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  1. 1. Aqsa News FOR FREE DISTRIBUTIONQUARTERLY | ISSUE 45 | DECEMBER 2010 While the governments around the world have been distracted by the hopes that peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians will bear fruit, Israel has continued with deliberate policies to Judiase Jerusalem discarding the ancient claims that Pales- tinians have to the city. The deliberate policies seek to increase the number of Jewish people in the city and reduce the number of Palestinians, so that Israel can then stake a claim to the en- tire city, excluding the Mus- lim and Christian Palestinians whose cultural and religious heritage in the city is over- whelming. Part of the process of driving Palestinians out of Je- rusalem includes demolishing their homes, refusing build- ing permits for desperately needed new homes, moving extremist Israeli settlers into Palestinian neighbourhoods to make everyday living a nightmare, revoking Jerusa- lem ID cards without which Palestinians are not allowed to live in the city, and demol- ishing historic sites such as cemeteries. Read the full report on page 6. Palestinians being forced out of Jerusalem Following the Conserva- tive government’s promise to change the procedures for ap- plying Universal Jurisdiction laws in Britain; lawyers, MPs and activists around Britain have stated that they will not allow such changes to be qui- etly implemented. William Hague’s visit to Israel during the first week of November was used by Israel to humiliate him and again put pressure on the govern- ment to change the laws. Nu- merous high profile Israeli politicians have not been able to visit Britain since the 2009 attack on Gaza, due to fears of being arrested. Israeli poli- ticians continue to react furi- ously to this, however, peace activists in Britain state that the only politicians who need to have such fears of arrest are those who have commit- ted War Crimes and there is a collective duty to bring these people to justice. On November 24th, a lobby of Parliament day was called by Friends of Al-Aqsa and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Which drew atten- tion to the issue of Universal Jurisdiction. Constituents lob- bied their MPs to vote against any proposed changes. It is hoped that the momentum created on the day will be continued by activists in the following weeks and months to ensure that no change is made to the law. Activists Challenge Universal Jurisdiction Law Changes Join us on Facebook & Twitter | Friends of Al-Aqsa, P.O Box 5127, Leicester, LE2 0WU | Friends of Al-Aqsa Update “We need to Nationalize the resistance” - Jody McIntyre Page 6 > Page 8 > Page 9 > Page 18 > Inside... Torture and cruelty to Palestinian prisoners Page 2 New Labour leader signals change in Middle East policy Page 4 To live as a Palestinian for a moment Page 8 Update: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Page 14 John Ging: conditions in Gaza have not changed Page 16 Interview: Refusnik! - Or Ben David Special Feature - Jerusalem One city, three faiths
  2. 2. A petition submitted to the High Court of Justice in March 2009 calling for Is- rael to stop mining activity in the Occupied West Bank has been successful. Israel will stop the mining in the Occupied Territory, which is considered illegal under international law due to the prohibition of exploiting the natural resources of occupied land. AQSA NEWS 02 Inside Palestine OECD Conference uses Settlement bus company 350 Palestinians arrested Israel forced to stop West Bank mining Israeli army attacks farmers A 91-year-old man, his grandson aged 16 and grand- son’s friend aged 17, were killed when Israeli soldiers fired five shells towards a group of farmers and shep- herds. The elderly man Ib- rahim Abdullah Mossa Abu Sa’id from block 7 in Jaba- liya Refugee Camp, was re- ported to regularly graze his sheep and farm the land on which he was shot and killed. 30 sheep were also killed dur- ing the shooting. The Israeli army first accused them of being terrorists but changed its story when it became ap- parent that it was an elderly man and 2 children. The fam- ily has no recourse to justice. A joint report published in October by Israeli Hu- man Rights Group B’Tselem and the Centre for the De- fence of the Individual showed clear patterns of abuse of Palestinian detain- ees. The report was based on the testimonies of 121 Palestinians who were held for up to two months in the Petach-Tikva interrogation facility belonging to the Israel SecurityAgency (ISA). The testimonies received, showed clear patterns of ill-treatment of detainees by the prison staff. Each time, individuals were ar- rested from their homes late at night. In 30 percent of the cases, there was physical violence toward the detainee during arrest or on the way to the detention facility. De- tainees were taken in military vehicles and forced to crouch or lie on the floor rather than sit on the bench seat of the vehicle. Cells are large enough to fit a thin mattress (or several for those hold- ing more than one person), have low ceilings which the prisoners could touch, and most cells have no windows. There is no fresh air into the cells, and the artificial ventilation is usually either too cold or too hot. The light is kept on continously, there- by causing problems with sleeping and vision. Further misery is caused by the lack of hygiene – each cell has a squalid squat toilet and blan- kets are filthy. A change of clothes was usually not pro- vided and 27 percent of the detainees said they were not allowed to even take a show- er. As a result, the chances of their health suffering in- creased. During interrogation, the prisoners reported being tied to a chair and unable to move. Some were kept in the same position for hours and only given short breaks. Others reported sleep depri- vation during interrogation, lasting more than 24 hours. Some detainees were inter- rogated continuously for a stretch of several days, with only short sleep breaks. During the interrogation, 56 percent reported that they were threatened by interro- gators, including threats of violence. Many reported that the interrogators used fam- ily members as a means of pressure: in one case, a 63-year-old widow was brought to the facility, appar- ently so that her incarcerated relatives could witness her anguish in detention. She was released without charge two days later. Such treatment has been reported by Palestinians for years despite a 1999 ruling in an Israeli court against such practices. B’Tselem has called on the Israeli government to do more to ensure that such violations of basic human rights do not continue. Torture and cruelty to Palestinian prisoners Illegal Israeli Settlers recruited in Police force Israel’s National Police force has announced that for the first time ever, it is turn- ing to the illegal settler com- munities to recruit its offic- ers. A decrease in the number of Israeli’s joining the police force has resulted in a nation- al shortage leading to the re- cruitment of settlers, an idea originally proposed by right- wing groups. The move has been met with outrage by Israel’s 1.5 million Palestinians who fear that the hatred against Pal- estinians prevalent in West Bank settlers could lead to abuse of their power against Palestinians in Israel. Jafar Farah, director of the Palestinian advocacy cen- tre Mossawwa stated, “The police have already repeated- ly demonstrated their hostil- ity to Palestinian citizens, but this move proves that the au- thorities want to extend and deepen our oppression.” Recruits will undergo training which will include three years of study at Haifa University in addition to sev- en months in a religious sem- inary in the illegal West Bank settlement of Elisha. The first 35 cadets are to begin their training soon. 300 settlers have already expressed inter- est. A team of Rabbi’s has been recruited to deal with the potential clash between police duties and religious principles such as working on the Sabbath and ‘immodest women’. The role of extrem- ist Rabbi’s in providing jus- tification for Israel’s immoral acts seems increasingly ap- parent. Over the summer, two Rabbi’s were questioned after publishing a book in which they claimed that “There is justification for killing ba- bies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us.” The book has been endorsed by some senior Rabbi’s and such sentiments are growing amongst army Rabbi’s. Settlers are already over- represented in the army and now may be moving towards the same with regards to the Israeli police force. The wor- rying trend is that settlers known for their hostility and violence against Palestinians, are rising up to positions of power which quite often are unregulated. PalestinianHumanRights Group Al Haq has revealed that at least 350 Palestinians were arrested and detained from across the West Bank by the Palestinian Authority. The arrest sweep took place following the shooting of six Israeli settlers for which a Hamas-wing claimed re- sponsibility. However, Al Haq states that the correct procedure was not followed and arrest warrants not prop- erly sought. The number of people detained without le- gitimate warrant is thought to be high. The recent Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) conference which was held in Jerusalem, despite global objections, sparked further controversy by using buses leased from a company that develops illegal settlements in the West Bank. The buses were used to take delegates around the city. Some Israeli politicians were quoted as saying that the OECD con- ference in Jerusalem was a tacit international approval of Israel’s claim to the city. These remarks caused some states to pull out of the con- ference including Britain and France.
  3. 3. AQSA NEWS 03 The Israeli secret Police known as the Shin Bet have been accused of exploiting the law to their own ends and making unlawful arrests of Arab-Israeli’s. The vague offence of “contact with a foreign agent” is being used by the Shin Bet to arrest and detain political activists with- out evidence of any crime committed. The revelations have been used to explain the detention of activists such as Ameer Makhoul whose situ- ation was described by Am- nesty International as “pure harassment”. Israeli Soldier jailed following prisoner abuse photographs Israeli secret Police abuse powers There have been many peaceful protests against the building of Israel’s separation wall in the town of Bil’in in the West Bank. In response, Israeli soldiers have fired tear gas and rubber coated bul- lets at the protestors, causing numerous injuries. They also arrested the Co-ordinator of the Bil’in Popular Committee Abdullah Abu Rahmah and jailed him in October 2010 for his part in the peaceful opposition to the building of the illegal wall. Bil’in is a small Pales- tinian village where weekly protests are held by village locals as well as an increas- ing number of international peace and solidarity activists. Gatherings take place every Friday to protest against the illegal construction of the wall, which continues to en- croach on Palestinian land and divide families on either side. Abu Rahmah was origi- nally arrested on the 10th December 2009 in a mid- night raid on his home where he lives with his wife and three children aged 7, 5 and 8 months. Soldiers broke down the door; blind-folded him and took him into custody. Abu Rahmah was cleared of charges of arms possession but was instead convicted of organising ‘illegal’ demon- strations and incitement. This conviction is seen as a clear abuse of legal power on the part of Israel, and an example of using such power to clamp down and silence legitimate political dissent. Leading hu- man rights group Amnesty International called the con- viction an assault on freedom of expression, and Human Rights Watch declared that the whole process constituted an “unfair trial”. This case has led many to accuse Israel of employing double standards in its justice system. An Israeli soldier was imprisoned for 5 months for abuse and behaviour unbe- coming of a soldier follow- ing the emergence of photo- graphs showing him pointing a gun at a blindfolded and handcuffed Palestinian pris- oner. Images of such abuse have been on the increase and this was the first time that a prison sentence was passed for the offence. The abuse of Palestinian prisoners by Israeli soldiers is well docu- mented by various human rights groups. Delegation of Islamic deputies meets with British parliamentarians On 8th November 2010, a group of British parliamen- tarians and journalists on a tour of Palestine met with a delegation of Islamic depu- ties at their offices in Ramal- lah. The British visit aimed to explore the latest develop- ments in Palestine. The delegation of depu- ties was led by the head of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr Aziz Dweik and was made up of several repre- sentatives including the Sec- retary General of the Legisla- tive Council, Dr Mahmoud al-Ramahi, the former minis- ter of finance, Dr Omar Ab- dul Razzak, Professor Muna Mansour and Dr Nasser Ab- del Jawad. The British delegation included a number of jour- nalists, parliamentarians and members of the British La- bour Party. The two groups discussed the most recent developments related to the Palestinian issue including attacks being carried out by the Israeli occupation at all levels; from its Judaisation efforts and settlement activi- ties, to criminal practices in- cluding killings, demolitions, siege and daily arrests. The deputies also briefed the British delegation on the latest developments toward Palestinian national reconcil- iation stressing the necessity of reaching an agreement that would resolve the internal situation and extricate it from the deadlock and degrada- tion it has reached. They also addressed the bitter reality faced by West Bank Palestin- ians as a result of the internal dispute which has given rise to the current reality in which crimes are being committed against the rights of Palestin- ians citizens including politi- cal arrests, prosecution and torture, which has led to the collapse of the Legislative Council and the paralysis of its work. At the end of the meet- ing, the British delegation ex- pressed their solidarity with Palestinians and their just cause shouldering responsi- bility for conveying Palestin- ian concerns, based on what they have witnessed and ex- perienced during their visit, to European public opinion. Report by the Middle East Monitor. Peaceful anti-Wall protestor jailed Settlement construction resumes, causing peace talks to fail Israel decided not to ex- tend a ten-month freeze on settlement building late in September. The decision came during ‘peace talks’ be- tween Palestinians and Israe- lis, despite pressure from the UN, US and EU to extend the settlement freeze. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon dubbed the move as “provocative” be- haviour on the part of Israel and called on the internation- al community to pressure Is- rael to honour its obligations under the Road Map and halt illegal settlement construc- tion in occupied territories. The Palestinian Authority was urged by Khaled Meshaal to pull out of peace talks if settlement construction con- tinued, as negotiations would be pointless if the Palestinians did not hold an equal share of power in the discussions. The end of the settlement freeze was marked in Israel with large celebrations and bulldozers began levelling ground for 50 new homes in the settlement of Ariel in the Occupied West Bank, just a day after the freeze expired. Israel now continues to build illegal settlements at an alarming rate. Israeli watch- dog Peace Now states that the pace of settlement construc- tion is at least two – if not four times what it was previ- ously, despite all settlement construction in the Occupied Territory being considered il- legal under international law. The EU’s position on the Settlements was made clear by the spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, EU Foreign Policy Chief who stated: “The position of the EU is very clear: settlements are illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impos- sible.” Palestinians in Israel told to make loyalty oath to the ‘Jewish’ state Early in October the Is- raeli Cabinet took the deci- sion that was to require all new non-Jewish people to take an oath of allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and demo- cratic” state. The law has been described as ‘racist’ and ‘provocative’ and was intro- duced by right-wing foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman. The decision was im- mediately met with outrage and Prime Minister Ben- jamin Netanyahu quickly at- tempted to limit the damage, by extending the loyalty oath to new Jewish citizens also. Under the immigration laws, Jews would be granted auto- matic citizenship whilst non- Jewish citizens would have to pledge loyalty to the state of Israel. One opposing cabinet minister called Isaac Herzog said the Bill had a “whiff of fascism”. Speaker of the Knesset Reuven Rivlin also criticised the proposal, as did several Likud cabinet mem- bers and Labour ministers. Arab-Israeli Knesset mem- ber Ahmed Tibi stated “The government of Israel has be- come subservient to Yisrael Beiteinu [Lieberman’s party] and its fascist doctrine… No other state in the world would force its citizens or those seeking citizenship to pledge allegiance to an ideology.” Many have pointed out that saying Israel is a “Jew- ish” and “democratic” state is in itself a contradictory statement, since a democratic state can not require its citi- zens to pledge allegiance to something which may in fact exclude them. Rather, a true democratic state would be- long to all citizens equally regardless of whether they are Jewish or non-Jewish. In addition, the precise mean- ing as to what a “Jewish” state constitutes is somewhat blurry. The question arises as to whether a “Jewish” state would refer solely to reli- gion, culture, community or a system of values. Citizens of a democratic state cannot be expected to pledge loyalty to an unclear set of terms.
  4. 4. Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire was deported to Britain in October, after being held in an airport detention facility in Tel Aviv. She travelled to Israel intending to attend a delegation meeting with Pal- estinian and Israeli peace ac- tivists. Maguire, aged 66 is known for her work in North- ern Ireland for which she won the Nobel Peace prize in 1976. She has been an out- spoken critic of Israel, and has accused the state of “eth- nic cleansing”. Maguire was originally banned from Israel for a period of ten years after attempting to sail to Gaza in June 2010 to break the naval blockade – a blockade which has resulted in the imprison- ment of the population of Gaza. The decision to ban and deport Maguire further re- inforces the position that Is- rael will not accept or tolerate healthy criticism of its ac- tions. Maguire is not the first to receive such treatment. Noam Chomsky, the 81-year- old Jewish-American linguist was also banned from enter- ing the country, alongside many other peace activists. Maguire held a press con- ference on her return to Ire- land where she accused Israel of being an “apartheid” state. Israel’s deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor was forced to cancel a visit to Lon- don in November following warnings he could be arrested for War Crimes. Meridor is the latest high-profile Israeli politician to cancel a visit to London because of concerns about possible arrest. Previously, in 2009 former Israeli foreign minis- ter Tzipi Livni cancelled her planned UK visit after a Brit- ish Magistrate issued a war- rant for her arrest over War Crimes in Gaza. Israeli poli- ticians reacted with fury over the warrant and have been pressuring British politicians to change the laws on Univer- sal Jurisdiction. Foreign Secretary David Miliband ordered an ‘urgent’ review of the law while the Labour party were still in power. The current laws al- low members of the public to apply for arrest warrants for alleged War Crimes occur- ring anywhere in the world. Unlike most offences War Crimes carry Universal Juris- diction in British law, which means that foreign nationals can be arrested in the UK for alleged crimes commit- ted abroad. The Conservative government has pledged to change the law. A report published fol- lowing the United Nations Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission into the raid on the Gaza-bound Free- dom Flotilla in May of 2010, has accused Israeli forces of violating international law. Human Rights experts appointed on the panel of investigation stated that com- mandoes had used “incred- ible force”, which resulted in the killing of nine peace activists, the youngest aged just 19. The flotilla was sail- ing to Gaza with the aim of breaking the illegal block- ade which has resulted in the imprisonment of the Gazan population. The tiny Gaza Strip is often dubbed as ‘the largest open-air prison in the world’. After mounting pres- sure, Israel claimed to have eased the blockade though the true effect of this remains somewhat doubtful as re- building materials are still largely ruled out. Karl Hudson-Phillips, a retired judge of the Inter- national criminal Court and former Secretary-General of Trinidad and Tobago, led the UN panel and travelled to Britain, Turkey and Jordan in order to interview witnesses. The report stated that “The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passen- gers was not only dispropor- tionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an un- acceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justi- fied or condoned on security or any other grounds. It con- stituted grave violations of human rights law and inter- national humanitarian law.” The investigation con- cluded that there was evi- dence of ‘wilfull killing, tor- ture, or inhuman treatment and wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health’ – all of which are considered crimes under the Geneva Conventions. Throughout the process Israel continued to reject the investigation, instead claim- ing that it was conducting its own internal investigations - by the Turkel Commis- sion. However, this has been largely discreditted. The Dutch National Crime Squad in October raid- ed the headquarters of Riwal, over its involvement in the il- legal construction of the wall and settlements in the West Bank. The European com- pany produces large scale cranes and access equipment for construction sites. Hu- man Rights group Al Haq has lodged criminal complaints against the company, based in the Netherlands. AQSA NEWS 04 Global News Israel deports Nobel Peace Laureate Israeli Deputy Prime Minister cancels UK trip fearing arrest warrant UN Flotilla report condemns Israel Dutch Crime Squad raid Settlement company Following a long bat- tle for leadership within the Labour party, Ed Miliband emerged as the new party leader with what many hope will be a fresh perspective on some vital issues. In the leader’s speech on 29th Sep- tember, he stated that Labour foreign policy should be “based on values, not just al- liances”. This may well sug- gest a move away from long established blind alliances with countries such as the US and Israel. Human rights activists, trade unionists and academ- ics have called on Mr Mili- band to begin the process by breaking away from the tradi- tion of former leaders of the party, in being patrons of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) – an organisation accused of being complicit in the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian vil- lages. Mr Miliband has made some interesting statements in recent weeks, including: “on the Middle East and Isra- el-Palestine, [the Americans are] always going to have their particular view. We’ve got to have our particular view. So I was certainly out- spoken at the time about the attack on the Gaza flotilla. We need to do that. The Gaza blockade needs to be lifted. You’ve got to be willing.” He further added “Yes, the rela- tionship with the US is im- portant but you’ve got to be stronger about saying we’ve got an independent foreign policy.” Whilst some may view this new approach as some- what dangerous, it may have the potential to add a new dimension to British politics. Mr Miliband has not shied away from confidently at- tending the annual reception held by the Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME) in Manchester, sponsored by Friends of Al Aqsa. He delivered a speech to a packed room of MP’s, MEP’s and Councillors, say- ing: “…as Israel ends the moratorium on settlement building, I will always defend the right of Israel to exist in peace and security. But Israel must accept and recognise in its actions the Palestinian right to statehood. That is why the attack on the Gaza Flotilla was so wrong. And that is why the Gaza blockade must be lifted and we must strain every sinew to work to make that happen.” Following the event, Chair of Friends of Al Aqsa, Ismail Patel stated: “It was refreshing to have a leader of a political party appreci- ate the fact that the general public hold a lot of sympathy for the Palestinian people and that Britain should be pursu- ing a fair and just policy in the region.” New Labour leader signals change in Middle East policy A delegation from the Council of Elders, a grouping composed of former heads of state and others, have met with Hamas leaders after a visit to the Gaza Strip. The delegation was headed by former President of the Irish Republic Mary Robinson and former US President Jimmy Carter. Hamas welcomed the visit and reinforced the im- portance of applying pressure on Israel to ensure that au- thorities recognise the rights of the Palestinian people. Elders meet Hamas
  5. 5. The soldier who was driv- ing the bulldozer which ran over the body of 23-year-old Rachel Corrie stated in court from behind a screen that he had not seen the peace ac- tivist. He stated that he then reversed to reveal Corrie’s crushed body as he was told that he had hit someone. The parents, who have taken Is- rael to court over the murder of their daughter expressed sadness that not a word of re- morse was expressed. Other solidarity activists who wit- nessed the murder stated that it was impossible for him not to have seen Rachel as she was wearing a fluorescent jacket and shouting out using a mega-phone. AQSA NEWS 05 Soldier “didn’t see” Corrie Passenger testimonies from those aboard an aid-ship to Gaza have revealed an ex- cessive use of force by the Is- raeli navy against them, just months after their deadly raid on the Freedom Flotilla. The ship was organised by Jew- ish and Israeli activists and included Reuben Moscowitz, a survivor of the Holocaust. The activists, who showed no violence, were met with extreme IDF brutality. One passenger was tasered. Mos- cowitz expressed his sheer disbelief that “Israeli soldiers would treat nine Jews this way. They just hit people.” He further went on to describe the similarities between the horrors of the Holocaust and what besieged Palestinian children are going through. IDF use force against Jewish aid ship The annual Greenbelt festival which takes place at Cheltenham Racecourse in Gloucestershire has been known for its solidarity with the Palestinian people. This year’s festival saw a particu- lar emphasis on the apartheid- like wall in the West Bank and the existence of checkpoints which causes great difficulty for Palestinians in their daily lives, both of which were rec- reated at the festival to por- tray some of the Palestinian struggle. For this edition of Aqsa News, John Noble of the Greenbelt Festival speaks a littleabouttheorganisation: Early in 2008 I was asked by an Amos Trust/Greenbelt friend if I would like to visit Palestine with some other Greenbelt Festival and Amos Trust folk - volunteers, staff members, trustees - to go and see for ourselves the situation and the ‘facts on the ground’. Greenbelt and Amos Trust have historically been (and continue to be), support- ers of the Palestinian people - Greenbelt Festival has over the years invited many speak- ers, artists and campaign groups from Israel/Palestine to come to the festival, and has provided a platform and a space for them to engage with the over 20,000 visi- tors the festival attracts each August Bank holiday week- end, at its current location at Cheltenham Racecourse, Gloucestershire. This particular trip was in response to a request to Greenbelt’s Board of Trustees by Garth Hewitt, the singer/ songwriter and founder of Amos Trust who had recent- ly returned from one of his many visits to Palestine. His feelings were that by inviting people within the Greenbelt setup to go to the area and experience for themselves what life is like for those who live there, then maybe a seed would be planted within Greenbelt that could hopeful- ly grow into a greater aware- ness and understanding. Greenbelt Festival is pro- duced by over 1600 volun- teers, a small staff body and a board of trustees, and has been in existence since 1973. “Greenbelt is a collision of the arts, faith and justice. Engaged with culture, in- spired by the arts, sustained by faith, we aspire to be an open, generous community, re-imagining the Christian narrative for the present mo- ment”. For more information on Greenbelt please visit: www. Greenbelt festival support for Palestinians grows It is estimated that 10 million people gathered across the world to mark the annual International Al Quds day which takes place on the final Friday of Ramadan, the month of fasting for Muslims. Protestors gather to show sol- idarity with the Palestinian people and call for an end to Israel’s illegal occupation. Al Quds day is gaining popularity in many countries across the world. However, in the UK, demonstrations were threatened by the pres- ence of extremist right-wing groups such as the English Defence League (EDL), who have caused great tensions and initiated violence in cit- ies across the UK promoting their racist ideology. Also amongst the racist and fascist groups that threatened the demonstrations were the Jew- ish Defense League (JDL) who have increasingly been seen to be working alongside the EDL. However the rally went ahead in London as protestors marched through the streets in solidarity with the oppressed people of Pal- estine. Millions gather for Al Quds protest EU Commissioner for Trade, Kacel De Gucht was accused of anti-Semitism af- ter making comments on the outcome of peace talks, attrib- uting it to the strength of the Jewish lobby on Capitol Hill. Jewish leaders were angered by the comments and Gucht later apologised, stating that the comments made were not understood as they were in- tended, and that there was no place for anti-Semitism in the world today. EU Commissioner accused of Anti-Semitism On November 8th, the Jewish Federation General Assembly in New Orleans was attended by Benjamin Netanyahu who gave a keynote speech. Five young Jews took the courageous step of disrupting the speech in order to draw the audi- ence’s attention to the actions of the state of Israel and its politicians, which in their view, forms the real de-legiti- misation of Israel. In Netanyahu’s speech, he described the two great- est threats to Israel as being a nuclear Iran and ‘de-legit- imisation’. The activists each got up one at a time and pro- tested about different aspects of Israeli occupation which in their view were the real causes of de-legitimacy. The courage that it took for these young people to stand up for justice in a room full of 4,000 potentially hos- tile supporters of Israel is profound. Emily Ratner, Ei- tan Isaacson, Rae Abileah, Matan Cohen and Matthew Taylor all stood up, risking their safety and faced the wrath of some in the crowd. Each of them was forcibly removed from the conference hall, having endured physi- cal restraint from others in the hall, including attempts to gag them, being pushed to the ground, having their clothes torn, and one of the female protestors being held in a chokehold by the presi- dent of the Synagogue broth- erhood. The response from the audience was mixed, from extreme rage on the part of some, to other young Jews who said the scenes they wit- nessed were a reflection of their inner turmoil between loyalty to Israel and opposi- tion to the scale of suffering in Palestine. Netanyahu’s speech disrupted by five young Jews in the US
  6. 6. AQSA NEWS 06 Special Feature - Jerusalem One city, three faiths By Sanam Mirza Evictions Demolitions Identity card revocations Family unification laws Palestinians are routine- ly being removed from the land that they have lived on for millennia, as their right to live in Jerusalem is being revoked by Israel. Interior ministry figures show that more than 4,500 Palestin- ians lost their Jerusalem resi- dency in 2008, up from the comparatively modest 91 in 1995. In addition to this, sec- tions of Israel’s illegal Wall have been deliberately built through Palestinian areas of Jerusalem, resulting in the physical separation of 60,000 residents from the city. For those lucky enough to have retained their residency rights so far, the picture is bleak. Palestinian residents live in cramped and over- crowded conditions as Israel rarely grants permission to build new homes toArab resi- dents. While Palestinian resi- dents have an average of 11.9 square metres of living space, their Israeli counterparts en- joy double that amount with 23.8 square metres. Palestinian residents who choose to build houses with- out ‘permits’which are rarely granted, face demolitions de- spite the lack of alternative accommodation. Between 2004 and 2009 alone, 420 Palestinian homes were de- molished in East Jerusalem leaving 1,459 people home- less. Areport by Human Rights Watch (HRW) in August this year found that demolitions in East Jerusalem have sig- nificantly increased in 2010. The razing of a Bedouin Pal- estinian encampment in Isaw- iya in October destroyed the homes of six families. The amount of land bulldozed in this single incident amounted to more than 50 dunams (12.5 acres). It is no coincidence that these bulldozed homes were close to an Israeli settle- ment, Maale Adumim. Such demolitions show no signs of abating. On 25 October Israeli police handed out 231 demolition orders to Palestin- ians living in areas of East Jerusalem including Silwan, Shufat, Beit Hanina, Isawiya, Wadi al-Dam and al Ras area in Wadi al-Joz. Israeli municipal authori- ties have allocated 13% of East Jerusalem for Palestin- ian construction, while Israeli settlements which are illegal have been assigned 35%. Israel has built 50,000 hous- ing units for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem, as part of a carefully devised cam- paign to Judaise Jerusalem by eliminating its Palestin- ian populace and replacing it with Israelis. In 2005 Israel claimed that it unilaterally “disengaged” from the Gaza Strip. As a re- sult of the “disengagement”, Palestinian Jerusalemites have been dealt a further dev- astating blow as Israel arbi- trarily declared that travelling to and staying in Gaza, count- ed as moving ‘abroad’ and would mean a forfeit of their right to return to Jerusalem. All Palestinians are forced to carry ID cards which limit where they are allowed to live, work and move. Now Palestinians living in Gaza (due to circumstances such as work and marriage) but carrying Jerusalem ID cards are having their ID cards re- voked or are simply barred from re-entering Jerusalem on the pretext that they are living ‘abroad’. Without their ID cards Palestinian Jerusalemites are completely barred from returning to their homes. Jerusalemites can also have their residence cards taken away simply by marry- ing Palestinians possessing a Gaza or West Bank ID card. This colonialist policy effec- tively serves the Israeli aim of changing the demograph- ics of Jerusalem in favour of Israelis. Changes to family unifi- cation laws have also allowed Israel to thin the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem. Since 2000 Israel de facto suspend- ed all family unification proc- esses, thus preventing Pal- estinian Jerusalemites from bringing their families from other parts of the Occupied Territories or abroad into East Jerusalem. Legal discrimina- tion cements the separation of families as the ‘Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law of 2003’ (most recently updated in July 2010) serves the same purpose of preventing uni- fication of Palestinian fami- lies in East Jerusalem and Israel. Jewish citizens and immigrants on the other hand are legally entitled to obtain residency and citizenship for their relatives who are from outside Jerusalem. There is a great irony about the day on which I be- gin to draft this article (11 November). Whilst all over the world millions observe two minutes of silence to re- member men who lost their lives in a fight to preserve freedom in World War 1; a rather blind eye is turned to the plight of some of those suffering the worst obstruc- tions to freedom in our world today. The general plight of the besieged Palestinians is to- day more widely recognised than ever before. Yet one carefully orchestrated campaign is stealthily continuing almost unobserved and certainly unobstructed, in the holy city of Jerusalem.
  7. 7. AQSA NEWS 07 The “Museum of Tolerance” The Light Railway The annexation of Jerusalem by Israel and the construction of Settlements The legal position Tensions around Masjid Al Aqsa Israel is also engaged in activities designed to elimi- nate the Palestinian-Islamic and Christian heritage in Je- rusalem. In one of its most controversial moves in recent times, Israeli authorities have given the green light to the building of a courthouse and “Museum of Tolerance” on the site of a historic Muslim cemetery in the city, inevita- bly involving the desecration of Muslim graves. Despite claims asserting otherwise, as many as 1,500 Muslim graves were uproot- ed from the Mamilla cem- etery, just outside the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. An investigation by Haaretz, the liberal Israeli newspaper, revealed the dis- turbing nature of work car- ried out at the museum site. Workers told the newspaper that ancient skulls and bones were dug out in such haste that some disintegrated as a result. Shocking photo- graphs published in the paper showed remains from graves stuffed into cardboard boxes. Such outright desecration of Muslim graves to eliminate Palestinian heritage in Jeru- salem has naturally outraged Palestinians. Gideon Suli- mani, a senior archaeologist involved in initial excava- tions, gave Haaretz a telling insight: “They call this an ar- chaeological excavation but it’s really a clearing-out, an erasure of the Muslim past. It is actually Jews against Arabs.” A $500 million project to build a ‘light railway’, which will have Occupied East Je- rusalem (OEJ) as one of its central stations is another new venture, aimed at con- necting illegal settlements around East Jerusalem with West Jerusalem. Six kilometres of railway is set on a main street taken from Arab property, while the OEJ station is just 20 metres away from the Damascus Gate, the main gateway into the Old City for Palestinians. Once it is operational the OEJ station will be used daily by nearly 10,000 settlers from in and around Occupied East Je- rusalem. The daily congrega- tion of such huge numbers of Jewish settlers using the rail- way will inevitably change the dynamics outside the old city, making it seem as if the Palestinian neighbourhood is actually a Jewish Israeli one. Since the illegal occupa- tion of East Jerusalem began in 1967 Israel has made a determined effort to limit the city’s Palestinian influences and choke it off from the wid- er West Bank. Palestinians in Jerusalem face restrictions on residency, deportations, house demolitions, land con- fiscation, restricted access to Holy sites, and other oppres- sive measures as part of a carefully thought out plan to deny them their rightful pres- ence in the city. The ‘Greater Jerusalem’ project by Zionist politicians and strategists continues to be at the heart of such efforts. By changing the boundaries of Jerusalem so that settle- ments are counted within Jerusalem, Palestinians have been outnumbered by the Israelis living in East Jerusalem. Not only are settlements being constantly expanded, but plans to link individual blocs of settlements are also accelerating. One current settlement project aims to connect the Givat Zeev and Ariel settlement blocs in the north, Maale Adumim in the center, and Gush Etzion in the south. This plan would also stretch east, connecting to settlements in the West Bank’s Jordan Valley. The pace of expansion of Israeli settlements is extraor- dinary given that all settle- ments in the West Bank (in- cluding East Jerusalem) are illegal. As a result more than half a million Israelis are liv- ing in these settlements in de- fiance of International Law. Israel has violated countless UN resolutions and International Laws by colonising Palestinian land in East Jerusalem. Israel’s unilateral annexation of East Jerusalem contravenes nu- merous UN Security Council and General Assembly Reso- lutions, and is also prohibited by Article 2 (4) of the Charter of the United Nations and the Fourth Geneva Convention. Nonetheless, Israel is en- trenching this annexation by building its Separation Wall around the ring of set- tlements it has created on occupied territories. 27 September 2010: extremist Israeli settlers attempt-• ed to enter the sacred Al Aqsa Sanctuary in a deliber- ately provocative move during the Israeli celebration of Yom Kippur. 9 October 2010: the Israeli army prevented all Pal-• estinian men under the age of 50 from praying the Friday Jumu’ah prayers within the Sanctuary, forc- ing thousands to pray in the streets surrounding the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City. Israeli deployed 2,000 security personnel in the city. Riots following the ban were met with deadly force by• Israeli soldiers firing stun grenades, tear gas canisters and rubber coated bullets. Israeli forces arrested the Palestinian leader of the• Islamic movement in Israel (and former mayor of Um al-Fahm) Shaykh Raed Salah and on his release prohibited him from entering the blessed city for 30 days. Jerusalem before and after the Nakba: Before 1948 - 40% of West Jerusalem was • Palestinian owned and 26% Jewish. After 1948 - 85% of Jerusalem was occupied by• the Israelis and between 64,000 – 80,000 Palestinians were forced out of their homes. In Israeli West Jerusalem, only 750 Arabs • remained out of an original population of 28,000, as Zionist militia resorted to intimidation, and terrorist attacks against civilians In the wider Jerusalem sub-district - 84% of• land was Palestinian owned and just 2% Jewish owned. Of an initial population of 150,590 Arabs,• 42,000 remained in the city after 1948. Occupied East Jerusalem: East Jerusalem remained under Arab control until it was occupied• and unilaterally annexed by Israel after the Six Day War in 1967. Since its illegal occupation Jewish settlers have moved in and• around East Jerusalem. The numbers have been steadily increasing: 1972: 8,649• 1983: 76,095• 1993: 152,800• Today: approximately 250,000 illegal Israeli settlers in and • around East Jerusalem Their position in a belt around East Jerusalem allows settlements to• cut the city off from the rest of the West Bank. Palestinians represent 34% of the total population of East • Jerusalem but live on only 7% of the land Israel’s drive to nullify the Palestinian claim to Je- rusalem has resulted in at- tempts to deny the Islamic and Christian importance of the city and access to Muslim holy sites, notably Masjid Al Aqsa, the third holiest site in Islam. Masjid Al Aqsa is a con- stant target of Israeli ex- tremists, while Israel does little to prevent this. Former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon sparked the Second Intifada when he entered the Al Aqsa compound with hundreds of Israeli soldiers in 2000. 5, 500 Palestinians and 1,000 Israelis died as a result. Recent tensions around the Al Aqsa sanctuary have increased due to the tunnel- ling that Israel has carried out which has weakened its foundation in parts leading to fears of collapse in the event of earth tremors. In the last four years Israel’s campaign to Judaise Jerusalem has become increasingly relentless. Evictions of Palestinians living in Jerusalem and the demolition of their homes, whilst ever more illegal settlers arrive to take their place, are now routine actions as part of a wider campaign ultimately designed to cleanse the an- cient city of its Arab- Islamic and Christian heritage and population. Israeli actions in the last few years show no signs of abating. Sanam Mirza is a History graduate from the University of Oxford. She is a writer and teacher.
  8. 8. AQSA NEWS 08 Jody McIntyre writing from al-Nabi Saleh, Occupied West Bank, Live from Palestine, September 2010 Public servant Bassem Mohammed al-Tamimi is from al-Nabi Saleh, a small village about 20 kilometers northwest of Ramallah. As coordinator of the local Popular Committee, Tamimi has played a leading role in al-Nabi Saleh’s demonstra- tions against the nearby il- legal Israeli settlement and military base of Halamish. Jody McIntyre interviewed al-Tamimi for The Electronic Intifada. Jody McIntyre: Tell me about your personal experi- ence of the occupation. Bassem Mohammed al- Tamimi: I was born in 1967, and in my mind as a child growing up, an Israeli is someone who shoots at me, questions me in prison, beats me up, or someone I see as- saulting women. I’ve been jailed over 10 times in the space of four years, mostly for questioning or adminis- trative reasons. My sister was killed after she was assaulted by a transla- tor in an Israeli military court. Right in front of the eyes of the Israeli justice system, the soldiers translating proceed- ings beat her until she fell off her chair, hit her head on the ground and died. At the time, I was in an Israeli jail being interrogated. They used ille- gal torture techniques on me that induced haemorrhaging and an eight-day coma, and half my body remained para- lyzed for a while. These experiences did not help the image I had of Israe- lis, but after we started our demonstrations in al-Nabi Saleh and I met the Israeli activists that would join us, I realized that once the mental- ity of the occupiers had been removed from their minds, they became humans just like us. They became our friends, they lived with us and ate and slept in our homes. This gives me the belief that one nation, where we are all equal citi- zens, is a possibility. JM: Tell me about al-Nabi Saleh. BT: I moved to the area in 1976, when some people from a settler organization named Gush Emunim came to form a settlement in the place of an old army barracks from the days of the British occupation. People rose up to demonstrate and eventually managed to halt the move- ment through legal action. But after the rise of [Men- achem] Begin’s Likud gov- ernment in 1977 the settlers tried again and this time they were successful. They began burning down the woodland around the area, in order to expand the settlement in eve- ry direction. Since that day in 1977, the settlement has not stopped encroaching on our lands, up- rooting our trees and destroy- ing anything and everything in its wake. In 2002, they began constructing the wall around the settlement, steal- ing even more of our olive groves and farm land in the process. In 2008, the original land owners succeeded in getting an Israeli court order against this route of the wall, but despite this, no one from the village has been allowed to access their land behind the wall. We wanted the court order to make it clear to the world that this wall is an il- legal act of the occupation on our land, even under Israeli law! JM: How did the popular resistance begin in al-Nabi Saleh? BT: Al-Nabi Saleh has al- ways had a strong history of popular resistance. In 2001 the Israeli army laid siege to one of the homes in the vil- lage, which they occupied and converted into a military watch-tower and checkpoint. For a whole month, we dem- onstrated day and night out- side the house, until the army felt that it was impossible for them to stay any longer. In December 2009, younger members of the vil- lage started organizing pro- tests here, alongside residents of neighbouring villages, as a way of raising awareness about our situation. As soon as the demonstrations began, the settlers began destroying, uprooting and burning more than 150 of our olive trees, but it only made us more de- termined to continue in our resistance. After a couple of protests, many women from the village started to join us, but they were immediately targeted by the Israeli army, who know the Palestinian mentality in regards to defending the dig- nity of our women. The sol- diers arrested several women, including my wife, who were later interrogated and physi- cally assaulted in jail. At the very next demonstration, they again attacked and ar- rested several more women. Then the army started tar- geting homes in our village, even before we set off, enter- ing the village from a number of directions. Every week, we would have an average of 20 casu- alties in the hospital; some would have broken jaws, broken bones ... one guy was shot in the head with a rubber-coated steel bullet and still suffers from the injury. Some homes were targeted with tear gas while the chil- dren were inside, and we had to break the windows to get them out for fear of the gas canisters setting fire to the homes.As the demonstrations continued, attacks of this na- ture became more frequent. They were trying to send us a very clear message: “your protesting will not get you anywhere.” The last tactic the army resorted to was to demolish a number of homes in the village. But despite the suffering inflicted upon us, these efforts can never match the suffering of the occupa- tion itself, and thus, it is the occupation which we contin- ue to struggle against. JM: Do you think that the Is- raeli army has been particu- larly violent in al-Nabi Saleh in order to crush the resist- ance at an early stage? BT: Of course they want to crush our resistance! I told you that on the day of the very first demonstration, the settlers burnt down 150 of our olive trees, and this was despite the fact that the land- owners had gone to the dem- onstration each carrying a branch from those same olive trees, as a symbol of peace and their willingness for a peaceful resolution. After the settlers had burned down our trees, there were no olive branches left for us to carry. We feel that the Israel army and government try to push the Palestinians towards violent resistance, so they can continue lying to the world and spreading their propa- ganda that the Palestinians are only capable of reacting violently. JM: What role do you think internationals should play in the peace movement? BT: The presence of inter- nationals is important, but what is far more important is the presence of a Palestin- ian agenda and leadership, so that the people from abroad can join us in our struggle. Unfortunately, in some plac- es we now have a situation where the foreigners are out- numbering the Palestinians, and this is unacceptable. Jody McIntyre is a journal- ist from the UK. (Re-printed with permission from EI.) I am not Palestinian, I am not Israeli, I am not Muslim nor am I Jewish. But I am hu- man. Despite what we may have been told about this conflict, this is all I need to know to be able to judge be- tween right and wrong. And this summer it was finally time for me to go and see the Palestine I had thought so much about. I wanted to look the soldiers and the settlers in the eye and tell them how the whole world condemns them. I wanted to look the Palestin- ian mother in the eye and tell her that more than anything I want to see her son walk in a free Palestine. I first heard about the In- ternational Solidarity Move- ment (ISM) when I read about Rachel Corrie, the 22 year old American ISM activ- ist who was killed while try- ing to prevent a home from being bulldozed in Gaza in 2003. The requirements to join ISM were simple; to be over 18 years old, to be able to stay for a minimum of 2 weeks and to agree with the principles of ISM. ISM is a Palestinian led solidarity movement that resists the Is- raeli apartheid through non- violent measures. The volun- teers are divided throughout the West Bank and Gaza and our activities included: documenting the atrocities committed by the Israeli De- fence Forces in the villages surrounded by growing set- tlements, going on school pa- trols and checkpoint watches, helping the farmers who are being prevented from farm- ing their lands and most im- portantly going to the weekly demonstrations. These dem- onstrations take place all over the West Bank and Gaza and are the very core of Palestin- ian non-violent resistance against the ongoing theft of Palestinian land. I will never forget the vil- lage of Ni’lin that had lost five of its young residents in demonstrations in the past two years. Or the East Je- rusalem neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah where a fam- ily that had lost its home to settlers would sit everyday in front of the house, swear- ing they would return so that three-year-old Sarah could live in her home one day. Or the village of Al Ma’sara where a British circus group had come to entertain the children, and the soldiers tear gassed the crowd within five minutes. I left a part of me in each of these places and the struggle for a free Palestine is now also my struggle. I encourage you all to start learning more about what is happening in Pales- tine and from the bottom of my heart I encourage you all to visit Palestine. It will change your views on hu- manity forever and you will not have to choose which ‘side’ you stand on, you will know it in a heartbeat. Anna visited Palestine September/October 2010 “We Need to Nationalize the Resistance” This edition of Aqsa News presents the grassroots picture of the Pales- tinian people – one of resistance, of activism and of determination. The following interview was conducted by Electronic Intifada, an organisa- tion committed to providing comprehensive public education on the question of Palestine. To live as a Palestinian for a moment By Anna Sekular A view for NABI SALEH Tomb in the West Bank village of NABI SALEH, near Ramallah
  9. 9. AQSA NEWS 09 As the end of 2010 fast approaches it is a good time to reflect on the past year of campaigning for a free Pales- tine. Many of us were skep- tical when the latest Peace Talks commenced, and un- fortunately it seems that our skepticism was well places. The Netanyahu government has shown its real lack of ability or willingness to com- promise on the most basic is- sue – illegal settlements. It was difficult not to feel resentment against the US government for its attempted bribery of Israel for a meager 3 month extension on the settlement freeze – to what end? For the resumption of this illegal activity by Israel once the 3 months are up? What the US was offering was to pay Israel not to break the law – the only word that springs to mind is ‘absurd’. As the greatest superpower of our time, the US should be leading the charge against Israel in the International Criminal Court, but instead, they invite its government for dinner and plead and cajole for a meaningless extension to settlement building. This latest act of political exploitation of the Palestinian people and their cause brings home yet again the fact that it is up to the ordinary peo- ple in the streets of the cit- ies around the world to exert their influence and power in order to bring an end to the occupation, as our leadership has failed to take an impartial stance on it for decades, and has allowed Israel to break every conceivable interna- tional law which protects oc- cupied people. We must continue in the struggle, by lobbying, cam- paigning, boycotting and raising awareness. Last but not least, we must pray that peace in the re- gion is achieved before even greater misery is witnessed by the children of Palestine. Ismail Patel Update from Friends of Al-AqsaAll that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth glorifies Allah; unto Him belongs sovereignty and unto Him belongs praise, and He is Able to do all things. Thank you for your donations! Many of you donated thousands of pounds towards our projects in Palestine during Ramadhan. Food parcels have now been received by many poverty stricken Palestinian families and will ensure that they have the basics for everyday living – for the time being. Water tanks have also been installed in numerous homes bringing some relief to young and old alike. A big thank you comes from the families who benefitted from your generosity! Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK Tour Friends of Al-Aqsa supported the UK tour by the Israeli Com- mittee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) which aimed to raise awareness about the demolition of Palestinian homes by Israel. Salim and Arabiya Shawamreh from Palestine spoke in numerous British cities to help raise funds for the rebuilding of Palestinian homes. They didn’t just demolish our house, they knocked down the walls, cut down the trees, and they killed everything inside us. That is the Israeli Occupation. Arabiya Shawamreh Friends of Al- Aqsa hosted the pair and other group members at a public meeting in London which was just one stop in a tour that travelled all the way to Edinburg and back. The issue of house demolitions continues to plague Palestinians caus- ing immense suffering to all family members, especially little children. The annual lobby day in Par- liament was held on Wednes- day 24th November. Each year, all solidarity organiza- tions call on their supporters to lobby their MPs on the issue of Palestine. This year, over 100 MPs were met and the issue of the Siege on Gaza and Universal Jurisdiction were top on the agenda. The day was concluded with a meeting in Parlia- ment chaired by Jeremy Corbyn MP and attended by a number of other MPs and individuals. Speaking to the crowded room, Ismail Patel, Chair of Friends of Al-Aqsa reminded everyone why we need to fight to preserve our laws on Universal Jurisdic- tion. He stated that the laws were developed hundreds of years ago for the greater good of all people, and to allow the state of Israel to pressure us to change a law so that War Criminals can still visit us is unacceptable. He reminded everyone that Israel itself used Universal Jurisdiction to rightly prosecute war crimi- nal Adolph Eichmann, and yet it is trying to restrict this right for the British public. His final reminder was that only Israeli politicians who had committed war crimes would have to fear arrest, as there has never been a misuse of this law in Britain histori- cally. This reminder was well timed, especially in light of the apparent misunderstand- ing by some politicians about the reasons why the proposal to change the law has been made. They are being told that the law is being misused by ‘interest groups’ when in fact there is no evidence of this being the case at all. Lobby Day 2010 – A Great Success! Dear Editor, Without the Balfour Declaration there wouldn’t have been a Mandate for Palestine, without the Mandate there wouldn’t have been a British administration, without the British ad- ministration there wouldn’t have been a situation in which the Jewish presence was able to develop the attributes necessary for a Jewish state to become a reality and Zionism to flourish. How was Britain thanked for the birth of Israel? By the death of 784 soldiers in the final scramble by Zionists to grab more than their share of this tiny country. Have they apologised for killing so many Britons? No! Has the British government ever acknowledged the role of the armed forces in the attempt to achieve an amicable conclu- sion to forty years of political blunders? No, quite the reverse. Politicians and commentators prefer to ignore those three con- troversial, violent years of Jewish terrorism. Yours, Eric Lowe Author. Forgotten Conscripts, Prelude to Palestine’s Struggle for Survival. Private soldier serving in Palestine 1947-48 Aqsa News Aqsa News is published quarterly by Friends of Al-Aqsa. To contact the Editorial Department, or to respond to an article or send a letter, email us at: Letters - To The Editor, “ “
  10. 10. AQSA NEWS 10 Merchandise 1 3 2 16 15 14 13 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 17 18 20 19 21 23 22 from £8 £1 £2.50 from £19 from £19 £1.50 £1.50 £1.50 £1.50 £5 £2.50 £2 £1 £3 FREE£1.50 £1.50 £2 £5 £151,000 FREE £10 £6
  11. 11. AQSA NEWS 11 Proceeds from the sale of this book goes to Friends of Al-Aqsa Foreword by Friends of Al-Aqsa BAKING AID ORDER FORM 3433 32 3130 292827262524 35 1. Palestinian Medjoul Dates Medium 4kg box £32.00 | 1kg box £8.00 Large 4kg box £35.00 | 1kg box £9.00 Jumbo 4kg box £38.00 | 1kg box £10.00 2. Wristband £1.00 3. Bracelet (Small / Large) £2.50 4. Dome of the Rock model 5. Al Aqsa Mosque model Small £19.00 Small £19.00 Medium £39.00 Medium £39.00 Large £99.00 Large £99.00 6. Al Aqsa Mosque badge £1.50 7. Flag badge £1.50 8. Map badge £1.50 9. Palestine / Union Jack badge £1.50 10. T-Shirt (XL / L) £5.00 11. Glass with Dome keyring £2.50 12. Map keyring £2.00 13. Metal Al Aqsa keyring £1.00 14. Flag £3.00 15. Ribbon badge FREE 16. Crazy Bandz £1.50 17. Football T-Shirt (XXS / XS / S / M / L / XL) £10.00 18. Car Hanger £1.50 19. Long Scarf £2.00 20. Square Scarf £5.00 21. Carrier bags (1,000) £15.00 22. Leaflets (Set of 20) FREE 23. Set of 8 Posters £6.00 24. A History of Palestinian Resistance £5.95 25. Palestine - Beginner’s Guide £9.95 26. Virtues of Jerusalem £5.95 27. Madina to Jerusalem £5.95 OFFER: All 4 of the above £20.00 28. Baking Aid £4.50 29. Women in Islam £7.95 30. Forty Ahadith FREE 31. Dome of the Rock FREE 32. History of Palestine for children £4.99 33. Activity book £3.00 34. Colouring book £2.00 Please put the quantity in the boxes next to the item(s) you wish to purchase. Where it requires to state the size you want to order, please circle. TOTAL COST: £________________ (Please add 10% of the total cost to cover postage expenses) I enclose a cheque of £________________ (Please make all cheques payable to Friends of Al-Aqsa) Name: _____________________________________________ Address: ___________________________________________ __________________________________________________ ____________________________ Postcode: ______________ Tel:________________________________________________ E-mail:_____________________________________________ Friends of Al-Aqsa, P.O Box 5127, Leicester, LE2 0WU 0116 212 5441 | | 35. Free | Palestine Range T-Shirt - Small logo (S / M / L / XL) £10.00 T-Shirt - Palestine on chest (S / M / L / XL) £10.00 Bag £5.00 0 £5.95 £9.95 £5.95 £5.95 £4.50 £7.95 FREE FREE £4.99 £3 £2
  12. 12. AQSA NEWS 12 Fun & Games COMPETITION WIN!£20ARGOSVOUCHER! The Year of the Elephant This story begins in the land of Yemen. There was once a King by the name of Abraha who built a large temple - larger than the Ka’bah in Makkah! Abraha wanted everyone to visit his temple and not the Ka’bah. But people just did not come. They carried on making pilgrimage to Makkah. Abraha became very angry at this and decided that he would destroy the Ka’bah. So, he got together a huge army, and with that army he also brought together large and powerful elephants, and made his way to Makkah. Meanwhile, in Makkah, the grandfather of the prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) whose name was Abdul Muttalib, saw what Abraha was planning to do, but he was not afraid. In fact, when the army reached Makkah, he confidently said: “The house has a Lord who will protect it.” Abraha was not convinced. So he continued on his mission, without realising that Allah had another plan. The elephants in Abraha’s army who were supposed to help to destroy the Ka’bah stopped in their tracks. They refused to move. Abraha and the soldiers were greatly disturbed. Suddenly, birds began to cover the entire sky so that none of it could be seen. The world went dark, and the birds began to drop stones of baked clay that they were carrying in their beaks. Even with the smallest stone the largest elephant would fall to the ground. The plan to destroy the Ka’bah had failed as Abraha’s army was destroyed. The people of Makkah were overjoyed and began to cheer. Abraha’s army was defeated and the Ka’bah was safe! Allah protected the Ka’bah and the people of Makkah, and from this story we learn that if we trust Allah and ask Him to protect us, then no army in the world can cause any harm. The story of the Elephant has been mentioned in the Quraan in Surah Al – Fil. Do you know this Surah? Send your answers with your name, age and address to: Friends of Al-Aqsa, PO Box 5127, Leicester, LE2 0WU. You can also email us your answers for the 13-18 year old competition to: but please put ‘competition’ as the subject heading. Deadline for both competitions is 31st of May 2010. Good luck inshallah! Storytime The following word search is based on the story of the Year of Elephants. Find the words and send us your answers for your chance to win! WORDS Ka’bah Abraha Makkah Surah Protect Birds Clay Stones Elephants Wordsearch 12 years old or under?
  13. 13. AQSA NEWS 13 13-18 Years Old? Answer the following five questions for a chance to win the prize for this edition of Aqsa News (*clue* you can find the answer to each of these questions in articles throughout the paper). 1) When did the UN vote to partition Palestine take place and why did the partition plan come about? 2) Early this year, the Israeli cabinet approved a controversial decision to make non-Jewish citizens take an oath of loyalty. Under this measure, what would non-Jewish citizens have to declare allegiance to? 3) Which European country recently ended an arms contract with Israel? 4) On the last Friday of Ramadan people all around the world gathered to show support and solidarity with the people of Palestine – what is this day known as? 5) Since the end of the freeze on settlement building, an Israeli watchdog has said that the rate of settlement construction has now increased. How much has the rate of settlement construction increased by? Sudoku Can you make each column, each row and each of the nine sub-grids that make up this puzzle contain the numbers 1 to 9? Try your luck – but don’t pull your hair out! Not so fast! Now before you turn away thinking that there is no point in contacting your local MP, remember that whilst the media does have an impact on people’s perceptions of certain issues, it is the MP’s who are really in the position to make decisions – decisions that will affect you. And since you have the power to hold them to account – after all without your support and the support of other constituents, they will be out of a job - you can ensure that your voice is listened to. To make sure this is done in the most effective way, it helps to begin building this ‘positive relationship’ from now. This means that when an issue does arise that you are not happy about, you are in a better position and will have easier access to your local MP. They are also more likely to take what you have to say seriously since you have already built up a relationship based on respect. So how do you go about ‘building this relationship’? It’s easy. Make an appointment to visit your MP and just chat about issues – most MP’s will hold regular surgeries and you should be able to find details of this from your local councils. Not so hard eh? Now, when Early Day Motions (EDM)’s or Action Alerts are sent to you by Friends of Al Aqsa, you can quite easily contact your local MP knowing that they will hopefully be more inclined to take your concerns on board, and speak to the relevant people. Bear in mind that your local MP is your window to access other MP’s who may have greater powers – for example if you were to email William Hague, it is highly unlikely that you will get the response you are looking for – in most cases it will be a civil servant issuing a general response. However, since your local MP has an obligation to listen to your concerns, if you can convince them of your argument, they can take the case up with other MP’s who may have more clout. That way, your case is put forward to more than just one person. So what are you waiting for? Find out when your next MP’s surgery is going to be held, and make an appointment! Let us know how it went by emailing for a chance to get your letter and feedback published in the next edition of Aqsa News. Get Political Know your history... For this edition of Aqsa News, we will focus on the month of November, and take a look back into history to see what was happening in Palestine, right up to 1947. 2 November 1917 Balfour Declaration – a formal statement of policy by the British Government declaring that the government would “view with favour the establishment of a national home for the Jewish in Palestine”29 November 1947 UN vote on the partition of Palestine. The Proposal for Partition ignored many rights of international law, including majority rule and right to self-determination. 30 November 1947 Civil War - Jewish and Arab communities of Palestine clash, while the British organise their withdrawal from Palestine.15 November 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence. Palestinian Nation- al Council proclaims a State of Palestine at Algiers. Declaration proclaims a “State of Palestine on our Palestinian territory with its capital Jerusalem” 11 November 2004 Yasser Arafat dies aged 75 after undergoing medical treatment.8 November 2006 IDF shells hit a row of houses in the Gaza Strip town of Beit Hanoun, killing 19 Palestinians and wounding more than 40. Israel apologizes and attributes the incident to a technical malfunction. 27 November 2007 Annapolis Conference. A Mid- dle East peace conference held in USA trying to resolve the Israel – Palestine Conflict. In the last edition of Aqsa News, we focussed on media monitoring and how to respond positively to the media, both when there is biased reporting and fair reporting. This edition, we focus on building a relationship with your local MP. COMPETITION WIN!£20ARGOSVOUCHER!
  14. 14. AQSA NEWS 14 Update: Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions 29th November 1947 - the UN voted to partition Palestine. This was to be one month, one moment, one decision that would change the entire demography, and shape a future of conflict between Palestine, and what was to become the state of Israel. It is the story of how one party (the Israelis) was awarded land belong- ing to a second party (the Palestinians) without their permission, by a third body (the UN) who had no right to do so. Britain held a Mandate over Palestine and after the Second World War had been declared in 1939, Jews and Arabs in Pales- tine allied themselves with the British. Zionists aimed to create a Jewish battalion within the army and were able to train to the highest levels. Once the Zionist forces had risen to a position of power, they began to attack British interests in Pales- tine, to the extent that Brit- ain could no longer deal with the atrocities commit- ted. In April 1947, the Brit- ish approached the inexpe- rienced and still teething United Nations to consider the future of Palestine. What resulted was the United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine, other- wise known as UN Resolu- tion 181 (II) Future Gov- ernment of Palestine. The resolution recommended an end to the British Man- date in Palestine and in- stead suggested the parti- tion of territory into two states, one Arab and the other Jewish. Under these terms, 56% of the land was awarded to the Jewish mi- nority of 32%, and the re- maining land left to Pales- tinians. The land awarded to form the state of Israel was also the most fertile. Whilst Zionist leaders accepted the partition plan, Palestinians were outraged – and understandably so, since over 50% of their land was being handed over to a minority in the country amounting to an enormous injustice that no people would accept. The vote was passed with 33 in favour, 13 against and 10 abstentions. The passing of the vote marked the begin- ning of a civil war which lasted for 20 months until Israel declared itself a state and the Palestinians lost 78% of their homeland. In HistoryActors & Academics boycott Settlements 60 of Israel’s most promi- nent actors, writers and di- rectors pledged to boycott planned performances in the illegal settlement of Ariel in the West Bank. The decision was then followed by 150 academics who vowed not to lecture or participate in any discussions taking place in settlements. The academics explained the move in a petition saying: “We support the theatre art- ists refusing to play in Ariel, express our appreciation of their public courage and thank them for bringing the debate on settlements back into the headlines… We’d like to remind the Israeli pub- lic that like all settlements, Ariel is also in occupied ter- ritory.” Ariel is a settlement in the West Bank housing around 20,000 illegal Israeli settlers. It is home to a new £6.4m cultural centre where the actors were supposed to perform before they decided to boycott. An Israeli newspaper re- ported in October that the Irish Ministry of Defence has cancelled a contract with Is- rael to supply the Irish army with over 20 million bullets annually. The Irish Minis- try of Defence have decided to sign alternative contracts with Brazil and Belgium. Irish press have interpreted this as a response to the use of forged Irish passports over the assassination of Mah- moud al Mabhouh. A boycott campaign has been launched in two city universities in Montreal after a recent report revealed how links between the universities “serve to normalize the Israeli state’s policies of institution- alized oppression...” Students, professors and staff at McGill and Concor- dia universities are calling on their schools to cut ties with the Israeli Institute of Technology, more commonly known as Technion Univer- sity. The Haifa based univer- sity enrols approximately 12,600 students and prides itself on far-reaching links to Israeli military technology manufacturers and to the mil- itary itself. A report in 2009 by the Alternative Informa- tion Center stated that the university has “has all but en- listed itself in the military.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu urges boycott Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called on a South African Opera company to boycott performing in Israel due to its apartheid policies. The Noble peace prize laure- ate compared the treatment of Palestinians to South Africa’s own ere of racial apartheid and stated that it would be “unconscionable” to show support for such an action. Despite this intervention, the opera company have stated that they will go ahead with the tour. A visit to the Netherlands by 30 Israeli Mayors was can- celled after The Association of Netherlands Municipalities (VNG) found that amongst the delegation, would be heads of settlements in the occupied West Bank. The visit, which was planned by the Israeli branch of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) was originally planned for Spain, but did not go ahead due to the events on the Freedom Flotilla. The visit was then moved to Holland, however, the list of the May- ors who would be attending revealed that Mayors from settlements would be part of the delegation – something previously unknown. The VNG cancelled the trip, stat- ing that the issue was “politi- cally sensitive”. The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) have welcomed the decision and saluted the courage of the VNG. The VNG have come under pressure from certain right-wing groups within the government but remain firm in support of international law and human rights, as it did during the South African apartheid when the Dutch government were unwilling to hold the apartheid state to account. The BNC used the occa- sion to reiterate that there are over 150 settlements in the Occupied West Bank, hous- ing 475,000 settlers who oc- cupy more that 40% of the West Bank land. A former captain in the Israeli Air Force who was known to be an ardent Zion- ist has taken a stand against Israeli aggression, and joined the movement calling for boycott, divestment and sanc- tions against Israel. Since making his new position known, 38-year-old Yonatan Shapira has faced verbal abuse, death threats, interrogation by the Israeli Secret Service Shin Bet and has been fired from his job. However, he continues to par- take in actions to bring justice to the Palestinians. Most re- cently, Shapira was aboard the boat to Gaza organised by Jews for Justice, in an effort to break the illegal siege. He said, “Now I believe Israel is a racist state that brutalizes the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories and discriminates against [Pal- estinians] within Israel. My friends and I have come to the conclusion that the only way to save Israel from itself is through international sup- port of the boycott, disinvest- ment and sanctions campaign against Israel.” He further stated, “The current government is the most extreme and right-wing Israeli government ever. It is no longer enough to try and change Israel from within. Israel has to be pressured in the same way apartheid South Africa was forced to change.” Former Zionist advocates boycott Israeli Settlement mayors not welcome Campus Boycott In Montreal Ireland cancels arms contract with Israel Palestinians in the occu- pied West Bank have called for a boycott of the popular Israeli supermarket chain Ramy Levi, which has sev- eral stores in illegal settle- ments. Many Palestinians are attracted to shop in the store due to low prices but activ- ists within the Popular Strug- gle Coordination Committee (PSCC) are trying to raise awareness of the impact of this. One of the group organ- isers explained the absurdity of Palestinians supporting the Israeli occupation in such a way, particularly when alter- natives do exist. Palestinian campaign for supermarket boycott
  15. 15. AQSA NEWS 15 MiST is a global medical charity that responds to worldwide emergencies triggered by natural disasters or conflict where an urgent need emerges for specialist medical support. MiST particularly helps the poorest people in the world who often live in the hardest-to-reach and forgotten parts of the world. MiST supports the developing world’s surgical centres to move toward self sufficiency in providing excellent health care for the local population, regardless of the race, creed or nationality of the patients and without adverse distinction of any kind. MiST helps create sustainable health facilities for the well-being of all, where they are most needed. MiST has six divisions: Disaster Management• Clinical Surgery and• Rehab Education & Training• Auditing of Health• Infrastructures Research and• Development Mist Plus (Social welfare• projects) How can you help? Donations: funds and• medical equipment Volunteers: medical and• non-medical personnel for Pakistan (post flood medical reflief), Palestine and Sudan as well as in the UK Support• Knowledge has no borders, wisdom has no race or religion. Charity Number #1132221 For more information on our projects or if you want to get in touch with us please check our website: Actress from ‘Harry Potter’ Embarrassed by Israel Actress Miriam Margol- yes who stars in Harry Pot- ter recently went on a visit to West Bank refugee camps with the charity ‘Action Aid’ and said she was embar- rassed by what Israel was do- ing. Herself a Jew, she stated that the Palestinians were not to blame for the Holocaust and that Israel should apolo- gise for all its cruelty, just as Germany had apologised for the Holocaust. She made the comments on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show and has been criticised by pro-Israelis for her show of sympathy. UNESCO Supports Muslim Claim to Tomb of Rachel TheWorldcultureandher- itage organization UNESCO has classified the Tomb of Rachel situated in Bethlehem in the Occupied West Bank as both a mosque and a holy site in Judaism. Earlier this year, the Israeli government listed the site as an Israeli heritage site, despite it being within Occupied Territories and therefore not something that Israel can legally lay claim to. Israel’s response has been, some say predictably, to un- dermine UNESCO for taking this objective position and recognizing the joint Jewish- Muslim claim to the site. Little Progress in Peace Talks The latest peace talks between Palestinians and Is- raelis began on 2 September 2010 and are ongoing. De- spite news reports about the Middle East being dominated by this news, many have com- mented that there has been little to show for the work. The talks, which have been largely mediated by the US, have involved numerous discussions and negotiations between Israeli Prime Minis- ter Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian representative Mahmoud Abbas. Many have stated that the reason for such little progress is twofold. Firstly, that Pales- tinians are being pushed into talks with a gun to the head and therefore have no power to negotiate, but instead sim- ply submit to Israel’s unfair demands. Without beginning with a level playing field, ne- gotiations can be expected to be extremely one-sided. The second drawback is that the Palestinian Authority, rep- resented by Mahmoud Ab- bas has little authority and legitimacy and Hamas, who control the Gaza Strip have been entirely sidelined from talks. The possibility of peace in the regions of Israel, Gaza and the West Bank seems doubtful if Israel is unpre- pared to speak with all parties involved. Furthermore, Israel con- troversially ended a ten- month settlement freeze on 26 September despite being urged by numerous states and the UN to extend the freeze. This jeopardized already shaky talks and caused fur- ther tensions between the two sides. At the time of writing (November 2010), the US were in the process of at- tempting to restart direct ne- gotiations between the two sides. Canada’s Support for Israel Canadian Prime minister Stephen Harper showed un- questioning support for Israel during a speech to a gathering of international parliamentar- ians and experts, stating that Israel was “consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation.” He has been criticised for showing a lack of balance and perspective in his unstinting support for Israel and ignoring its human rights record. Palestinian Secretary General Arrested Israeli armed forces ar- rested the Secretary-General of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Dr Mahmoud Al- Ramahi, from his West Bank home in the City of Al Bira. Witnesses said that the heav- ily armed forces surrounded Al-Ramahi’s home in the pre- dawn hours before storming it and taking him into custody. The arrest has been widely condemned by both the Re- form and Change bloc of the Palestinian Legislative Coun- cil and the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas. BT Accused of Complicity in Israeli Occupation In a report produced by War on Want, British firm BT is accused of having close ties with Israeli com- pany Bezeq International and giving the firm preferential access to its products, even though the company provides services to illegal Israeli set- tlements, checkpoints and army bases in the Occupied West Bank. As a result of the report, several activist groups are launching boycott action against BT.
  16. 16. ASH-SHIFA LOCAL AND ONLINE ISLAMIC STORE | 0116 2104146 (NEW ARRIVAL - CHECK ONLINE NOW) FREE DELIVERY ANYWHERE IN U.K GO ONLINE NOW OR VISIT THE STORE: 263 ST SAVIOURS ROAD, LEICESTER Ismail Adam Patel Challenging Narratives Women in Islam WomeninIslam:ChallengingNarrativesIsmailAdamPatel ves exist regarding women in Islam and of much criticism from theWest levelled n.The discrepancies between Islamic he practice of Muslim communities are ng Narratives intends to address certain men in Islam and dispel some common myths. k also challenges the accepted narrative that n cultures are emancipated. in Islam’ provides a more accurate position conferred to women within the often illusive in Muslim communities around discourse scrutinises the impact of the ting new ideals for women that negate their home, and assesses whether this has created men in the modern era. iter and a campaigner. He is Chairman and a, a UK based NGO dedicated to campaigning for ured widely on a number of political and social d has authored books and articles on an array of advisor for several other organisations m and Clear Conscience. A graduate of the stitute of Science andTechnology, he is an VIATOR BOOKS Women in Islam Challenging Narratives Ismail Adam Patel Many conflicting narratives exist regarding women in Islam and this subject is the cause of much criticism from theWest levelled against Islam as a religion.The discrepancies between Islamic religious discourse and the practice of Muslim communities are often disregarded. Women in Islam, Challenging Narratives intends to address certain misconceptions about women in Islam and dispel some common myths. At the same time, this book also challenges the accepted narrative that women in modernWestern cultures are emancipated. The chapter titled ‘Women in Islam’ provides a more accurate representation of the lofty position conferred to women within the Islamic tradition, which is often illusive in Muslim communities around the globe. A final analysis of feminist discourse scrutinises the impact of the feminist movement on setting new ideals for women that negate their roles within the family and home, and assesses whether this has created greater challenges for women in the modern era. VIATOR BOOKS - NEW - To order this book, please refer to ‘Merchandise Page’ - 10 and 11 AQSA NEWS 16 John Ging: conditions in Gaza have not changed UNRWA’s John Ging said in a statement in No- vember that the conditions in Gaza have not changed since Israel declared that it would lift the blockade, suggesting that the occupying state has been misleading the world. The siege of Gaza has contin- ued now for more than four years and it has created abject poverty and misery in Gaza. Mr Ging went on to say that “The ease as described was nothing more than a political ease of pressure on Israel and Egypt.” 10 year sentence likely for Ameer Makhoul Political prisoner Ameer Makhoul is likely to be charged with crimes which could see him imprisoned for up to 10 years. Human rights organisations have rubbished ‘trumped up’ charges which Israel has brought forward, including the unlikely charge of being a spy for Hezbol- lah. Makhoul was the leader of a non-violent resistance movement, and many in Pal- estine view his arrest and the charges as part of Israel’s war against Palestinian civil society and its non-violent protests against occupation policies and the illegal sepa- ration Wall. Violence against Palestinians rises as olive harvest season begins Palestinian farmers har- vesting their olives usually face attack from Israeli set- tlers and this has been well- documented by various in- ternational solidarity groups. During 6 weeks in September and October, 25 olive trees were vandalised leading to several Israeli human rights organizations sending an ur- gent letter to Israeli military commanders calling for the protection of Palestinians and their property against ex- tremist settler violence. Most of the incidents take place at Palestinian villages which border illegal settlements. Voter disillusion with Nick Clegg Nick Clegg, leader of the Liberal Democrats has in the past been known for his balanced view on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and has rebuked Israel for its aggres- sion, when other leaders and members of government have shied away. However, since the Coalition Government formed, the stance of our Deputy Prime Minister seems to have clearly shifted. In an article in The Guardian last year, Clegg commented on the situation in Gaza stating: “...And what has the Brit- ish government and the in- ternational community done to lift the blockade? Next to nothing. Tough-sounding declarations are issued at regular intervals but little real pressure is applied. It is a scandal that the interna- tional community has sat on its hands in the face of this unfolding crisis.” Despite holding such a strong opinion in the past, some commentators are sug- gesting that the pressure of being in Coalition with the Conservative party has proved all too much for the ‘former Liberal Democrat’. Since entering his new role, Clegg has welcomed the ap- pointment of Lord Trimble (a founding member of the in- ternational ‘Friends of Israel Initiative’) to the internal in- quiry panel investigating the attack on the Mavi Marmara; congratulated the Liberal Democrats Friends of Israel for their work and claimed to be in admiration of the “dem- ocratic traditions and liberal ethos of life within Israel” and attended his own party’s Friends of Israel fringe meet- ing whilst failing to show at the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine meeting. The marked shift in Clegg’s position has been evident in many spheres, and appears to contradict the Lib- eral Democrat constitution Preamble which a sizeable proportion of the British pub- lic voted for at the last general election – the championing of freedom and dignity, opposi- tion to inequality, promotion of human rights and the com- mitment to “fight poverty, oppression, hunger, igno- rance, disease and aggression wherever they occur…”
  17. 17. AQSA NEWS 17
  18. 18. Refusnik! Or Ben David 20 year old Or Ben David is visiting the UK to talk about her experiences as a Refusnik – an Israeli who refused to serve in the Israeli Defence Force. She is a remarkable young woman who has shown resilience and determination to fight for what she believes in. We caught up with Or during her visit to Leicester in October 2010. Q. Tell us about yourself I was born in West Jerusalem and I have a twin brother as well as four other siblings. I went to school in Jerusalem and up until the age of 14 I didn’t know any Arab Israelis or Palestinians. I did a lot of volunteering work and when I was 14, I remembered going into the West Bank to join a demonstration against the building of the Separation Wall in Bil’in. This was the first time I met Palestinians, and it was a moment of truth. I suddenly realised that they were not all terror- ists as we were led to believe. I also learnt for the first time what occupation really meant. If you are Jewish and going through a check point, it is easy as you just get waved through. You tend not to notice the Palestinians waiting in their cars or in the queues, often for hours. For the first time, I looked at them. I realised what the army does to demonstrators and what a closure really is. And I also realised the reality of demolitions. I met international activists, some of whom were almost fanatical and others were inspiring in their belief in peace. I continued to volunteer within the community and this meant that I was not conscripted into the army until I turned 19. I refused to join, as I believe in the good in all people and this belief makes me certain that we can achieve peace. Q. How did your friends and family re- spond to your decision? The response I received was mixed and the next few months were very chal- lenging. My mum is the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and my dad fought in the Israeli army during previous wars. They were not happy at all with my de- cisions – they told me that people had died for me to be able to live peacefully in Israel and so I needed to do my bit for the next generation of Israelis. There is always the argument that we need to pro- tect the country. My parents also found it tough as others were criticising them for not being good parents. We argued about it and in the end, my father said he would be behind me even though he does not agree with me because I am his daugh- ter. My mother found it harder, and she called me in jail once and suggested roles in the army that would help people, but I refused. I lost some friends, but I believe that if they cannot accept me for who I am, then they weren’t friends to start with. Q. What made you decide not to serve in the Israeli Army? Everyone in Israel believes in the Army. From a young age we are taught what you have to join the army because of what happened to Jews in the past. Everyone says Israel has the most moral army in the world, but going to the West Bank and seeing what the army has done out there made me determined not to be a part of it. I first thought maybe I could go in the army and be a good soldier. But then I realised I was not capable of holding a gun or wearing a uniform that symbolises the occupation. In the army, it doesn’t matter what act you are doing, even paper work as you are part of a violent act (the occupation.) When I told the Army that I would not join, they asked why and I told them about the oc- cupation. The responses were mixed – some were aggressive negative responses, and others actually understood. In Palestine, the response was also mixed. There were those who still did not care whether I was in the army or not, they still saw me as the enemy who had caused them so much pain. But most Palestinians welcomed it. I think the Palestinians who responded negatively did so because of the pain that they felt under occupation, and this is a pain that I see on the Israeli side too, from those who have suffered from Palestinian acts of violence. One of my friends who was affected by a terrorist act when she was young which killed her best friend still carries this pain with her as Palestinians do. Q. What happened to you after you refused to join the Army? I was put in prison for 4 months when I was 19. It was an army prison and everyone within it was treated as a soldier. We were anonymous and everyone had a number and everyone was treated the same. I responded by refusing to behave like a soldier. So I did not respond when I was called ‘soldier’, I laughed and sang and generally disturbed the prison conditions. I was taken on a number of trials for misbehaviour, and in the end I think they gave up and declared that I was not ‘sane’ and so I was released. One of the officers of the prison came to me and said she respected what I did and she wished she could be as courageous. With another commander, she told me we had to go in the army by law and it was not a choice. But I told her we all have a choice with what we do. In Nazi Germany, if the SAS soldiers had refused to join then imagine how many people might not have been killed. I do believe that joining the Army is a choice and I don’t judge anyone for their choice, but they cannot deny that it is their choice. They released me on the grounds that I was mentally ill – they usually use this excuse when they realise that there is nothing they can do to change someone’s mind. I was clearly not go- ing to give up. Others I know have now also refused to serve in the army, including my twin brother. Q. What was it like growing up in Israel? There is a focus on the Jewish history of persecution and the Holocaust. I visited Poland when I was 17 in an organised school trip. We went to learn about the Holocaust. I saw what happened at the concentration camps and other terrible things that will always stay with me. But I also saw that this trip was trying to indoctrinate us with the idea that we are under threat and we need to join the Israeli army to deter the threat. While this was not the only purpose of the trip, it was a strong element as they drew a link between the Holocaust and the army so that we feel compelled to join the army. Q. What are your hopes for the future in Israel and Palestine? What I want is a one state solution or no states at all. However, because of the pain I see in people - those in their 40’s have only ever seen occupation and violence - as a result I don’t think there can be a one state solution. On the other hand I don’t think you can build a wall between them and have a solution as this only masks the pain felt by both sides. I believe we need to keep educating people and I believe that Israel as the occupiers have a lot of responsibility, such as over Gaza. We are now obligated to do things like build schools and roads and help them with the government because we destroyed their society. Palestinians are capable of doing it for themselves, but there is a lot of chaos at the moment between the factions. AQSA NEWS 18 Interview