middle East, as horrific as the outcome was for all. And in that sense, the Germans, the Israelis, and Abu Iyad (and certainly Abu Hasan) lied about Munich, but not Abu Dawud, in my opinion.

Abu Dawud is one of those 2nd tier PLO leaders who did not get corrupted in the messy Lebanese scene, and who did now allow the Gulf money that corrupted many PLO leaders to affect him. This was a man who was in charge of Beirut during the Lebanese civil war, and yet his name does not appear in any chronicle of the war because he was too low key, and because he never bragged. (Hell, he never talked even when the brutal mukhabarat in Jordan held him from his feet for days, while torturing him. People who saw him in jail at the time did not recognize him. But you know this: your reliable "moderate" friends in Jordan are quite "good" in torture. They are probably the best; they are helping you in that regard as we speak.)

Most Lebanese did not even know his name. But this also explains why he survived, unlike say Abu Hasan Salamah, who married a Lebanese former Miss Universe, who introduced him to Lebanese bourgeois society, and he could not get enough of that life. He developed a routine, and lived in a fancy apartment on Madame Curie Street in Beirut, and the routine he developed (going to the GYM at the same time every day), made him an easy target. Abu Hasan could get all the money he wanted for his own group from Arafat, and was doing a good job of maintaining not only good relations with the CIA but also with Lebanese right-wing groups. He became good friends with some right-wing militia leaders. Read the novel by David Ignatius, Agents of Innocence: it is about Abu Hasan, although the author does not admit it.

It is interesting that in the movie, the Israeli head killer (who was in the movie Troy) was cast to be most appealing to the audience: a good looking and charismatic figure. Say what you want about Abu Hasan (and many people in the Palestinian struggle, like Abu Dawud, did not like him), but he was a good looking and charismatic figure in real life, not the actor who played him in Spielberg�s movie. But Spielberg did not want the viewer to identify with any Palestinian in the movie: that was contrary to him and to his political goal. He just wanted to identify with the expensive human beings: the Israelis.

The Arabs are worse than they were in Renoir�s painting, the Mosque, as an unidentifiable blob. They were just armed, with no humanity. They were not supposed to evoke emotions, and you were not supposed to see them bleed, and if you did, you had to cheer for their killers. The only ones that you had to feel sorry for were the Israelis who get killed, including the killers when they kill. The music that played when Israelis died was different from the music that played when Palestinians died.

And no speaking roles for Palestinians were necessary. Why bother? Give one a line, and you have done your "objective" duty. And the list of prisoners that attackers submitted to German authorities did not have �200 Arab prisoners� on it, as the movie said. It had some 234 Arab and NON-Arab names on them, including Japanese and German prisoners, but that was not in the movie. And the statement that was issued by the attackers gave a name to the �operation�: Bir`im and Ikrit, names of two (predominantly Christian) villages in northern Palestine, the people of which were expelled by Israeli occupation forces in 1948 for �security reasons.�

In 1972, the people of those villages petitioned the courts to return to their villages, and the courts of course turned them down. But if you were to use the name of the �operation� you would have to tell the audience those burdensome details that would have distracted from the celebration of the Israeli killing machine. But this begs the question: why is Munich more famous than the savage bombardment of Palestinian refugee camps back in February prior to Munich? And why did the letter bombs to three Palestinian writers not get any world attention? Why did American liberals and PEN not notice it back then?

Could you imagine what would happen if a Palestinian threw even a rose at an Israeli writer? Could you imagine what would happen among American leftists if a Palestinian were to say even a bad word to Amos Oz for example? That was the stature of Ghassan Kanafani among Palestinians and Arabs.

Now, I will not get into the military/intelligence background of the Israeli hostages as Abu Dawud does in his memoirs because the attackers did not know that information prior to the �operation.� Abu Dawud gives many details about the military backgrounds of some of the hostages, but I do not think that this is appropriate because even Abu Dawud did not know that before hand. I will not get into what actually happened at the site at the airport when the hostages were being transferred by their captors not only because the captors were responsible by virtue of the hostage "operation", but also because you can raise questions regarding the actual responsibility of the killing of the hostages.

Abu Dawud cites Israeli newspapers from the 1990s in which writers raised questions about German responsibility, and on how the German government never published autopsy reports of the hostages, etc. The Israeli government also did not want to examine the bullets that killed the Israeli hostages. That would have settled the question, of course. Abu Dawud stressed that the attackers were under strict instructions to not shoot at the hostages, and you noticed in the scene, even in the movie, that when they were storming the compound, they clearly struggled with the door and avoided shooting, while that could have shortened the time of entry, and Abu Dawud says that they were under strict instructions to avoid using the grenades. And Abu Dawud raises the possibility that the helicopter may have exploded from a bullet that hit its gas tank, but I don�t know, and I have never relied on Spielberg, or on the silly book on which he based his account, for historical accuracy.

And another thing comes to mind: Palestinians also have managed to assassinate Israeli military and intelligence leaders but that never gets attention because the trend in US media and popular culture is that you should only show Palestinians when they are killing civilians. And it is not true that the Israeli response was confined to the assassination of the 11 Palestinians as was shown in the movie: Israel was also killing other Palestinians. Israeli �response� or initiative we should call it, was more massive and brutal that the operation of the secret team.

Three days after Munich, Israel ordered an air strike which required the use of some 75 Israeli aircrafts (the largest attack since 1967) and the attacks on Palestinian refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon resulted in the killing of more than 200, mostly civilians. And this is not because the Israelis knew that there was a camp north of Sidon that was used for training the Munich attackers. That camp was not even hit (another sign that Israelis had no information about the real culprits of Munich) and other camps with civilians were hit. And then while the assassinations were taking place, Israeli bombing of camps continued uninterruptedly.

And the most glaring omission in the film, which shows you that the Israeli team was not only savage but also ignorant of their targets, was what happened on July 21st 1973, when `Ali Bushiki, a Moroccan waiter resting with his pregnant wife around a swimming pool in Norway, was murdered by that assassination team merely because `Ali resembled what the hit team thought Abu Hasan Salamah looked like. (The Norwegian police tracked and arrested the killers, but they were all released in a secret deal with the Israeli government--is that not nice?) Should that not have made it to the movie? But that would have made them look more brutally clumsy than Spielberg wanted them to look like.

And even Wa�il Zu`yatir, the PLO representative in Rome. He knew nothing about Munich, and was an academic with close ties to socialist circles in Italy. Zu`ytir was shot 14 times. He never held a gun in his life. These Israeli team members were killers who really relished killing, and did not seem susceptible to moral second-thinking as was stressed over and over again in the movie. Zu`ytir was more interested in literature than he was in military affairs, on which he knew nothing. And the PLO representative in France, Mahmud Hamshari, also had nothing to do with Munich; Israeli propaganda later had to contend with that, and claimed after killing him that the attackers passed through France on their way to Munich. In reality, the attackers never stepped on French soil when they went to Germany.

And the movie, it seems really enjoyed covering the 1973 massacre in Beirut. Spielberg, I could tell, really enjoyed learning and covering that massacre by Israeli terrorist squads. But who were the three PLO personalities killed in that "operation"? And who cares about the details? Kamal `Udwan was the Fateh/PLO leader responsible for the West Bank and Gaza. He not only had no responsibilities in Europe, but he opposed �operations� in Europe, and even those by Black September. More than that, `Udwan was one of the most moderate Fateh leaders, having accepted the two-state solution back in 1970, before any of his colleagues in Fateh.

Abu Yusuf An-Najjar was in charge of intelligence in Lebanon�Lebanon, not Europe. While `Udwan had no knowledge of Munich, Abu Yusuf may have heard about it but had no role whatever in it. The third person was a poet: and you know how much Israelis like to murder Palestinian poets, artists, and writers. Kamal Nasir was a poet, and was killed in his bed. The movie did not tell you that by the time the Israeli terrorists finished with their �mission,� some 100 Palestinians and Lebanese were murdered on that day in April 1973.

I also was amused--not really--how Spielberg portrayed the neighborhood where the PLO leaders AND others were killed: it had all the features of Orientalist imagination. It was traditional and the houses were old styles with arches, and the place was protected like a military base. In reality, the PLO leaders lived in a residential building in the most modern and upper class neighborhood of Verdun in Beirut. But why bother with that detail too.

And the Fateh representative in Cyprus also had nothing to do with Munich; he was the intelligence envoy of Abu Yusuf An-Najjar. And some people on the list of the Israeli murder team were not only not involved with Black September, but some were not even members of the Fateh organization. Basil Al-Kubaysi was a Palestinian scholar who had just completed his PhD in political science; I recently had dinner with Basil�s best friend in college in Canada. Kubaysi was in the PFLP and not in the Fateh organization.

The same for Muhammad Budia: he was with Wadi` Haddad, and not with Black September. But then again: I read that Spielberg offered the script to Dennis Ross and to Bill Clinton to verify the �accuracy� of Middle East political and historical references. The two are experts on the Middle East, in case you have not heard. More than that, the movie did not tell you that on September 16th, and 17th, Israel launched a savage invasion of South Lebanon, erasing the refugee camp of Nabatiyyah, and the Lebanese newspapers at the time (I even remember that as a 12 year old) had on the first page that famous picture of a smashed civilian car with seven Lebanese civilians smashed inside when an Israeli tank ran over the car near Jwayya in South

That must have been too messy for Spielberg to cover. Why bother? And the car had stopped at the Israeli checkpoint that was set up at the entrance to the village. Were those civilians in the car also involved in Munich? Later, as the movie ended, it was written on the screen that Abu Hasan Salamah was later �assassinated.� Spielberg forgot to add that he was �assassinated� by a massive car bomb in a crowded street in Beirut, which killed and injured tens of people�oh, and those people also were not involved with Munich.

The reviews of the movie in US media almost expressed frustration that Spielberg did not express enough sympathy for the Israeli killers. Only Michelle Goldberg of Salon, to her credit (great review Michelle), pointed out that, contrary to that lousy review by Leon Wieseltier in the New Republic, �many of those [Israelis] in Munich are, if anything, slightly unbelievable in their constant self-interrogation and closely guarded humanism.�

I was thinking after the movie that public ignorance of the Middle East greatly helps Israeli propaganda; this explains why Zionist organizations express contempt and wrath at Middle East expertise and specialty (as in MESA) because those who get to know and learn about the Middle East overwhelming find it difficult if not impossible to consume the unbelievable dosages of Israeli propaganda delivered via US media and popular and political cultures.

*Three of the Munich Palestinian attackers survived. One died from a heart attack; the remaining two are...somewhere in the Middle East. wrote:
-------------- Forwarded Message: --------------
Subject: RE: "The cunning deceit behind `Munich' " by Charles Krauthammer
Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2006 01:15:34 +0000
RE: "The cunning deceit behind `Munich' " by Charles Krauthammer

Dear Editor:
Charles Krauthammer is once again given a platform to propagate the Zionist ideals for justifying the rape and theft of Palestine from its indigenous native population based NOT on historical facts, but Zionist mythology.
I would also like to remind Mr. Krauthammer and his readers that Israeli assassinations and murder of Palestinians did not start nor end with Munich. In fact, Israel had been in the business of assassinating Palestinian intellectuals, artists, writers, journalists, and political leaders long before Munich and ever since.
Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani, one of my favorite writers was murdered along with his young niece by Israeli agents in July of 1972, more than 2 full months before Munich.
I am guessing that Mr. Krauthammer knows these facts, but as many times in the past, he never let them get in the way of a �good story��
Mike Odetalla

The cunning deceit behind `Munich'

Charles Krauthammer, a syndicated columnist based in Washington: Washington Post Writers Group
January 16, 2006
WASHINGTON -- If Steven Spielberg had made a fictional movie about the psychological disintegration of a revenge assassin, that would have been fine. Instead, he decided to call this fiction "Munich" and root it in a real historical event: the 1972 massacre by Palestinian terrorists of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics. Once you've done that--evoked the actual killing of innocents who, but for Palestinian murderers, would not be much older than Spielberg himself today--you have an obligation to get the story right.

The only true part of the story is the few minutes spent on the actual massacre. The rest is invention, as Spielberg delicately puts it in the opening credits, "inspired by real events."

By real events? Rubbish. Inspired by Tony Kushner's belief (he co-wrote the screenplay) that the founding of Israel was a "historical, moral, political calamity" for the Jewish people.

It is an axiom of filmmaking that you can only care about a character you know. In "Munich," the Israeli athletes are not only theatrical but historical extras, stick figures. Spielberg dutifully gives us their names--Spielberg's List--and nothing more: no history, no context, no relationships, nothing. They are there to die.

The Palestinians who plan the massacre and are hunted down by Israel are given--with the concision of the gifted cinematic craftsman--texture, humanity, depth, history. The first Palestinian we meet is the erudite poet giving a public reading, then acting kindly toward his Italian shopkeeper--before he is brutally shot in cold blood by the Jews.

Then there is the elderly Palestine Liberation Organization man who dotes on his young daughter before being blown to bits. Not one of these plotters is ever shown plotting Munich or any other atrocity for that matter. They are shown in the full flower of their humanity, savagely extinguished by the Jews.

But the most shocking Israeli brutality involves the Dutch prostitute--apolitical, beautiful, pathetic--shot to death, naked, of course, by the now half-crazed Israelis settling private business. The Israeli way, I suppose.

Even more egregious than the manipulation by character is the propaganda by dialogue. The Palestinian case is made forthrightly: The Jews stole our land, and we're going to kill any Israeli we can to get it back. Those who are supposedly making the Israeli case say the same thing. The hero's mother, the pitiless committed Zionist, says: We needed the refuge. We seized it. Whatever it takes to secure it. Then she ticks off members of their family lost in the Holocaust.

Spielberg makes the Holocaust the engine of Zionism and its justification. Which, of course, is the Palestinian narrative. Indeed, it is the classic narrative for anti-Zionists, most recently the president of Iran, who says that Israel should be wiped off the map. And why not? If Israel is nothing more than Europe's guilt trip for the Holocaust, then why should Muslims have to suffer a Jewish state in their midst?

It takes a Hollywood ignoramus to give flesh to the argument of a radical anti-Semitic Iranian. Jewish history did not begin with Kristallnacht. The first Zionist Congress occurred in 1897. The Jews fought for and received recognition for the right to establish a "Jewish national home in Palestine" from Britain in 1917 and from the League of Nations in 1922, two decades before the Holocaust.

But the Jewish claim is far more ancient. Israel was their ancestral home, site of the first two Jewish Commonwealths for a thousand years--long before Arabs, long before Islam, long before the Holocaust. The Roman destructions of 70 A.D and 135 A.D. extinguished Jewish independence but never the Jewish claim and vow to return to their home. The Jews' miraculous return 2,000 years later was tragic because others had settled in the land and had a legitimate competing claim. Which is why the Jews have for three generations offered to partition the house. The Arab response in every generation has been rejection, war and terror.

And Munich. Munich, the massacre, had only modest success in launching the Palestinian cause with the blood of 11 Jews. "Munich," the movie, now has made that success complete 33 years later. "Munich" now enjoys high cinematic production values and the imprimatur of Steven Spielberg, no less, carrying the original terrorists' intended message to every theater in the world.

This is hardly surprising, considering that "Munich's" case for the moral bankruptcy of the Israeli cause--not just the campaign to assassinate Munich's planners but the entire enterprise of Israel itself--is so thorough that the movie concludes with the lead Mossad assassin, seared by his experience, abandoning Israel forever.


Friday, January 06, 2006

Excellent article - Eyeless in Gilo: What Hillary Clinton Doesn't Know About Palestine

January 5, 2006
In mid-November, Hillary Clinton visited Israel and, following a meeting with Ariel Sharon, in remarks that presaged the praise being heaped on the now-comatose Sharon, began her campaign for president by praising the Israeli as a "courageous" man who had taken "an incredibly difficult" step by withdrawing from Gaza. The withdrawal, she claimed with remarkable disregard for reality, was intended as "a means of demonstrating that he is committed to trying to get back into a process" with the Palestinians. Clinton also stopped for a photo op during her trip, in what constituted an equally monumental lie. She stood on a hilltop inside the Israeli settlement of Gilo, an illegal subdivision populated by 28,000 Israelis on the southern edge of Jerusalem overlooking Bethlehem. Gilo is in occupied Palestinian territory. It was built three decades ago, illegally according to international law, on approximately 700 acres of land confiscated from Palestinian ownership. It is just inside the expanded municipal limits of Jerusalem -- boundaries that Israel redrew when it captured the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 1967, then expropriated 25 square miles of Palestinian West Bank territory and annexed it, also illegally according to international law, to Israeli West Jerusalem.

Clinton stood on this spot and, striking an elaborate pose, gazing pensively off to the side, had her photo taken with the 26-foot-high concrete monstrosity that is Israel's separation wall in the near distance behind her. Where she stood, the wall, like Gilo itself, is built on confiscated Palestinian land. On the other side of the wall, in the middle distance, was the dying little town of Bethlehem, now partially encircled by the wall and cut off from Jerusalem, its religious and cultural twin.

Already surrounded by nine Israeli settlements, including Gilo, by a network of roads restricted to Israeli use, and by what the UN estimates are 78 Israeli checkpoints and other physical obstacles to Palestinian movement, Bethlehem has had only limited access to its surroundings for years. Completion of the wall on its northern and western sides, separating it from Jerusalem, is the final closure on Bethlehem's breathing room. A huge terminal went into operation in November, requiring travelers entering and leaving Bethlehem to pass through multiple turnstiles, x-ray scans, and permit checks. Palestinians must have hard-to-obtain permits to leave Bethlehem. The terminal is manned by both Israeli military and civilians. It functions like nothing so much as an international border, except that the guards and soldiers on both sides of this border are Israeli.

If you know Palestine, Clinton's photo-op beggars the imagination. She no doubt knows nothing of the history of the area; she might even be excused for not knowing that Gilo is in occupied territory. But one would like to assume that she is a thinking, feeling human being, able to see at a glance the huge concreteness of the wall and the scar it leaves across the land and across Palestinian humanity. Yet her ability to stand in front of the wall and sing its praises is clear testimony to the power of denial, and the power of politics. Clinton made it clear that she had no intention of visiting "Palestinian areas" -- by which she meant Palestinian areas where Israelis do not yet live -- and her promise was triumphantly repeated in Israeli press coverage of her visit. Her constituents in New York and among Democrats eager for her presidential candidacy were undoubtedly also pleased that she refused to associate with those people, the Palestinians.

The wall, Clinton announced in its shadow, coyly mislabeling it a fence, "is not against the Palestinian people," only against the terrorists. As if she knew. As if she knew anything about the situation on the ground. As if the wall selectively disrupts only the plans of a few terrorists and does not destroy the property, the land, the homes, the livelihoods, the very lives of 500,000 innocent Palestinians. In a statement posted on her website following the trip, Clinton affirmed her "strong" support for Israel's "right" to ensure the safety and security of its citizens and to build a "security barrier to keep terrorists out," and boasted that she had "taken the International Court of Justice to task for questioning Israel's right to build the fence." Apparently, we are supposed to be edified by Clinton's cheek in taking an international court to task. Such steely determination on Israel's behalf plays well in the U.S. political arena, where the utter immorality of the wall is of little import.

Squeezed in Nu'man

What Hillary Clinton does not know about the wall, about the Palestinian lives it affects, about anyone's security, would fill a large volume. Take the little village of Nu'man, whose 200 or so inhabitants have lived throughout the 38 years of Israel's occupation in a strange kind of limbo and are now facing the total destruction of their homes and entire village. We visited Nu'man in September and heard its story from the elderly mother of the village leader and her nephew, a young man who is also a leader in the village.

Nu'man lies a few miles northeast of Bethlehem, not more than five miles as the crow flies from where Clinton stood admiring the wall. Few people in Israel and the U.S. had ever heard of Nu'man until just recently when Ha'artez correspondent Gideon Levy revealed that Israeli Border Police, a notoriously vicious lot, had probably tied a Nu'man resident, father of nine children, to his donkey and then spooked the donkey so that it ran and dragged the helpless man to his death. Although the Border Police deny any culpability, the practice is common enough, according to Palestinians, to have acquired a name, "the donkey procedure." Ha'aretz thought to publish an editorial criticizing Israelis for the kind of apathy that allows this sort of thing to happen frequently to Palestinians without anyone noticing, but the criticism is at least 38 years late.

The small village of Nu'man is in a rural area just inside the municipal limits of Jerusalem, but in 1967 when Israel required all residents of the recently captured territories to register and obtain residency cards, Nu'man's inhabitants were given West Bank IDs, meaning it is illegal for them even to be in Jerusalem -- to be in their homes, to live where they live, to have been born where they were born. This anomaly was never a major problem until the 1990s, at the height of the so-called peace process, when Israel imposed closure on the West Bank and Gaza and required that Palestinians have permits before they could enter Israel, including annexed Jerusalem.

Until this point, Nu'man's children had attended schools in Jerusalem, but eight years ago they were barred from Jerusalem and required to go to school in Bethlehem. Like hundreds of tiny rural villages throughout the West Bank, Nu'man depends on other nearby towns and villages, in this case Bethlehem and surrounding villages, for virtually all vital services -- not only schools, but medical services and groceries. But the village is gradually being squeezed on all sides and cut off from its neighbors. To the north, Jerusalem is no longer accessible. The wall, which encircles the village on the east and south, has separated it from several neighboring villages and, when completed, will cut it off from Bethlehem. On the west, the large Israeli settlement of Har Homa is encroaching on village land. Israeli authorities have informed the village that the settlement intends to expand to a hillside literally only a stone's throw away from Nu'man's homes, all of which have been issued demolition orders.

Israel's contention is that these homes, a few of which have already been demolished, were built without permits. And of course this is true. The village, whose inhabitants are Bedouin, has existed since the early 19th century, well before Israel was created and about a century and a half before Israel invaded and occupied the West Bank in 1967, annexed a large swath of land to Jerusalem, and began imposing its own permit regulations, its own laws, and its own expansionist ambitions on another people. Several years ago, Israel tried to buy Nu'man's land, but the villagers refused. The Israelis then cut off the village's water and electricity, but the people existed on wells and were able to get electricity from Bethlehem. When these steps failed to empty the village, Israel began encircling and squeezing it.

Fatma, the village leader's mother, and her nephew explained all this to us matter-of-factly, with remarkably little emotion. Our friend Ahmad interpreted for us. But near the end of our meeting, Fatma began to tell a long story that we did not at first understand, until tears began to roll down her cheeks as she talked. As Ahmad explained the story, one of Fatma's sons, a lawyer, is married to a woman, also a lawyer, who has a Jerusalem ID card. About a year ago, their five-year-old daughter became ill and Fatma's son went into Jerusalem, carrying his West Bank ID card, to buy medicine for the girl. He was arrested for illegally being in Jerusalem and was held for six months, under Israel's occupation "law," which allows Israel to detain anyone for six-months without bringing charges. The day before Fatma's son was to be released, the Israelis imposed a second six-month sentence, and just two days before we met her, after the family had prepared a welcome-home celebration for him, her son was sentenced for a third six-month period.

While we sat somewhat mute, unable to react adequately to this (typical) example of Israel's nightmarish occupation, Fatma's nephew Yussuf struck a hopeful note. Noting that Nu'man, and the Palestinians in general, have neither airplanes nor tanks nor guns, he said they will fight non-violently. Nu'man's story is getting out, he said -- a Swedish film crew was in the village this very day -- and "maybe this will give us power."

This puts us sadly in mind of a video we recently saw of a group of teenage folk dancers from the Ibdaa Cultural Center at Dheisheh Refugee Camp in Bethlehem, in which one boy comments that foreigners come all the time to Dheisheh to help the Palestinians, but nothing ever changes. We could not share Yussuf's optimism. Nor did our friend Ahmad, who commented after we left, "It doesn't help if you're a lawyer like her son, or a professor. It only helps if you're a Jew." Harsh but true. Nu'man is not a threat to Israelis. It's just in the way -- in the way of expansion plans for Israeli Jews.

Hillary Clinton will most likely never hear about Nu'man. Even she would have some trouble justifying Nu'man's treatment as something that ensures the "safety and security" of Israelis, so she deliberately chose not to see it, not to see Palestine or Palestinians at all.

Cut Off in Qalqilya

If you're Jewish in Israel or Palestine, or an ambitious whistle-stopping American politician, it is easy not to see the wall. To see it figuratively, you have to be open-minded, a rare quality where seeing Palestinians is involved. To see the huge concrete structure literally, you have to be in Palestinian areas, in East Jerusalem or deeper in the West Bank, so not many Israelis or their political visitors see where the wall cuts a village off from its land, or runs down the middle of a busy commercial street, or cuts directly across a street, or winds through a residential neighborhood, looming right outside the front door of a private home. So hardly anyone except Palestinians and their friends truly knows about the wall. Where it comes near Israeli settlements, as in Gilo, Israelis are able to see it, but usually only on the settlement's outskirts. In the few places where the wall runs along Israel's border, attractive landscaping on Israel's side hides its ugliness from Israelis.

On the Israeli side of Qalqilya, for instance, the principal Palestinian city in the agricultural heart of the West Bank, the wall can barely be seen. Qalqilya sits adjacent to the Green Line, just inside the West Bank, and it used to be an agricultural and commercial center for the area, a place where both Israelis and Palestinians came to shop and do business. But the wall, erected here almost three years ago, encloses the city on three sides and most of the fourth, cutting it off completely from Israel, placing almost 2,000 acres of its land on the Israeli side, and leaving only one road out of the town, to the east. This road was closed except to permit holders until about a year ago. Now it is still controlled by Israeli soldiers and movement is restricted. Israelis can still not come to shop.

Last February, during the usually life-giving winter rainy season, the entire Qalqilya area flooded after seven consecutive days of rain because the concrete wall prevented runoff. Backed-up sewage caused by the wall created a further problem. According to the armistice agreement that established the Green Line between Israel and the West Bank in 1949, Israel provides an outlet to the sea for sewer water from the Qalqilya region. Because the wall has blocked the drainage channels, a system of gates was established to provide for runoff. These are controlled by the Israelis, but Israeli attention to the gates is at best spotty (as is also the case with the gates controlling farmers' access to their land), and during the period of heavy rains and floods, the gates went unmanned for three days. As a result, sewage mixed with flood waters, and an estimated 200 acres of land was polluted, causing a devastating crop loss for hundreds of farm families.

When we met with Qalqilya's deputy mayor, Hashim al-Masri, in September, he described an economically devastated city. Qalqilya once had three principal sources of income, now totally cut off or severely limited by the wall. Approximately 12,000 residents once worked inside Israel; now only about 300 sneak in to work illegally. The town was also an agricultural market center, selling fruits and vegetables to Israelis as well as Palestinians. Now 80 percent of this market has been lost because most of Qalqilya's land is on the Israeli side of the wall. Produce from the Qalqilya fields that ended up on Israel's side of the wall is now being sold all over the West Bank by Israelis, al-Masri said, with the result that what Qalqilya is still able to grow and sell goes very cheaply. Finally, the town was once a business and commercial center for both Israelis and Palestinians, with what al-Masri said was a business capacity more than three times what was needed for the town itself. Now less than 25 percent of that capacity is left. Israelis cannot get into the town, shops are closed, commerce is dying.

Al-Masri estimated that Qalqilya had lost more than 65 percent of its economy. Approximately 12 percent of the residents have left to move farther into the West Bank. The city's distress is evident in streets lined with closed shops, in a market area obviously not thriving, and in the prevalence of donkey carts used for ordinary transport by people unable any longer to afford cars.

Steven Erlanger of the New York Times visited Qalqilya in November, but his principal concern was not what the wall has done to Qalqilya -- he mentioned the "separation barrier" only in passing, as the only thing that separates Qalqilya from the Israeli town of Kfar Sava. He was more interested in the fact that al-Masri and his four fellow members of the city council are all members of Hamas and what this means for Israel. Hamas swept the local elections in June; al-Masri is serving as acting mayor because the mayor, another Hamas man, was elected while in an Israeli prison, where he has been languishing, without charges, for over three years.

"A lot of eyes are fixed on Qalqilya" because both Fatah and Israel are shocked at the Hamas victory, Erlanger wrote earnestly. He went out in search of ordinary Qalqilyans in the market who would discuss al-Masri's performance, and he found enough dissatisfaction with Hamas' restrictive rule to make an article. Erlanger himself was concerned about Hamas' attitude toward Israel, noting early in the article that Hamas "advocates Israel's destruction" and asking al-Masri about what he called the Hamas "commitment" to establishing a Palestinian state in all of Palestine and thereby destroying Israel. Wondering about the kind of threat Hamas might pose to Israel from a small town sitting besieged and helpless behind a massive concrete wall would seem to be a serious upending of reality, certainly out of proportion to any actual danger to Israel. But this was clearly Erlanger's principal concern; he seemed unable to conceive of an Israeli threat to the Palestinians. He mentioned nothing about the floods of February, or the jobs lost to the wall, or the fields left fallow, or the huge agricultural loss, or the general economic strangulation.

Another example, like that of Hillary Clinton, of not seeing the wall even when it and its consequences stare you in the face.

Bil'in: A Sequel

We wrote in September ("Travels in Palestine, Part One: Horror Story,") about meeting with the mayor in the small village of Bil'in; he is actually head of the village council, a man named Ahmad Issa Yassin. Bil'in has lost three-quarters of its land to the separation wall and has staged non-violent anti-wall protests every Friday since February, with the participation of hundreds of Palestinians from Bil'in and nearby villages, Israeli peace activists, and internationals. The protests are continuing even though almost no one in the West or the Western media sees these either, any more than they do in Gilo or Qalqilya. Israel's violent response to the peaceful protests also continues, also more or less unseen.

Steven Erlanger did finally record the protests for the New York Times in October, eight months after they had begun, but he managed to minimize the significance of the protests and of the village's loss of land to the wall. Calling the interplay between protesters and Israeli soldiers "almost joyful" and likening the confrontation to a kabuki dance, Erlanger emphasized that the Israeli military has backed off from its earlier confrontational mode and now only wants to "protect" the "barrier" from the protesters. He quoted an Israeli commander as saying, with a straight face, "We don't want to bother them in the village or the fields" -- as if the wall and the confiscation of the village's agricultural land that it entails are themselves no "bother." In a remarkable verbal circumlocution, Erlanger noted that the Israelis had become concerned that their earlier use of batons, stun grenades, rubber bullets, and tear gas against protesters "made it look as if" Israel was repressing dissent. Well, duh. Erlanger did not see fit to interview any Palestinians, not even village leader Yassin.

At about the time Erlanger was making excuses for them, the Israelis began resorting to middle-of-the-night raids to arrest and intimidate village residents. Erlanger did not see these either. Since October, several young men from the village have been seized in the nighttime raids and detained for various periods for "damaging the foundation" of the wall. Two of Ahmad Issa Yassin's nine children are among those arrested during multiple raids on Yassin's house in November. Both sons were among about a dozen fined $200 each and sentenced to four months in jail. One son is 28 years old, married with two children and a third on the way. The other is only 14. We met this boy, Abdullah, in September and thought him even younger -- a smiling, clean-cut boy, who is Yassin's youngest child. He is at Israel's notorious Ofer military detention center.

Bil'in's residents are continuing their struggle undeterred. Just before Christmas, they acquired a trailer and set it up on village land lying on the Israeli side of the wall, proclaiming it an "outpost" of Bil'in, much as wildcatting Israeli settlers establish settlement outposts on nearby hillsides and live there in trailer villages. Israeli soldiers immediately dismantled the Bil'in "outpost," using sledgehammers and a crane, but villagers replaced it with a tent and a few days later moved another trailer onto the same spot and built a small shed to mark their claim. Israeli soldiers removed this trailer too, but the shed remains for now, under threat of demolition.

When we visited him in September, Yassin pointed to his now-jailed son Abdullah and expressed his worry about the kind of future that lay ahead for his children and grandchildren, and for the future of an entire village being strangled by Israel. Yassin himself is without a job or a livelihood, having lost his permit to work in Israel when the intifada began in 2000 and now having lost his productive olive trees to the wall. We gave him a button carrying a quote from Howard Zinn: "There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people." Yassin was quite taken with the quote and asked if we had more of the buttons that he could pass out. "We are people who want a future to live in peace," he said. "We don't want war and blood and killing."

But Bil'in is in the way of Israel's plans, and in the West Bank that's all that counts. Until Israeli leaders and the American politicians who toady to them begin to see what is happening right before their eyes, begin to see the human lives that they and their occupations and their walls are destroying, nothing will change. Ahmad Issa Yassin's children will remain in jail.

Bill Christison was a senior official of the CIA. He served as a National Intelligence Officer and as Director of the CIA's Office of Regional and Political Analysis.

Kathleen Christison is a former CIA political analyst and has worked on Middle East issues for 30 years. She is the author of Perceptions of Palestine and The Wound of Dispossession.

They both can be reached at