Monday, 6 October 2014

Palestinian Children come to Chester to tell their stories and share their lives.

A group in Chester is giving Cestrians a chance to meet and talk to young Palestinians about what it is like to live and go to school in the West Bank. The public meeting will be held in the POP-UP Gallery next to Alexander's in Rufus Court, Chester CH1 2JW, from 4pm on Sunday 12th October (next Sunday) Entrance to the meeting is absolutely free, but there will be Palestinian Snacks and a hearty English Stew available for which donations are requested. The Children are mainly between 13 and 15, and they very much hope to meet children of their own age as well as adults.
The Group also includes Adam Halabiyeh, 18, who, with a friend Johar, was shot in the legs multiple times by Israeli Soldiers on his way home from Football training. When asked where he had come from, and he said 'football training', they broke both boys' knees. They were held in an Israeli Detention Centre for four days, then treated at the family's cost in Jordan, as no hospital in Palestine could treat their injuries. On his return, Adam was arrested and imprisoned for three months. Once again, after a campaign by Camden-Abu Dis Twinning group, who have organised this visit, he was released without charge.
Adam cannot play football any more, but the other boys will play five a side against a Lache team at 'Goal' in Bumper's Lane at 13:00, and other teams (age about 14) can contact Rod Cox if they would like to play (
Rod Cox, of Chester Friends of Palestine said: "The devastation of Gaza outraged everyone. But the Humiliation and suffering in the West Bank, of teenagers especially, continues quietly and gets daily worse. Israel imprisons children without trial or charge in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and ignoring the world's condemnation. In Football their Government's Apartheid Policies of discrimination against Palestinians is also illegal, and a particular target of the Kick Racism out of Football campaign instituted by the English FA."
"There are always voices to be heard making excuses for Israeli behaviour, but it is rare for people to be able to meet and talk directly with Palestinians, so we hope as many as possible will take advantage of the opportunity."
The Mayor of the Town is also on the tour, and with excellent translators, the organisers hope that he, Adam and the Children from this Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis will be able to answer everyone's questions, and everyone will have the chance to meet and talk with them while sharing a mint tea or Humous Dip.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

A Slim Chance of Peace

Here's a joke. Of course being about Israel, its not funny.
Why has Israel banned half-starved women from modelling?
Because it gave the Palestinians too many job opportunities.

Please Give support in any way you can to Hana Shalabi, who is on hunger strike and close to death:
She has not been charged with any offence, but is held in detention, and is reported to be determined to continue with her fast. She said "Freedom is even more precious and more powerful than their cells"
About Hana.
PSC asks you to write to the Foreign Office as well.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Abbas gets tough or Abbas is weak

Abbas has sacked Mohammed Dahlan, formerly head of the Presidential Guard in Gaza, and regarded by everyone I've ever met as the hand of Israel in Palestine. Although there is certainly no proof, very many Palestinians point the finger at Dahlan when they talk of the mysterious death of Arafat, now almost universally regarded as murder by poison by Israel through the hand of...
When Hamas won the January 2006 election in Palestine, but were not allowed to take power, they eventually formed a power sharing government with Abbas' Fatah and some deals for practical implementation of the unitary government were put in place. One of these deals was that 'security' in Gaza would be put under the control of the Government in a unified force, rather than the collection of private militias that had existed since Arafat's time. These militia, you may recall, were responsible for kidnappings, including the BBC journalist Alan Johnson. A quick search of the BBC for "Johnson Gaza" brings up Jul 2004 - 'This weekend a string of high profile kidnappings and fighting...' April 2003 - 'Dahlan says he will disarm other militias by force if necessary', and so on. Johnson was captured on March 12th 2007 by the Dogmush clan, another fearsome tribe that had been allowed to run wild whilst Dahlan was head of security in Gaza under Arafat and then Abbas.
The reason for the kidnap at a time when Hamas looked certain to beat Dahlan, seems to have been an excuse to bring in International - ie Israeli - forces against Hamas, who had been fighting Dahlan as part of their mission to unify security, agreed as part of the coalition settlement. Dahlan was supposed to slot into the Hamas Parliamentary chain of command, but that was never going to happen after Israel - who preferred Gaza split, unstable, corrupt and divided - gave him a boatload of arms, and in the end the fighting became very bloody, but Hamas 'won'. Dahlan fled to the West Bank, where he was found a job in Tony Blair's re-organisations, but that spelt the end of any Hamas input there, as a wave of arrests of Hamas activists by Abbas, and Hamas MPs by Israel, took place.
So, the removal of Dangerous Dahlan is bravery by Abbas beyond what I would have considered possible. Does that make Abbas weak or strong? The BBC quotes him as under pressure, which he is, but I see this as poke in the eye for Israel, and a statement of independence from Abu Mazan (Abbas).
In Israeli eyes Abbas has been behaving strangely lately: he's refused to obey Israel slavishly, he insists on the settlement ban, and by removing Dahlan, he may actually be clearing the way for a dialogue with Hamas. So, as with Arafat, Israel'd want to get rid of him, so the coup charge against Dahlan looks realistic. And therefore getting rid of Dahlan is very brave, and a smack in the teeth for Netanyahu, isn't it?  Well, I've always been a glass half full man, because otherwise I'd have to cut my wrists, it's so depressing, so let's look at the picture in the round.
Abbas had not folded in his demand for a settlement moratorium, he has a plan B (declare an independent state of Palestine) to go forward diplomatically in the face of Israeli Intransigence which is meeting with some success, and he has just got rid of the one man that Hamas would want him to, opening the way for genuine dialogue. He is now in a position where he can be a little bit generous to Hamas - even if Israel will portray that as weakness. A united front will be important to get a first ever Security Council Resolution against Israel's brutality, and then the Gaza Boats will be on the seas again in May, again with a powerful Turkish presence making it hard for Israel to sustain the Gaza blockade AND any credibility as a peace-loving state. Obama doesn't have to do anything, he just has to sit on his hands, and let it all happen. I think Abbas thinks he can actually achieve something, and I hope he's right.

 Here's the BBC article in full; what a shame that it doesn't seem to feel it necessary to tell us Dahlan's blood-stained history:

Abbas suspends Dahlan from Fatah over 'coup plot'
By Wyre Davies
BBC News, Jerusalem
Mohammed Dahlan is Fatah's former head of security in the Gaza Strip
Related stories
A senior figure in the Palestinian Fatah movement has denied plotting an internal coup to remove President Mahmoud Abbas.
Mohammed Dahlan has been suspended from Fatah's central committee pending an investigation into the allegations, which he describes as "fantastical".
There are increasing divisions in the movement, which runs the Palestinian Authority in the occupied West Bank.
Mr Dahlan was Fatah's security chief in Gaza before Hamas took over in 2007.
Although President Mahmoud Abbas enjoys strong backing from the international community, the 75-year-old's presidential term formally ended more than a year ago and he has been effectively governing by decree ever since.
With peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians indefinitely suspended, there is growing criticism in Palestinian circles of what some describe as Mr Abbas' weak leadership.
Among his critics is Mr Dahlan, a 49-year-old who is originally from Gaza.
Mr Dahlan has emphatically denied plotting a coup and expressed his full support for Mahmoud Abbas in a BBC interview
"Abbas is the president of the Palestinian people and when he summons me, I will go to him. But this is an exaggerated story that is not good for Fatah or the Palestinian people," he said.
"There are those who want to stab Fatah in the back, but I won't give them the reason or means to do so. I am dedicated to the movement and I will not turn my back on it."
Embezzlement probe
Taking no chances, President Abbas also closed the offices of a TV station with links to Mr Dahlan and removed his personal security detail.
Mr Abbas has also reportedly ordered an internal investigation into embezzlement, which could focus on Mr Dahlan's multi-million dollar fortune.
Such moves might succeed in neutering any immediate attempt by Mr Dahlan, or others, to force a change of leadership in the Palestinian Authority.
But there is no doubt, say observers, that President Abbas looks like an increasingly weakened and dispirited leader.

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Today is the start of the European Cup.

                                   It was during the last European cup that Israel played against England at Wembley, and I tried to bring a Palestine team for some games against UK football league teams at the same time. My objective was to give the Palestinians opposition that would motivate them to practice and improve. We had a base at the University of Chester, who were providing specialist coaching, and we had  an ascending order of games culminating with a premier league game against Blackburn Rovers. But it didn't happen. The UK government refused them visas on the grounds that Israel might refuse them re-entry, if they let them out in the first place, so they would become refugees and become a burden on the state. Meanwhile Israel turn up to an official reception to play their leg in the European Cup, feted by the English FA. But why does Israel play in Europe whilst it is imprisoning another team, and why Europe anyway?
The reason Israel plays in Europe is the Oslo agreement. Palestine is not a 'country' as Zionists keep telling us, so is not entitled to a FIFA recognised team, whilst Israel could not get a game in Asia, where most countries boycotted it. So giving Palestine a team, as a concession for moving Israel to Europe was an obvious move to make in the Oslo settlement. Crucially, Israel gets to be treated as a 'normal' state where it matters most, in the west.
In this Cup, Israel play Malta tonight. They have a very easy group, their seeded team is Croatia, who they have beaten before, I think, and the second seed is Greece, a team very varied in quality. The winner of each group and the 5 best runners up qualify for the finals, and this must be Israel's best opportunity yet. Their other opponents are Malta, Latvia and Georgia (who despite the distance, really are in geographical Europe). And an appearance in the final play-offs is yet another step to normalising them as a country, and as a European Country at that. No wonder Israeli commentators like Gideon Levy and Illan Pape say that the Israeli public have closed their mind to Peace, seeing no need to get out of their chairs, and feeling comfortable in the world's acceptance of who they are, occupation and all.
As I said, I invited the Palestine youth team over, but they were refused visas by the UK Government. A practiced media expert could have made much more out of it than I did, but, still there was some media attention for it. I do not discount rumours that Israel threw their England game as a deal to get the banning result, you have only to read the commentaries on the game, and see what an appalling game Yossi Benayoun had, for instance, and England badly needed a win to retain credibility (they still didn't qualify). But whether or not, they played at Wembley and the Palestinians remained locked in Gaza.
Anyway, the amount of work in trying to organise the tour was astonishing, and the costs enormous, so I won't be trying it again. In any case, after the failure of that visit the situation changed dramatically for the team. They were not helped by the then president of the Pal's FA saying that my failure to get visas was a personal failure, because I was obviously not corrupt enough to pull the right strings, and, as he told me, nothing to do with the siege of Gaza, which didn't affect him personally much. There are still a very few people in Gaza, I very much regret to say, who feel that breaking the siege is just a matter of corrupt payments to the right Israelis rather than action to end the occupation for all. This corruption is, of course the reason why Fatah were punished in the elections, and Hamas elected, but our Pals FA president, sitting in his 5 star hotel in Qatar, paid for by the Emir, had not yet got that message, even though the 2006 world cup qualifying run came to an end for the Palestine team when Israel refused visas to half the team when they needed to get a good result against Uzbekistan, and they lost, and lost momentum. "Pah, he said, why would the British government be implicated in the siege of Gaza?"
The progress of the team was mentored by a Kuwaiti based Palestinian refugee businessman called Barakat, who persuaded many other businesses to invest in the team. They really thought that World Cup qualification was possible, and the team moved up the FIFA rankings from the bottom to 115th, nearly halfway. The enthusiasm was palpable and it was possible to image the world sitting up and taking notice. As their success grew, beating Taiwan 8-0, and drawing with in form Iraq 1-1, Israel suddenly refused to allow half the team to play against Uzbekistan, and that was the beginning of the end. They lost 3-0, and under similar sanctions, they failed to qualify through their remaining games. 
In 2007, in the next world cup, without Barakat's support, and with West Bank pressures, they lost their pre-qualification match with Singapore, at 'home' in Qatar, and failed to show up for the return leg in Singapore, probably because of Israel visa issues, but also shortage of money and organising ability. The Pal FA failed to organise Palestinian TV coverage of the Singapore game, and failed to inform Al Jazeera (in Qatar!) or to make the most of Al Jazeera's coverage when I accidentally organised it for them following a fortuitous meeting in my hotel. I presented a shirt from Blackburn Rovers, but the Pals insisted that it be off camera, thus alienating Blackburn who were looking to build support in the Middle East, and also failing to get the important message, that they have friends in the West, out to their supporters. What was the explanation for this behaviour? I don't know, but it didn't help the team, and if the President thought it helped his position with Israel or the West Bank Fatah Government, he was mistaken. It just made it easy for him to be replaced.
Israel could clearly see the propaganda value of a successful Palestine team, and were keen to stop it.
Tony Blair, Middle East envoy, also saw the propaganda value of the team, and that clubs in Gaza were still largely controlled by Fatah but delegates were moving towards Hamas, so it was that FIFA agreed to re-build a national stadium, but on condition was that there must be a new election for President and delegates. Then they ruled out all the Gaza votes because Hamas 'gunmen' were said to have intimidated the voters at one local Gaza club. As a result, all the delegates are West Bank Fatah, except the delegate for Qalqilya, who 'is in touch with Hamas'. As a result the emphasis of the team was moved to the West Bank, and the new stadium was built there, just outside the area Israel has zoned as part of "Jerusalem", so not being contentious in the current Peace talks when Israeli Annexation of Jerusalem is ratified. They did this rather than rebuild the Gaza stadium that Israel bombed.
And it was the old West Bank section of the FA (supposedly under control from Gaza, but encouraged by Blair and Israel to behave independently) who had also sabotaged 'my' tour by refusing to take part unless they got 50% of the players regardless of ability, and on refusal by the President, pulled out. (This sabotage made it much easier for the UK to refuse the team visas, since they were all from Gaza. The press often described it as 'A Gaza Youth Team', whereas it was the official U19 Palestinian National Team. I was asked by Channel 4 News whether it wasn't right that the team should be blocked to punish Hamas)
The new President of the Palestine FA, Jibril al Rajoub, is a Fatah hard man. He is a powerful general previously in charge of Internal Security. Blair wanted to get rid of most of these guys from Government in order to create a unified structure of armed forces control, and he had to find jobs for them. 
Unlucky FA! Since his appointment, many foreign players, such as Chile's Roberto Kettlun, that were so prominent in Palestine's dramatic progress towards the 2006 world cup, when they beat Taipei 8-0, have not been recalled, even when they request it, and some are now being recruited by Jordan instead. Conversely, however, Jordan has pressured the Palestine FA not to recruit Jordan based Palestinians (70% of Jordan citizens) and the Palestine FA appear to have agreed. A recent story concerns two Croats, the Sharbini Brothers, called up for the Singapore qualifier in 2007, but too frightened by death threats in Croatia to leave at that time, but who have not been recalled subsequently even though they have signalled a willingness to be so. One has been approached by Croatia, but both seem likely to play for Jordan, who has also approached them. The team is thus being downgraded to a non-threatening position, although they were scheduled to play a friendly against a league side in Belgium last year, but I'm not sure if it happened. There are plenty of UK clubs that would play them if the UK FA could be persuaded to invite them, but there is a strong link with the Israel FA in London, both officially and by Zionist individuals in senior positions.
And so the Israelis will strut the International stage, while the football mad Palestinians languish at 171 out of 207, positioned above the Comoros Islands and Somalia, their only scheduled fixtures being friendlies against Yemen away (played in Amman) and Iraq at home (played in Amman, despite FIFA promises about their home stadium). They have previously drawn with Mauritania, Sudan and the UAE, lost to China 3-1, and to Iraq 3-0, then 4-0
Still the West Bank got that new Stadium, and most Gaza players are allowed out of their jail to play, but generally not to train, although the Captain is still not allowed out - but then he is also no longer the Captain. The siege has been left out of the picture by these dealings, as Palestine is now not called unsafe by FIFA, so FIFA also now supposedly allow foreign teams to play in this Ramallah stadium, and both the men's and women's teams have played Jordan in friendlies, both ending in draws. Yet no other matches have been played in 'Ram', or are scheduled to be. 
Interesting and co-incidental that England's first game in its new Wembley stadium was against Israel. And while I have been writing this, Israel have beaten Malta 3-1. A hat trick by Yossi Benayoun, ex Liverpool, now Chelsea player. Well Done, how the Premier league has improved your play!  What a shame that the UK Premier league will never be allowed to employ Ramzi, the 65 times capped Palestine keeper. I don't how many of Benayoun's goals he would have saved, but I do know that he would give his life for the opportunity to be allowed to try.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Truth, What Truth?

When a Massacre is not a Massacre

When a truth is not a truth

I don't write poems but, in any case, poems are not poems.

Long ago, I was made to understand that Palestine was not Palestine;

I was also informed that Palestinians were not Palestinians;

They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing.

And when naive old me saw freedom fighters they patiently showed me

that they were not freedom fighters, and that resistance was not resistance.

And when, stupidly, I noticed arrogance, oppression and humiliation

they benevolently enlightened me so I can see that arrogance was not arrogance,

oppression was not oppression, and humiliation was not humiliation.

I saw misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp.

But they told me that they were experts in misery, racism, inhumanity and concentration camps
and I have to take their word for it:

this was not misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp.

Over the years they've taught me so many things:

invasion was not invasion, occupation was not occupation,

colonialism was not colonialism and apartheid was not apartheid.

They opened my simple mind to even more complex truths that my poor brain could not on its own compute like:

"having nuclear weapons" was "not having nuclear weapons,"

"not having weapons of mass destruction" was "having weapons of mass destruction."

And, democracy (in the Gaza Strip) was not democracy.

Having second class citizens (in Israel) was democracy.

So you'll excuse me if I am not surprised to learn today

that there were more things that I thought were evident that are not:

peace activists are not peace activists, piracy is not piracy,

the massacre of unarmed people is not the massacre of unarmed people.

I have such a limited brain and my ignorance is unlimited.

And they're so fucking intelligent. Really.

By Ghassan Hage, professor of anthropology and social theory at the University of Melbourne.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Dear Stephen Mosley, new Conservative MP for Chester.

You have replied to my query via Amnesty International supporting human rights, but you did not reply to my question about the right to detain and try War Criminals that land on UK shores: here follows a link to an article by Robert Fisk which details not only the abuses of the Israeli Government, but the lies it tells.
In connection with the illegal assaults on unarmed aid ships, the last this morning, the Israelis have produced highly edited audio 'evidence', including 'evidence' in which the voice of an activist - Huwaida Arraf, known personally to me, who was not present on the Mavi Marmara, but was on Challenger 1 as confirmed by Newsnight - is heard, supposedly from the Mavi Marmara, to support their case. Their audio file is transparently a racist attempt to blacken the Peace activists. The doors to the wheelhouse on the Mavi Marmara were locked, only the crew were in there, which would not include Ms Arraf in any case: This is evidence given by Journalists on board the ship. Please note that the Israelis have searched. both bodily and materially, for all evidence from the voyagers and have destroyed all other videos taken on board, (although the foregoing link gives a summary of what the reporters say), and stolen the personal belongings of every individual that was forced to go to Ashdod. Most significantly, the Israelis have released no footage of any of the deaths or woundings, including of their own soldiers, although an Israeli soldier shooting a hand gun can be clearly seen in the last three seconds of this video:
Can you please confirm for me that:
1 You are not, or are no longer, a member of the Conservative friends of Israel
2 You will support the arrest and trial of Israel policy-makers responsible for these crimes of piracy and ethnic cleansing, if evidence is put before a magistrate by any citizen that makes a prima facie case to that effect, as is allowed under the current law. You will not change the current law.
3 That these deaths both ongoing in Gaza, and on the boats, and the cover up by this one sided onslaught of lies on the media by Israel will be condemned by you unequivocally.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Where Next? It's a surreal world.

I predicted a while ago on my blog that the involvement of Turkey would be crucial, even wondering if they would send a warship - and some sources now say that they will next time. But Turkey is not going to go off and do one, its hysteria is carefully controlled. It has far more leverage staying involved with Israel, if only to show the west - the US and The EU, that it is not a mullah run hysteria factory (Yes I know that Iran isn't either, but image is everything).
I really believe that we have a chance to end the siege of Gaza in practical terms as a result of this action. Egypt has opened its borders, and although they'll close again, they will not close as tightly. If Turkey restricts itself to outrage only in the specific area, then it will succeed in getting Nato to require Israel to allow independent patrols of the Gaza coast to stop ships and inspect for weapons, but weaponless ships of all trade will be permitted.
I floated this possibility with some Hamas low rankers in Gaza when I was there, and they insisted that the right to have arms is essential for a nation state, and so would resist independent shipping controls - what do you all think? An Independent Nation needs all its rights for sure, and Free but regulated trade would probably see the UN become the effective government of Gaza. It would be very hard for Hamas to motivate resistance from a prosperous community, which is one reason why I think that this is the route that Obama will take. But giving trade rights will eventually lead to a withering of controls and a drift into statehood after some years,whatever government runs it, in my opinion. But that is only Gaza.

Far more worrying is the the plan to absorb only the West Bank into a single state. Inbuilt Arab Minority, no way to stop the expansion of settlements and the impoverishment of arabs, no land or marriage rights, and job discrimination - One state only works if Arabs have a reasonable shot in a secular state of influencing the democratic process: Freedom is meaningless without access to power! But the west might be attracted to a solution that incorporates the west bank into Israel and gets rid of Gaza to loose international control, which would include Egypt, of course. (Ideally the Israelis would like to give Gaza away to Egypt, but Egypt won't do that, because the radical Gaza tail would wag the Egyptian dog). Can Palestine ever be united again with Israel's main nuclear plant directly geographically inline between them, and Fatah and Hamas being separated by such a large distance politically?

Moshe Arens, former Defense Minister, and noted Israeli hawk, has endorsed a one-state solution for Israel/Palestine. It can be achieved in a matter of months. Israel should formally annex the West Bank and offer the Palestinians citizenship. As he puts it:

Adding another 1.5 million Muslims, the population of Judea and Samaria, to Israel's Muslim population would of course make the situation considerably more difficult. Would a 30-percent Muslim minority in Israel create a challenge that would be impossible for Israeli society to meet? That is a question that Israeli politicians, and all Israelis - Jews and Arabs alike - need to ponder.

Unlike the dire predictions heard so often, Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria would not be the end of the State of Israel, nor would it mean the end of democratic governance in Israel. It would, however, pose a serious challenge to Israeli society. But that is equally true for the other options being suggested for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This option of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria merits serious consideration.

I'm glad that Britons are all safe, but why have they been sent to Turkey? Have you noticed that the media, and Israel, is making this entirely into a spat with Turkey? What about the appallingly weak British Reaction:

We need to maintain the pressure of international action, all forty countries. We have to let our government know that WE were involved, and we want them to care. There is no doubt that Israel would like to shunt all the anger through Turkey, and the propaganda has already started about the Turkish Islamic Relief Organisation IHH being a terrorist organisation. This talk must not be allowed to become the norm in the West.

Israel's strategy is clear - exploit the differences between the new Islamism in Turkish Society which sees IHH as a positive force for good, and the secular Old Guard, especially in the army, who see themselves defending Ataturk's legacy against religion, and are suspicious of Islamic institutions being successful. They will seek to promote civil war in Turkey, rather than accede to International sanctions, exactly as they have done in Lebanon, and of course, in Palestine itself.

If the Turks can be persuaded to fight amongst themselves, even just in the media, that will provide the route for the marginalisation of the current Government, and the excuse that the Zionist West wants to forget the whole thing. We will start hearing that Turkey is an undemocratic state etc.

The Foreign Secretary William Hague was very complimentary about Turkey in Parliament Yesterday, praising its mediation role with Iran and Syria, and almost criticising Israel for failing to make peace with Syria. There is no doubt that the anger at these deaths has made a deep and lasting change to the politics of Israel, and is all that is keeping natural zionists like Hague onside.

But when they are not being unutterably stupid, the Israeli Government will be attempting to explore the fault lines I've mentioned. We must keep our government up to speed with our anger, and onside with the Turks - its the best route for the Palestinians, I feel sure.