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Summer/Autumn 2012

Newsletter

Israel state sponsored culture

Brand Israel and the Palestinian call for boycott
July 2012 marked seven years since the call for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel was launched by Palestinian civil society organisations. It is a rights-based strategy to force Israel to meet its obligations to recognise the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and comply with the requirements of international law. During those seven years, international solidarity campaigning has developed into a movement that is strategic and built on strengthened networks across borders and continents. BDS today is ‘mainstream’, in that trade unions and labour federations, churches, faith-based groups and student organisations on campuses around the world are taking BDS-related actions with increasing success. For further evidence of the impact of BDS we can look to the Reut Institute, advisers to the Israeli government on strategic and national security issues. Reut reported in 2010 that international solidarity networks working toward BDS pose a strategic and “potentially existential threat” to the state of Israel: Strategic implications are already apparent: Increased international interference in Israel's domestic affairs; greater limitations on Israel's ability to use its military force; economic boycotts and sanctions; and travel restrictions on officers, officials, and politicians due to application of universal legal jurisdiction… In addition, in many places Israel has been successfully branded by its adversaries as a pariah state that deserves the fate of South Africa's apartheid regime.

Reut works to devise and implement strategies for the Zionist response to the BDS campaign. Their so-called “delegitimization challenge” involves consultations, roundtable discussions, presentations and strategic meetings to help Israeli government officials, diplomats and Zionist activists counter the BDS campaign around the world. Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs launched the ‘Brand Israel Project’ in 2005, the year of the Palestinian BDS call. ‘Brand Israel’ is of “critical importance in fighting delegitimization” according to Reut, and aims to promote “a strong Israel brand that is associated with 'positive' values, such as innovation, creativity, and contribution to humanity [to] make delegitimization more difficult and create a more effective platform for traditional Israeli PR.” This is to be achieved through promotion of Israeli arts, innovation and technology, while avoiding any discussion of Israel’s occupation and colonisation of Arab lands, the illegal separation Wall, the unequal status of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Israel’s denial of the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

What Israeli government spin doctors don’t grasp is that the images and testimonies from decades of Zionist colonisation, occupation and apartheid reach homes, towns and communities around the world. Today, committed Zionist supporters of Israel warn that “the centre ground, the majority, the British public may not be expert, but they are not stupid” (Matthew Gould, British Ambassador to Israel, August 2012). This inability to understand that no amount of spin can distract us from their crimes is demonstrated by Israel’s Foreign Ministry $2 million boost to Brand Israel following their 22-day military attack on Gaza during the winter of 2008/2009. Arye Mekel, the ministry’s Deputy Director General for Cultural Affairs, was explicit that the aim was to mask the destruction, the 1400 Palestinians killed and 5,000 wounded, when he said that “we will send well-known novelists and writers overseas, theatre companies, exhibits. This way you show Israel’s prettier face, so we are not thought of purely in the context of war.” Batsheva is an Israeli dance company funded jointly by Israel’s Ministry of Culture and Sport and the Municipality of Tel Aviv and whose tours are supported by Israel’s Foreign Ministry. Tours by Batsheva and other cultural groups, and initiatives that serve Brand Israel’s goal of providing a cover for Israel’s war crimes, human rights abuses and apartheid need to be exposed and actively protested. Jonathan Mills, director of Edinburgh International Festival hosting Batsheva in August, refuses to withdraw the invitation to Batsheva, suggesting that “bringing artists and audiences together through cultural exchange [is] essential in developing understanding and trust between peoples”. In 2006 Palestinian filmmakers, artists and cultural workers made an appeal for action: “like the boycott of South African art institutions during apartheid, cultural workers must speak out against the current Israeli war crimes and atrocities… We call upon you to give way to action that would replace words spoken too often and forgotten too quickly. We call upon you to make your voices heard in calling for an end to this bloodshed and an end to this oppression that has lasted too long.” Mills’ indifference to this appeal and to the 2005 Palestinian civil society call, whose signatories include arts and cultural organisations is in stark contrast with the increasing numbers of artists, trade unionists, and millions of people around the world who believe they have an active role to play in ending Israel’s war crimes and atrocities. Join the protests at the Edinburgh International Festival 30 Aug-1 Sept and during the Batsheva UK tour Oct-Nov 2012: no2brandisrael@ymail.com, www.no2brandisrael.org

Hunger Strike
From December last year a momentous movement grew within the prisons of Israel and Palestine, led by Palestinian political prisoners, and leading to demonstrations of solidarity around the world. Some of the most fervent displays of solidarity were seen in Scotland, led by students organised as “We are all Hana Shalabi” across the campuses of Scottish universities. What follows is a partial, chronological account of unfolding events, in Palestine and Scotland. Khader Adnan begins hunger strike
“On 16 January 2012, Khader entered his 30th day of hunger strike and speaking strike in protest of his administrative detention. His health is rapidly deteriorating and he is refusing treatment until he is released. After being violently arrested on 17 December 2011, during which he suffered injuries to his face and back, Khader was immediately taken to Al-Jalameh interrogation center, where he began a hunger and speaking strike. On his fourth day of interrogation, the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) sentenced him in his cell to seven days of isolation in punishment for his ongoing hunger strike...”
Addameer press release, January 17th 2012

Administrative Detention
“…administrative detention is a procedure the Israeli military uses to hold detainees indefinitely on secret evidence without charging them or allowing them to stand trial. Over 300 Palestinian political prisoners are serving this term now, and tens of thousands of Palestinians have experienced administrative detention since 1967.”
Shahd Abusalama, Electronic Intifada, January 21st 2012

Deal reached to end Khader Adnan’s detention; 66 day hunger strike ends
“…According to the deal, Adnan will be released on 17 April – three weeks before the original 8 May expiry of his current administrative detention order. But under the deal his administrative detention order would not be renewed. Israel has typically renewed administrative detention orders repeatedly…”

Ali Abunimah, Electronic Intifada, February 21st 2012

Another Hunger Striker Challenges a Policy Unchanged: Hana Shalabi, Day 14
“…Hana was arrested on 16 February, less than four months after being released from over two years in administrative detention on 18 October 2011 as part of the prisoner exchange deal concluded by the Israeli government and Hamas, whereby 1,027 Palestinian political prisoners were released in exchange for captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. During her arrest, Hana and her family were beaten and harassed by Israeli Occupying Forces. After being taken to Salem Detention Center, Hana was subjected to additional beatings, humiliation, and other stark violations. She immediately began an open hunger strike and was subsequently placed in solitary confinement as punishment... … international humanitarian law…permits limited use of administrative detention only in emergency situations, but does not allow for its use as punishment when there is not sufficient evidence for criminal procedures…”
Addameer press release, February 29th 2012

500 march in Glasgow for Hana Shalabi

“With Hana Shalabi’s condition deteriorating in Israeli jails, students in Scotland are stepping up their actions in solidarity with Hana and all the other courageous Palestinian hunger strikers fighting for dignity and freedom. Last Saturday, in action called and organised by the student Palestine societies in Scotland, over 500 people marched on the BBC Scotland HQ in Glasgow demanding that they cover the story of Shalabi’s heroic strike of over a month. Since that action, we have been encouraged to see demonstrations called at the BBC’s in Liverpool and Belfast over the coming week. This action followed a one day global fast called for by Edinburgh Uni SJP which trended worldwide on twitter and had thousands participating. It also runs in conjunction with a rolling hunger strike organised by Glasgow Uni Pal Soc and supported by Glasgow Caley Pal Soc, which has one person conducting a 24 hour fast every day whilst Hana remains on hunger strike...”
We are all Hana Shalabi blog, March 29th 2012

Conditional Release: Hana Shalabi Expelled to Gaza Strip

“…Addameer and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-Israel) are alarmed at the announcement that Hana Shalabi will be expelled to the Gaza Strip today, only three days after purportedly ending her 43-day hunger strike. Addameer and PHR-Israel condemn the Israeli Prison Service (IPS)’s denial of access to both parties to visit Ms. Shalabi in the days leading up to the deal for her release and expulsion to the Gaza Strip and since the deal was reportedly finalized on 29 March. Addameer and PHR-Israel fear that, given her grave medical condition, the restriction of access of Ms. Shalabi’s physician and lawyers, in addition to the prevention of family visits, were used as methods of coercion. Furthermore, serious concerns exist regarding the availability and arrangement of adequate medical care matching Ms. Shalabi’s urgent needs in light of her swift transfer…”
Addameer press release, April 1st 2012

Statement from Palestinian prisoners in the build up to the “Karamah” hunger strike
“The various political currents in the prisoners movement who are held in the zionist jails have

reached an agreement to escalate the ongoing hunger strikes in order to achieve the human rights which Israel have denied prisoners for many long years. Prisoners will begin an indefinite hunger strike this month. This means they will refuse all forms of food and liquid (with the exception of water) until their demands are met. The hunger strike has been initiated because this is the only tool that the Palestinian prisoners have to achieve their rights... The demands of the Karameh Hunger Strike are: 1. An end to the policy of solitary confinement and isolation which has been used to deprive Palestinian prisoners of their rights for more than a decade. 2. To allow the families of prisoners from the Gaza Strip to visit prisoners. This right has been denied to all families for more than 6 years. 3. An improvement in the living conditions of prisoners and an end to the ‘Shalit’ law, which outlaws newspapers, learning materials and many TV channels. 4. An end to the policies of humiliation which are suffered by prisoners and their families such as strip searches, nightly raids, and collective punishment...”
Statement issued by Palestinian Prisoners, April 10th 2012

Mass hunger strike begins

“…An estimated 1,200 Palestinian prisoners announced the beginning of an open hunger strike yesterday, along with approximately 2,300 who refused meals and are currently preparing for a wider campaign of disobedience...”
Addameer press release, April 18th 2012

Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, BDS and G4S

“Today, on Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, we the undersigned Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations salute all Palestinian political prisoners, especially those engaging in brave civil disobedience through ongoing hunger strikes in protest to the ongoing violations of human rights and international law. Emphasizing imprisonment as a critical component of Israel’s system of occupation, colonialism and apartheid practiced against the Palestinian people, we call for intensifying the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign to target corporations profiting directly from the Israeli prison system. In particular, we call for action to be taken to hold to account G4S, the world's largest international security corporation, which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system, for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law...”
Joint statement issued by various Palestinian civil society and human rights organisations, April 17th 2012

Students occupy BBC for Palestinian Prisoners on hunger strike!

“The BBC Scotland Headquarters were occupied, hundreds of demonstrators marched in solidarity with the Karamah (Dignity) Hunger Strike, and three people were arrested, as people in Glasgow marked Palestinian prisoners day yesterday. Before midday on Tuesday, over 30 activists entered the BBC Scotland building demanding mainstream media coverage for over 1200 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails who have embarked on an historic indefinite hunger strike for their rights as political detainees...”
We are all Hana Shalabi blog, April 18th 2012

Scottish Trades Union Congress comes out in support of hunger strikers
“...The response to the amazing bravery of the Palestinian hunger strikers was quite emphatic

and inspiring: ‘Congress notes: that despite prisoner releases, over 4,600 Palestinian political prisoners remain in detention, including 203 children….applauds the steadfastness of 1,200 Palestinian political prisoners who began an open-ended hunger strike on 17 April..congratulates the student Palestine solidarity network for their mobilisation across Scotland in support of Palestinian political prisoners…’”
We are all Hana Shalabi blog, April 26th 2012

National Demonstration for Hunger Strikers, Edinburgh 28/4/12

“Yesterday in Edinburgh, as Bilal and Tha’ir reached their 60th day on hunger strike, over 600 people marched through Scotland’s capital in support of Palestinian political prisoners demanding of the Scottish government three things; firstly, that it calls for the immediate release of all ‘administrative detainees’ starting with those on hunger strike; second that it makes a statement supporting the demands of the Karamah hunger strikers – now numbering in the thousands – and thirdly that it divests from all companies - Israeli or otherwise – involved in the illegal occupation of Palestine... One can only imagine what the many thousands of tourists made of it but we can be sure that they know, just like the Scottish government knows, that Scotland stands with the Palestinians as it has done for many years...”
We are all Hana Shalabi blog, April 30th 2012

Israeli court rejects Palestinian hunger strike prisoners' appeal

“Two Palestinian prisoners who are on their 70th day of hunger strike had their appeals against imprisonment without charge or trial rejected by Israel's supreme court on Monday. Bilal Diab, 27, and Tha'er Halahleh, 33, are both at risk of death, according to Physicians for Human Rights (PHR). Diab has been moved to a civilian hospital in Israel...”
The Guardian, May 7th 2012

A letter from Tha’ir Halahleh to his daughter

A letter from Thaer Halahleh, on day 75 of hunger strike against his detention without charge, to his two-year-old daughter Lamar, who he has never seen. Translated by Jalal Najjar. “My Beloved Lamar, forgive me because the occupation took me away from you, and took away from me the pleasure of witnessing my first born child that I have always prayed to God to see, to kiss, to be happy with. It is not your fault, this is our destiny as Palestinian people to have our lives and the lives of our children taken away from us, to be apart from each other and to have a miserable life, nothing is complete in our lives because of this unjust occupation that is lurking on every corner of our lives turning it into eeriness, a continuous pursuit and torture... Lamar my love... I will make it up to you for everything, and tell you the whole story, and your days that will follow will be more beautiful, so let your days pass now and wear your prettiest clothes, run and then run again in the gardens of your long life, go forward and forward nothing is behind you but the past, and this is your voice I hear all the time as a melody of freedom...”
We are all Hana Shalabi blog, May 12th 2012

Mass Hunger Strike Concludes After Agreement is Reached

“After nearly a full month of fasting, around 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners ended last night their mass hunger strike upon reaching an agreement with the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to attain certain core demands. Addameer lauds these achievements of the prisoners’ movement

and can only hope that Israel will implement any policy changes in good faith. Addameer especially commends those individuals who engaged in open hunger strike for over two months, displaying remarkable steadfastness in the struggle for their most basic rights... The written agreement contained five main provisions: the prisoners would end their hunger strike following the signing of the agreement; there will be an end to the use of long-term isolation of prisoners for “security” reasons, and the 19 prisoners will be moved out of isolation within 72 hours; family visits for first degree relatives to prisoners from the Gaza Strip and for families from the West Bank who have been denied visits based on vague “security reasons” will be reinstated within one month; the Israeli intelligence agency guarantees that there will be a committee formed to facilitate meetings between the IPS and prisoners in order to improve their daily conditions; there will be no new administrative detention orders or renewals of administrative detention orders for the 308 Palestinians currently in administrative detention, unless the secret files, upon which administrative detention is based, contain “very serious” information... Addameer has observed that Israel has consistently failed to respect the agreements it executes with Palestinians regarding prisoners’ issues. For this reason, it will be essential for all supporters of Palestinian political prisoners to actively monitor the events of the next few months to ensure that this agreement is fully implemented....”
Addameer press release, May 15th 2012

Celtic’s Green Brigade in show of solidarity with hunger strikers

“On the 13th of May, as the ‘deal’ to end the mass Palestinian hunger strike was about to emerge from the rumour-mill, far away from Palestine in Scotland’s biggest city Glasgow, ...[a message] of solidarity with the Palestinian hunger strikers was... [displayed by] supporters of Celtic Football Club. This was the final game of the season when Celtic were given the league trophy and crowned Scottish Football Champions and amid all the displays, colour, noise and party atmosphere a flurry of Palestine flags and a banner reading “Dignity is more precious than food” appeared in one particular corner section of the stadium.”
We are all Hana Shalabi blog, May 25th 2012

Palestinian prisoners’ hunger strikes continue as Israel violates agreements
“... the realization of the agreement was left for Israel to decide — and since the end of the mass hunger strike in the early hours of 15 May, rumours of Israel reneging on its promises have solidified into facts... The signed agreement led many to believe that Israel would curtail its use of administrative detention, especially after it announced that all administrative detainees would be released at the end of their current detention periods unless substantial evidence was provided against them. However, two weeks after the agreement, more than 25 prisoners have had their detentions renewed without such significant evidence presented... Despite expectations, solitary confinement is still in use too...”
Linah Alsasfin, Electronic Intifada, June 5th 2012

An Appeal to Save the Life of Mahmoud Sarsak

“Our brother and son, Mahmoud Sarsak, is a 25 years old professional footballer from Rafah refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, today entering his 67th day of hunger strike. We ask you to support Mahmoud and his demand for fair treatment. Your voice can contribute to saving his life and to a little victory against injustice.

He is one of over 4400 Palestinians held in Israeli jails in violation of Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which forbids the transfer of occupied peoples (Palestinians), to the territory of the occupier (Israel). Grave breaches of these Articles are considered war crimes in international law...”
Mahmoud Kamel Muhammad Sarsak, Father of Mahmoud. Published on Stop the Wall website, May 24th 2012

Students from We Are All Hana Shalabi campaign join protest for Mahmoud Sarsak
“A protest was held today outside Ramle prison where Palestinian footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, on his 82nd day of hunger strike, remains imprisoned without charge. Activists from Haifa and Jaffa were joined by students from the We Are All Hana Shalabi campaign in Scotland as they demanded Sarsak’s immediate release from jail and freedom for all Palestinian prisoners held in the occupation jails. Around 50 protestor gathered outside the prison with pictures of Sarsak, chanting for his release...”
We are all Hana Shalabi blog, June 8th 2012

Protests and support for Mahmoud Sarsak at Scotland v Israel football game in Edinburgh

“Israel’s national football team had to endure a barrage of pro-Palestinian chanting throughout their 8-0 defeat by Scotland in the Women’s Euro qualifier at Tynecastle on Saturday, in a protest aimed at highlighting the plight of what FIFA president Sepp Blatter termed, Israel’s “alleged illegal detention of Palestine football players... Around 140 campaigners from groups including Friends of AL-Aqsa Scotland, and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC) waved Palestinian flags and banners calling for Sarsak’s release...”
SPSC website, June 17th 2012

Mahmoud Sarsak freed

“Israel has released a member of the Palestinian national football team who lobbied for his freedom by going on hunger strike for more than three months. Mahmoud Sarsak greeted well-wishers in his native Gaza on Tuesday after three years in Israeli custody without charges or trial...During his hunger strike, the 25-year-old athlete shed nearly half his weight.”
The Guardian, July 10th 2012

Hunger striker Hassan Safadi’s head violently slammed against cell door by prison guards
Palestinian hunger strikers Hassan Safadi and Samer Al-Barq continue to be severely mistreated by the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), in the forms of physical brutality and psychological torture. Addameer, Al-Haq and Physicians for Human Rights-Israel (PHR-I) express their utmost outrage at recent violent incidents that have left these already-weakened detainees on protracted hunger strikes with trauma and injury. Mr. Al-Barq is today on his 87th day of hunger strike, which he began only one week after his previous 30-day hunger strike ended; Mr. Safadi is today on his 57th day of hunger strike, which he also began shortly after the end of his previous 71-day hunger strike.
Addameer press release, August 16th 2012

Scotland’s Dirty Water
Water apartheid is a daily reality in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. But Scotland is not free from complicity in this. As the Scottish Green Party raises a motion in Parliament urging the Government to withdraw subsidies to Eden Springs UK, Tariq Al-Bazz charts the link between this Scottish water company and its Israeli parent company which sources its water on illegally occupied territory on the West Bank. In Scotland we have it pretty good as far as water is concerned. There’s loads of it, and we can even afford to sell some to our poor neighbours down south. But what if those neighbours chose to bomb our cities, invade our country and proceed to surround all our population centres with settlements guarded by heavily armed troops? What if they poured lots of money into these settlements, gave settlers loads of privileges, and commandeered our water for themselves? “It couldn’t happen here”, you might say. Everyone has an equal right to water – even if we do have to pay for it. That’s what the people of Palestine thought before they were hounded out of their land and occupied by the state of Israel. Water apartheid is now a daily reality for Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank. The facts speak for themselves. Israelis use three times as much water as Palestinians. Palestinian water usage barely reaches the minimum daily standard of 100 litres per person per day as defined by the World Health Organisation. Israel exerts strict control over water availability, and ensures that its own population is plentifully supplied with water, whilst restricting that provided to Palestinians. Water is legally defined as (Israeli) public property. As such a permit is required to drill new wells or fix existing ones. Permits go through eighteen stages of approval in various administrative departments. Furthermore, quotas limit the drawing of water from each well. In many cases, Palestinians are deprived of access to water resources by being deprived of access to their land in general. Israeli land grabs are frequently carried out by establishing military areas on natural reserves, especially in the Jordan Valley. Israel also makes no effort to maintain the water system. Neglect of infrastructure is a deliberate Israeli policy which also goes well beyond the water sector. The amount of public expenditure in the Territories in all fields is less than the fiscal revenues that Israel collects from the Palestinian population. In addition to not authorising construction of new water networks and repeatedly rejecting requests to be connected to existing networks, the Israeli Civil Administration often destroys or confiscates the modest structures that Palestinians build to collect water. Through settlements and Mekerot, (the state water company), Israel damages existing Palestinian access to water by drilling deeper, more advanced wells in close proximity to Palestinian wells or streams, causing a reduction in the yield of Palestinian water sources.

The extreme water crisis felt by Palestinians is only magnified by the blatant overuse of water in nearby Israeli settlements. As mentioned above, the average Israeli consumes up to 350 litres of water each day. Israeli settlers typically consume even more, despite living among a majority Palestinian population denied proper access to water. In the Jordan Valley, for example, there are 56,000 Palestinians and 9,400 settlers. Settlers use six times more water than Palestinians. This discrepancy in water allocation is particularly brutal in the hot summer months when Israeli settlements are provided with an uninterrupted flow of water while Palestinians are often cut off from the pumps. All this colonial domination by Israel flies in the face of international law and human rights. According to the Israeli human rights organisation, B’Tselem “Article 55 of the Hague Regulations limits the right of occupying states to utilize the water sources of occupied territory. The use is limited to military needs and may not exceed past use. Use of groundwater of the Occupied Territories in the settlements does not meet these criteria and therefore breaches Article 55.” But what relevance does all this have to us in Scotland? Well, it seems that the Scottish Government has been complicit in supporting water apartheid in Israel. In October last year the Government, announced the award of a £200,000 Scottish Enterprise Grant to Eden Springs UK. Eden Springs is the largest provider of water coolers to workplaces and offices in Scotland. It supplies drinking water to most Scottish Health Boards, to a large number of Scottish Councils, Universities, Colleges, and office complexes. The grant followed a meeting in January 2010, between John Swinney, then Cabinet Secretary for Finance & Sustainable Growth, and the UK Managing Director of Eden Springs. Eden Springs UK is owned by Eden Springs Ltd of Israel. This company extracts water from the Salukia spring in the Golan Heights, where it also has a bottling plant. The Golan Heights is part of Israel’s colonialist expansion in the Middle East. It is Syrian Territory illegally occupied by Israel since June 1967. The UN condemns Israel's actions in illegally occupying the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights and in Security Council resolution 242 emphasised "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war" and affirmed that a just and lasting peace can only be established when there is a "withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied". In effect, Eden Springs is stealing water from the Golan Heights. Of course Eden Springs UK does not itself source its water from the Golan. Its main depot is in Blantyre, although it has other sites in Inverness, Aberdeen, & Dundee. However, this is part of an international company whose complicity with water apartheid in Palestine is well established. Alex Salmond has said in the past “you can’t have normal relationships if you believe another country has been involved in what Israel has been involved in”. I agree with him and ask therefore that his administration withdraws its support from an organisation that is complicit in Israeli apartheid. It is time that the Scottish Government acted on its principles and withdrew its grant to Eden Springs.

The Rise of Neo-fascism in Israel
On 29th May Israel’s Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that “Africans have been added to the list of infiltrators posing a threat to the Jewish homeland”. On 1st June Interior Minister Eli Yishai referred to African migrants as a “demographic threat who could end the Zionist dream”. After putting into effect a law that allows the detention of immigrants for three years, Mr Yishai also added that “most of those people arriving here are Muslims who think the country doesn’t belong to us, the white man.” He has also described asylum-seekers as rapists and criminals. Few weeks before Miri Regev, a spokesman of the governing Likud Party, referred to Sudanese people in Israel as a “cancer”. On 4th June Israeli media reported that Haifa's council had warned local businesses that they risked losing their licences if they employed African refugees. The series of fascist statements publically released by the Israeli authorities along with their racist policies against asylum-seekers fleeing war in Sudan and Eritrea would no doubt spark outrage worldwide and be deplored by all citizens with a minimum of consciousness of the brutalities of Nazi-Fascism of the 30s. Nonetheless, remarkably but not surprisingly, these gross events have hardly reached the mainstream world media. This scenario sums up unequivocally Israel’s institutionalised oppression of minorities (apartheid) together with the international complicity (or silence at the very least) of countries that have made cooperation with the Zionist state an integral part of their policy. Most outrageously, the release of these statements provoked, and was concomitant to, a series of numerous barbaric, yet unpunished, attacks against refugees and their shops, homes and buildings, including a children’s nursery. For example, on 28th May a 22-year-old Eritrean asylum-seeker was attacked by five young Israelis who vandalised her internet café and pulled a knife on her. Her neighbours looked on while the police promptly came to check her visa, completely ignoring what had just happened to her. Similarly, on 5th June the home of 10 Eritreans in Jerusalem was firebombed, leaving 4 seriously injured and the graffiti: "Get out of the neighbourhood." Hundreds of Zionist protesters marched through Tel Aviv, chanting “Africans out!” and “grilled kushi” (“grilled blacks”). Shopkeepers in Sderot have been refusing to serve migrants. This far from comprehensive list of racist episodes is the ultimate symptom of the racist sentiment ingrained in every section of society as a direct effect of the Israeli apartheid system. On the other hand, episodes of intolerance and crime towards immigrants are not an Israel-exclusive phenomenon. Sadly, neo-fascist and neo-nazist movements are also rising all over Europe. This trend has been fuelled by the more or less explicit “scapegoating” campaign against immigrants used by the ruling classes to divert the focus from the true causes of economical recession and social injustice (i.e. capitalism). The rhetoric on immigration control, where European establishment parties have found a common cause, is arguably just the sanitised version of Netanyahu’s promise to build “the world’s largest detention centre and deport all those within, starting with the Sudanese”. Israeli authorities have shown special preference and sympathy to neo-fascist European movements by hosting their leaders (e.g. Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party) and reinforcing the shared position on the threat of migrants, especially Muslims. Interestingly,

according to the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, neo-fascist European movements are rising in part because they have opportunistically (and temporarily) rejected anti-semitism in favour of a more successful rhetoric against Muslims. Likewise, it is not at all surprising that neo-fascist European movements in search for allies for their racist campaigns have chosen the State of Israel as supporter, a state where prohibition of racial discrimination is not included in the Basic Law, as noted by the UN Committee for Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), who earlier this year issued a very concerning report on racial discrimination of minorities in Israel and human rights violations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. CERD is responsible for ensuring compliance to the Convention for Elimination of Racial Discrimination ratified by 135 countries including Israel. On 9th March CERD issued its concluding observations on the report submitted by Israel, which was expected to describe concrete measures taken by the state to address several racial discrimination concerns reported by CERD in a previous report. CERD noted that Israel failed to implement most of CERD’s previous recommendations. The report depicts a horrifying picture of the Israeli State, where racial discrimination is deep-rooted in all aspects of its legislation. Other than asylum-seekers and refugees, sections of society deeply affected by racist legislation include Jewish minorities (e.g. Ethiopians, Mizrahi, Russians and Sephardim), non-Jewish minorities and the indigenous Bedouin populations. CERD also reports a gender-related dimension to this racial discrimination with a continued low level of education and managerial employment for women. The list of concerns also includes the long-acknowledged, yet unchallenged, violation of the most basic human rights against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. In particular, CERD stressed its concerns for “actions that change the demographic composition of the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the Occupied Syrian Golan”. This is no doubt a sanitised definition of ethnic cleansing. CERD reiterated its previous recommendations of ensuring equal access to social and economical rights (with special emphasis on land, work and education) as well as political participation to all citizens. It also issued additional recommendations on abrogation of racial discrimination of Jewish minorities and dispossession of indigenous Bedouin communities, with the explicit request to withdraw the brutal 2012 “Law for the Regulation of the Bedouin Settlement in the Negev”, which legalises the ongoing policy of home demolitions and forced displacement of Bedouins. CERD finally noted with concern Israel’s refusal to acknowledge the 2001 Durban Declaration of the International Conference against Racism and Related Intolerance and requests that measures are taken to implement all recommendations by 2016. With due respect to CERD’s efforts, notes of concerns and reiteration of recommendations have historically proven ineffective to even minimally alter Israel’s policies of racial discrimination and human rights violations. Radical action in line with the struggle against apartheid in South Africa must be taken: SUPPORT THE CALL FOR BOYCOTT, DIVESTMENT AND SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL! Karolin Hijazi

Securing Injustice
Despite its track record of complicity in human rights abuses in the UK and abroad, G4S is being handed control of public services - everything from policing to “asylum markets” to the welfare system. Even after the Olympics débâcle, G4S looks set to take over even more control of our communities. Campaigns have begun to highlight the record of G4S and to work to prevent it from putting profit before human rights & dignity. Recent demonstrations have targeted the company’s headquarters and activists have protested outside the G4S AGM at London Stock Exchange dressed in prison uniform to highlight G4S' complicity in the illegal detention and abuse of Palestinian prisoners. An 'Alternative Report' was also distributed which reveals a company raking in millions of profit on the back of human misery and violations of international law.

Supporting Israeli Apartheid

Israel systematically denies Palestinian political prisoners their basic rights, including the right to a fair trial and to protection from arbitrary detention. In 2007, G4S Israel signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide security systems for major Israeli prisons. G4S provides systems for the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons, which unlawfully hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel. The company also provides equipment for Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, and for Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention facilities, at which human rights organisations have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners. At Al Jalame prison, Palestinian children are locked in solitary confinement for days or even weeks. By providing equipment to these prisons, G4S is actively participating in these violations of international law. G4S is involved in other aspects of the Israeli apartheid and occupation regime: it has provided equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal Wall and to the terminals isolating Gaza. It also has contracts for equipment and services for the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters and with private businesses based in illegal Israeli settlements. On Palestinian Prisoners' Day and to coincide with the mass hunger strike by Palestinian prisoners, Palestinian civil society organisations signed a call urging the global solidarity movement to take action “to hold to account G4S, the world’s largest international security corporation, which helps to maintain and profit from Israel’s prison system, for its complicity with Israeli violations of international law”.

Profiting from International conflict

G4S is one of a few multinational security companies that dominate what it describes as “asylum markets”. In February 2012, G4S was one of three multinational security companies that took over all provision of asylum accommodation in the UK for the next five years. G4S has been repeatedly accused of providing poor services in its prisons and immigration detention centres. In June 2011, it was revealed that a record 773 complaints were lodged in 2010 against G4S by detainees, including 48 claims of assault. There is the shocking case of Jimmy Mubenga, the Angolan refugee who in October 2010 collapsed and died after three G4S guards used force to

‘restrain’ him during his forcible deportation; despite witness testimony, G4S will face no legal sanction.

Privatising the Police

In December 2011, G4S’ police work went to a whole new level when the Lincolnshire Police Authority outsourced its core policing functions to G4S, claiming the deal could save £28 million. The 10-year £200 million contract makes G4S responsible for the operation of the force’s control centre, human resources, training, finance and custody suites. Under the terms of the contract, two-thirds of the force’s staff are to join G4S. It is also bidding for seven-year contracts worth £1.5 billion for Surrey and West Midlands Police to provide a wide range of services, including investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and detaining suspects. Both Unison and Unite, the two largest public sector trade unions, warned that the radical plan to privatise policing would “damage public safety”.

Punishing welfare claimants

In April 2011, G4S won three contracts to run the coalition government’s Work Programme in Kent, Surrey and Sussex; Greater Manchester, Cheshire and Warrington; and North East Yorkshire and the Humber. Over the lifetime of the programme, G4S is contracted to find long-term jobs for 125,000 of the 250,000 “job-seekers” it will see. The DWP has allocated £5 billion to the work programme over seven years, of which G4S could take a £250 million share.

Profiting from Prisoners

G4S prides itself as “the first private company to open and run a prison in the UK”. In October 2011, Birmingham prison became the first-ever prison in the UK to be transferred from public management to the private sector. G4S won the 15-year contract, worth £468.3 million. Another controversial aspect of G4S’s involvement in the prison industrial complex is its exploitation of the cheap, captive labour of prisoners. G4S has 400 prisoners working 40 hours a week in its six prisons, being paid next to nothing. At Altcourse prison in Liverpool, G4S works with Norpro, an engineering firm that has converted three former metal workshops into a factory floor using 25 prisoners to produce high-quality office furniture “at an economic price”.

Taking action

Activists from various anti-G4S campaigns are coming together for a UK-wide gathering at the Workstation, Sheffield on Saturday 6th October to share, network, strategise and plan how to build an even more effective Stop G4S campaign. The gathering is open to all who oppose G4S and want to work with others to Stop G4S from taking over public services for private profit while violating human rights. The event will launch the UK 'StopG4S' campaign coalition, bringing together grassroots campaigns, networks and organisations with the aim of providing support, resources, guidance and skill-sharing. Please respond to: stop-g4s@riseup.net to reserve a place, find out more or to request a speaker to attend a meeting to discuss the campaign. If you or your organisation (if you have one) wish to endorse this call please let us know. John Snowdon, Convenor, Boycott Israel Network

Interview with Mohammed al-Azraq,

on tour in Scotland with the Lajee Centre
You’ve now finished your tour of Scotland and the UK. What are your reflections on the Lajee Centre’s visit? What did the young people from the Centre get from it? Has it been difficult for some of them to adjust to life back in the camp? The tour was good in all ways: more people around the areas that we visited now know more about the Palestinian struggle and the occupation in Palestine. This kind of project is so important because it works on a human level. It gives the opportunity for people who have no chance to visit Palestine to meet Palestinians in the UK and to know the realities of life for the Palestinian people. All the kids who were with us in the tour were so happy to visit a country that has the most important things that we miss in Palestine: the freedom, right to move freely, fresh water, big schools, and they saw the sea which is for most of them the first time, because they are not allowed to go there in Palestine. As they told us, it was for them a great experience to feel freedom and seeing and meeting other people in the world and building relations with them. The kids during the tour compared things they saw there with life in Palestine and how kids they meet in the schools in the UK or in the homes of the families that hosted them live. They questioned everything: why we don’t have this or why we don’t live like that and all these things. After the tour the kids understood that life in the refugee camp or Palestine in general is so far from how other people around the world live and they miss lots of things, even the basic things in life. But as many of them wrote in the evaluation, all these things will make them stronger in struggling to achieve a life like all people in the world. Part of your project is to raise awareness of the lives and struggle of Palestinian refugees. Which particular message (or messages) do you feel had the greatest salience with audiences in the UK in terms of getting across this message? In all the meetings and the activities we had, people were so willing to know about the reality of the situation in Palestine and how Palestinian people deal with all these problems they have in

their life. During the talks we also felt that the most important thing is to give people the information about what is going on here and people’s daily lives. Our message to people was to share this information with everyone they can. And they were very happy to do that; many people even stood up and said that they will do it even before we asked them, because as some of them said, it is important for people in the UK and the world to know about it because the media doesn’t tell them anything or talks about it in a distorted way. People even feel that the media hides lots of things.

I asked you this on the night but I was wondering if you could put it down on paper. What does the right of return mean to you personally and could you explain why the right of return is so important in finding a just political resolution to on-going Israeli apartheid and occupation? The right of return is very important for me, as it is for all Palestinians. We are generations of refugees who live in camps or cities we know that we are not originally from, and the occupation threw us and forced us to live in the situation that we are in now. We look at our right to return as the way to have our rights back and to live as everyone lives and to stop people calling us refugees. We ask not for return to where our families came from: we ask for the right to choose where we want to live in our country. Maybe some refugees will not even go back and they will live outside Palestine but we have the right to choose where we want to live, not to be forced to live in a refugee camp or areas that the occupation chooses for us. Now 70 percent of the Palestinian people are refugees. That makes the main issue of a just solution the granting of refugees their right of return to their home land. The right of return is a natural right for refugees and it is not only called for by the Palestinians: the UN has Resolution 194 that gives Palestinian refugees the right of return.

It was mentioned during our talk in Aberdeen that you were on hunger strike as a political prisoner during the first intifada. Could you tell us a bit more about that? What is your sense of the prisoners’ movement at present – have Israel’s supposed compromises taken all the energy out of it? How do you see the political prisoner movement in Palestine in the wider context of the Palestinian struggle and resistance? I was on a short hunger strike for 5 days and Salah was on hunger strike for 20 days. The hunger strike that we were part of was to end the occupation policy in the jails against prisoners and to have the rights that any human has to live as a human. We went on strike to ask to have family visits, good food, to stop torture and the policy of isolation, to have the right of education, and many other basic things. Many prisoners have died during the strikes in the history of the political prisoners movement asking for normal rights. During the Palestinian struggle the jails have played a strong role in the Resistance, as we have always called it the first line of the struggle. Also the movement of prisoners still in jails or now released totals more than 750,000 since 1967. You have taken part in Lajee Centre projects for many years and travelled widely with the group. What is your sense of where the Palestine issue sits in the wider international context compared to in the past? Are you optimistic for the future? What do you think are the fundamental things that have to change for Palestinians to have justice? Before the 2nd Intifada the Palestinian issue was very weak and ignored internationally. But if we want to compare it now with 10 years ago there are big differences: people around the world have now started to understand more about the conflict and the reality of the situation here. Yet we still have a long way to go to make the world move more and to understand the Palestinian issue and we have to continue working on this because it is very important and it can make a difference towards justice for Palestinians. The international movement did a lot to end apartheid in South Africa and if we have a strong movement working for Palestine in the same way we will achieve lots of things that can change the situation on the ground here. We believe that the change will come from people not from governments, and people around the world will play strong parts in ending the occupation of Palestine. It is not only an occupation; it is a part of the international colonization project and it is a duty of everyone around the world to work to end the injustice not only in Palestine but also everywhere on this earth.

Stop the JNF – campaign update
It has already been a good year for the Stop the JNF campaign, with the resolution of the Scottish Trades Union Congress in April to join the campaign against the JNF, including supporting a submission to the charities commission for the revocation of the JNF’s charitable status. The Union of Construction, Allied Trades and Technicians (UCATT) has also supported a resolution against the JNF: “...Conference is appalled at the actions of a registered charity called the Jewish National Fund. This so called charity raises money here in the UK and uses the funds for the acquisition and control of land in Israel and the occupied territories, actively discriminating against the Palestinian people...”. The Stop the JNF campaign hosted a series of activities during the weekend of May 11-12th. The focal point of the weekend was the protest against the JNF’s fundraising shoot at Cowan’s Law on the Friday. The JNF had found one of the most remote locations possible for their annual fundraising event in Scotland, having given up on their pro-am golf event in Bonnyton after several years of strong protests. Nonetheless protestors outnumbered those participating (and therefore complicit) in the JNF’s fundraising. The money raised at such events goes towards what the JNF UK refers to as “...develop[ing] the Negev, the defining Zionist mission of the 21st century”. This includes working with other Israeli authorities to destroy the “unrecognised villages” of Bedouin Palestinians, such as the village of Al Araqib, in order to plant the JNF’s Ambassadors Forest and other similar programmes of ethnic cleansing and settlement. The protest at Cowan’s Law was followed by a fundraiser for the Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project, with fantastic performances from the amazing Rafeef Ziadah and Phil Monsour. The Plant-a-Tree project is part of an international initiative including Stop the Wall, the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network, the Palestinian Farmer’s Union, and the Middle East Children’s Alliance. The campaign aims to raise awareness of the JNF’s tree-planting activities in what is now Israel; activities which have been instrumental in helping to put new “facts on the ground” by planting over the land of destroyed Palestinian villages. Plant-a-Tree is fully supportive of the Stop the JNF campaign. The funds raised by the campaign are used to allow solidarity work with Palestinians to reclaim the right to land which has been destroyed by Israeli forces, e.g. for the building of Israel’s apartheid wall, or for “security reasons”. Money raised on the night will go towards one such planting action which will take place in conjunction with a Plant-a-Tree delegation visiting Palestine in early 2013, with delegates staying with Palestinian farmers and their families, learning more about the role of the JNF and its subsidiary Himnuta (doing the JNF’s dirty work in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem), and taking part in planting activities alongside Palestinians. On Saturday May 12th a small but focussed Stop the JNF UK conference considered future options for taking the campaign forward. There are big plans now in place and it is hoped that significant progress can be made in the UK by the end of 2012.

Get involved – visit www.stopthejnf.org to find out more

From Scotland to Palestine:
The new youth solidarity
In May and June this year 22 people from Scotland visited Palestine for ten days as part of a student delegation. Many of the students are active members of the ‘We Are All Hana Shalabi’ Scottish youth network for Palestine and had been involved in the recent campaign in support of the Karamah Hunger Strikers. The delegation met with groups and individuals from a range of political organisations in Al-Quds, the West Bank and Haifa. As many of the students had been involved in Palestine activism for some months before the trip, there was a great level of engagement and enthusiasm to participate in actions and work closely with activists on the ground in Palestine. One of the main aims of the delegation was to strengthen the existing relationships between the Scottish youth solidarity movement and Palestinian youth activists. As well as attending the weekly popular resistance demonstrations in Beit Ommar, Ni’lin and Nabi Saleh, the group participated in an action organised by Palestinians from Haifa at Ramleh prison and a protest at the Muqata in Ramallah organised by activists from the Herak Shababi Palestinian youth movement. The group also organised a demonstration at the British Consulate in East Jerusalem in protest at the British Government’s ongoing complicity in Israel’s abuse of Palestinian political prisoners. The demonstration was supported by several Jerusalem-based activist groups. The enthusiasm displayed by the group throughout the trip was mirrored in the response from the Palestinian activists we met with. There is a new generation of activists emerging in Scotland and Palestine who pursue political unity across a broad range of standpoints in order to struggle for common aims. The potential that the youth have, not only to breathe new life into the struggle and offer an alternative vision for the solidarity and resistance movement, but to unite many factions who previously would have refused to work together to the detriment of the movement as a whole should not be underestimated. This March in Edinburgh nearly 600 people demonstrated at the Scottish Parliament, calling upon the government to support Palestinian prisoners and to support the aims of BDS. In Ramallah, a city commonly referred to as ‘the bubble’ of the West Bank, activists have clashed with the Palestinian Authority as they marched through the streets calling for the youth of Palestine to wake up and join the resistance. Members of Herak Shababi are engaging in new, creative forms of resistance, such as the initiative which sees groups of Palestinian women picnicking at the Al-Kaws spring in Nabi Saleh as a way of reclaiming land that has been inaccessible to Palestinians for decades because of the occupation. The solidarity between the youth movements in Scotland and Palestine is strong. Funds raised at the hunger strike demonstrations in Scotland were declined by the Herak Shababi activists, who expressed that they would rather the money went to the We Are All Hana Shalabi group so that we can continue with our work in support of human rights for Palestinians. The group has returned from the delegation newly-inspired and even more committed to building a strong movement in Scotland in support of Palestine, and will enter this coming academic year prepared to inject new life into student Palestine societies at universities and colleges across Scotland.

Human Rights Reports Continue to Highlight Israel’s contravention of International Law
“The UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review "has great potential to promote and protect human rights in the darkest corners of the world.”
Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) carried out by the UN Human Rights Council reviews and assesses the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States once every four years. The first cycle of reviews were completed between 2008-2011, and the second cycle review is currently underway. From 21st January to 1 February 2013, the UN Human Rights Council will review Israel’s human rights record during the period 2008-2012. As part of this process, the Palestinian Human Rights Organisations Council (PHROC) has submitted a joint written submission to the Council highlighting Israel’s failure to adhere to its obligations under international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). The findings of the 2008 UPR of Israel were extremely critical, with multiple human rights violations identified. Among the many recommendations made to Israel by the Human Rights Council, Israel was asked to: • “adhere to its obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law with respect to the Palestinian people”; • “refrain from imposing blockades on the Gaza Strip”; • “immediately cease work on the construction of the wall being built in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”; • “stop all illegal measures aimed at annexing East Jerusalem”; • “ensure access to Bedouin populations to basic public services”; • “refrain from evicting Arab residents from their homes in Jerusalem”; • “cease action that would alter the demographic situation of Palestine”; • “ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture” The current PHROC submission to Human Rights Council presents clear and unequivocal evidence that Israel has ignored all HRC recommendations. While there continues to be no significant or meaningful action from the international community, it remains business as usual for the Occupation. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) currently includes Israel in its list of countries of human rights concern, yet the UK voted against or abstained from voting to censure Israel in response to many of the most serious breaches identified in the 2008 UPR. More recently, in a move condemned by Amnesty International, the EU announced it would strengthen its bilateral relations with Israel by endorsing a package of 60 new areas of cooperation. While our governments show such shameful inability, or unwillingness, to take a moral stand and uphold and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms, it is vital that activists everywhere continue to pressure them to take action.

Scottish TUC delegates join Palestine freedom struggle –
unanimously!
In April this year 450 delegates to the Annual Conference of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), the umbrella group for every trade union in Scotland, voted unanimously and repeatedly against Israeli apartheid. The delegates voted to: • campaign to expose the role of the racist JNF (Jewish National Fund) in the Israeli apartheid system • support the participants in the Welcome to Palestine initiative who tried to travel peacefully to Palestine via Tel Aviv Airport • fully support the Palestinian-Brazilian call for the World Social Forum-Free Palestine in Brazil in November • support the Palestinian hunger strikers and the work of Addameer, the Palestinian prisoner support organisation. Congress delegates congratulated students from Scottish universities for their work organising Israeli Apartheid Week 2012 events, and those who initiated action in support of the Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike. They also called for support for a national demonstration on April 28th in solidarity with the hunger strikers. These decisions of the Scottish TUC in support of the Palestinian freedom struggle, by a union confederation representing half a million organised workers in every sector of the economy, will be widely seen as a continuation of the international solidarity the STUC also provided to the liberation struggle in South Africa. Glasgow, Scotland's biggest city, named a city centre street after Mandela in 1986 while he was still on Robben Island. How long till there is a Palestine Square or Palestine Street in our major cities?

Many organisations across Europe and internationally are mobilising for the World Social Form: Free Palestine (28 Nov-1 Dec) in Porto Alegre. Ask your trade union, group, organisation to: • Endorse the call for the World Social Forum: Free Palestine • Send a delegate or delegates from your organisation to participate in the program • Make a donation toward sending a delegation of UK activists so they can participate and report back to your organisation • Send a message of solidarity to be read out during the gathering For details VISIT: www.uk-wsf-fp.info, or EMAIL: outreach@uk-wsf-fp.info

Images of Solidarity
One morning in August 2010 I was browsing my Flickr site* when I came across a digital “message in a bottle”. “We have just set up our new Flickr page, http://www.flickr.com/photos/beitummarkids/ It would be good if you could help the kids by commenting on their photos.” It was signed by French activist Cyrille Lala who explained that he had been running a photography workshop in a summer school in the small town of Beit Ummar, near Bethlehem. The message was not sent to me personally but to anyone on Flickr with an interest in Palestine. I responded to his request, and thereby opened a new door in my personal solidarity work with Palestinians. It occurred to me that Cyrille and the kids of Beit Ummar might value a follow-up workshop later in the year to consolidate some of the work he had been doing in the summer school. He was very enthusiastic about my idea and fixed things for me to visit Beit Ummar that October. Thus I found myself walking up from the Hebron road past the Israeli watchtower, across Youssef’s back garden to the house of Moussa and Beka Abumaria. This Palestinian/American couple hosted international activists in their house, and were leading figures in the local Palestine Solidarity Committee, a network of villages throughout the Occupied Territories dedicated to developing grass-roots opposition to the occupation. They had raised money to build a new community education centre which was a perfect workshop venue. I gradually got to know the kids through their choice of imagery as well as their descriptions of their personal lives. My first question to them was “What do you want to photograph”. I stifled back the tears when I heard their replies. “I want to get the soldiers, who raid our house at night”, “I want to photograph all the settlements on the hills around us”. It’s one thing hearing about these things from afar, but when they come from the mouths of fourteen and fifteen year olds that’s another matter. Two weeks of inspiring, chaotic, frustrating, and ultimately immensely satisfying work followed. Six young Palestinians laughed and squabbled their way through our after-school sessions, and at the end of it all produced some cracking images. In between these sessions, I helped local farmers plant trees, sang “Bandiera Rossa” with Italian activists as we picked olives, and, of course, demonstrated with the townsfolk against Israeli land theft in their area. No-one can go through these experiences without sensing a quantum leap in the rage, grief, and sympathy previously felt for the Palestinian people. But what to do with all this? I knew I had to “tell the story” - the central, and simplest aspect of solidarity. Speaking to friends I was struck by their response of incredulity at some of the things that I had witnessed. How could these things be allowed to happen? That question is a good start to a conversation about the abominations that occur in “the only democracy in the Middle East”. I organised a couple of exhibitions locally, designed to illustrated the highs and lows of life for Beit Ummar kids. It is important to show the courage, vitality and determination of these kids as well as the darker side

of their oppression. For these are the next generation of freedom fighters. I also had to think how I could build on my experiences. I was very aware that my lack of Arabic placed more than a few constraints on the pace and depth of learning. We had arranged that Moussa, Beka or Jeff, another activist, would interpret, but I was often left holding the baby when that day’s interpreter was called elsewhere. I also asked myself why someone from the outside should need to come in and run this kind of a workshop in the first place. There must be enough Palestinian photographers who could do this kind of thing. We had tried to recruit one of the several press photographers who covered the Friday demonstrations to lead follow-up sessions, but they were usually too busy. If I were to do this again I had to find my own Arabic speaking co-worker. Enter Mr. Ahmad Al-Bazz. I had admired Ahmad’s work on Flickr, and when he commented on one of my pictures this seemed a good opportunity to get in touch. He was immediately enthusiastic about the prospect of working together. He lived in Nablus and suggested Nabi Saleh, a small village between Nablus and Ramallah as a possible venue. He had good contacts there and they were more than willing for us to work with the kids using the general format of the Beit Ummar workshops. Ahmad’s contribution to this second project was invaluable. He brought along much better learning materials than I could hope to muster, and was great at explaining some of the practical exercises we had arranged for the kids. He also helped to stimulate ideas on further solidarity work after the project ended its first phase in Nabi Salah. Instead of having small localised exhibitions in my own city of Edinburgh as before, we built up a network of good collaborators in Scotland and Palestine who are currently planning to exhibit in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee, and Aberdeen. These cities are paired with Ramallah, Bethlehem, Nablus and Gaza, each of which will mount an identical exhibition simultaneously with their counterparts in Scotland. These exhibitions will form the backdrop to other activities; a video conversation between Scots and Palestinians in the paired cities, a discussion on children’s right in the OPT, as well as song and poetry by Palestinian activists. Of course, this expanded project has its costs. We need to print and frame in both Gaza City and the West Bank (as travel and communications are strictly controlled by the Israelis) and also require funding for venues, hospitality, travel and publicity. We are grateful to groups such as Scottish Friends of Palestine and Scottish PSC for their contributions so far, as well as Nablus University, the Lajee Centre, Bethlehem, Glasgow City Council and the Scottish Parliament which have pledged to provide four of the venues. But we still need more. So if you feel able to contribute to our fund “Cameras for Palestine” please don’t hesitate to contact philchetwynd@yahoo.co.uk who will let you know how best to do this. Your solidarity will be most welcome. see http://www.flickr.com/photos/68605447@N02/ for pictures from Nabi Saleh

Visiting Palestine
Ian McDonald visited Palestine earlier in the year as part of a Stop the JNF delegation. You have been involved with Palestine solidarity for many years: why did you decide to make the trip over there and why did you decide to do it with the Stop the JNF campaign? Solidarity with Palestinian people involves many different actions and many different campaigns. They are all part of a ‘whole’, with the boycott campaign as the main focus, that aims to weaken the apartheid Israeli state. So on my first trip to Palestine I had the opportunity to track the JNF, an organisation that has played a central role in the colonisation of Palestine over the last 64 years. The JNF followed behind the bulldozers which destroyed the village of Ajur in 1948 and created the British Park, and again in 1967 when it developed Canada Park after the destruction of Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba. In the present day the JNF have their own bulldozers, put to use as they steal and develop the land of the Bedouin population in the Naqab and Jordan Valley areas. You saw a lot of different areas where the JNF have been involved – can you tell us about the site which had the greatest impact on you and why you think this was? It is difficult to say really. Every day involved visiting another example of forced dispossession and expulsion, whether from 1948, 1967 or on-going today. The visit to Imwas, which was razed to the ground by the Israeli army (commanded by celebrated 'peacemaker' Yitzhak Rabin), was a particularly lasting memory for me. The pictures of Imwas as a thriving village alongside ones of a bare landscape after destruction in 1967 and then as a JNF park (a “fact on the ground”) on occupied territory inside the West Bank remain clearly in my mind. So do the efforts of the Imwas Society to keep alive the hopes of a return to the land there by tracing all the villagers and creating a model of the village from both photos and memories. It is vital that this infamous crime is not forgotten. Could you tell us a bit more about the Plant-a-Tree in Palestine project you took part as part of your visit? There is great symbolism in trees and they have been a central feature in both Israeli oppression and now Palestinian resistance. Over a million Palestinian olive trees have been destroyed as a result of Israel's insatiable drive to take control of the Palestinian land. Physical destruction is compounded by the damaging impact this has on Palestinian economic life. Millions of trees have also been planted by the JNF and they make a great noise about the 'environmental' aspects of their work. In truth these trees are planted to lay claim to the land that has been stolen and to prevent Palestinian people from returning. We saw this scenario in action in Al Araqib where the JNF had destroyed the olive trees at the same time as destroying the village. They have replaced these with water hungry eucalyptus trees. The water is transported to the area in trucks whilst the villagers, who are Israeli citizens, live in an 'unrecognised village' without connection to water, sewage or electricity systems. I believe the Plant a Tree in Palestine campaign is an act of both resistance and solidarity by a number of organisations, Palestinian and international. The aim is to reclaim land and re-establish productive use of it. The campaign also has the potential to reach out to many people who can learn more about the Palestinians’ experience and join their struggle for freedom and justice.

Contact aberdeen@scottishpsc.org.uk

DUMFRIES & GALLOWAY
Contact southwestscotland@scottishpsc.org.uk

Contact dundee@scottishpsc.org.uk

FORTH VALLEY
Contact forthvalley@scottishpsc.org.uk

Contact edinburgh@scottishpsc.org.uk

ST ANDREWS Contact es2@st-andrews.ac.uk FIFE Contacts fife@scottishpsc.org.uk

FORTH VALLEY
Contact forthvalley@scottishpsc.org.uk

Contact glasgow@scottishpsc.org.uk

PERTH

Contact perth@scottishpsc.org.uk