Is God listening?

Via mondoweiss, here, a striking performance by American artist Emily Henochowicz, who had joined a demonstration of women and was with a small group carrying a Turkish flag to protest the Israeli naval assault on the Freedom Flotilla on 31 May, running across the Ramallah entrance of the terrible Qalandia checkpoint when she was shot in the face by a teargas cannister. As a result, she lost an eye. See our earlier posts here, including this one.

Emily wrote and recorded this song, entitled “I miss you, Palestine”, and put it up on Youtube (under her nom de plume, Thirstypixels), and added this explanation: “The week I got home, I got my energy back, and I was giddy with the joy of being alive. I walked my dog and bellowed out this song in the woods. I’m no musician, but the soul of the moment carried my voice. When I came home I got out my computer and recorded this in a message for my good friend Nick… but what the heck, I want to give it to the world! Also, if someone could remix this or re-sing this with piano, that would be brilliant“.

“Because I changed, people can change”, Emily sings in her song. “It ain’t gonna go on forever … I believe it can get better, if people just open their eyes”…

The Tawjihi

The Tawjihi (pronounced Taw – jee – hee, with accent on the middle syllable) is the exam taken by all Palestinian students at the end of their obligatory schooling. A whole year is devoted to preparing for the Tawjihi. It takes two weeks to take all the parts of the exam. Then it takes about three weeks to wait for the results, on pins and needles.

Once the results are known, the names of the students who passed, and their grades, are published. Then, there is a night of wild fireworks (until at least 1:30 in the morning), and a weekend of more parties and fireworks.

Ma’an News Agency, the privately-owned and operated, donor-funded Palestinian news agency based in Bethlehem, has published a story about two teenage girls who attempted to commit suicide because their names were not listed among the students who had passed the Tawjihi.

The Ma’an report said that “Yousef Odeh, director of the education ministry’s Qalqiliya office, warned parents not to be hard on children who had failed the exams, adding that social pressure to succeed on the difficult tests was enough stress on young men and women. Candidates can take the tests up to five times. They are offered once each year for students, and determine eligibility for university classes. Top scoring candidates are eligible for the sought-after spots in university law, engineering and medicine … Adding pressure is the public celebration of top scoring Tawjihi students, whose families rent halls for parties and let off fireworks from roofs for the week after the results are announced“. This is posted here.

Hell, they shoot these fireworks off everywhere — on the streets, in darkened side streets, by the front gate of houses, under my kitchen window. Some of them are nearly as big and powerful (and expensive, and dangerous) as rockets … It is completely nerve-wracking.

Continue reading The Tawjihi

Are they still using "flechette" bombs in Gaza?

It has reportedly happened, again, in Gaza on 21 July – and this report comes via the International Solidarity Movement:

“This is a mother describing to us her daughter, 9-year-old Sammah [Eid El-Massry]as she came in to her home at 4pm after the Israeli army reportedly shelled and fired four bombs into and around a residential area in Beit Hanoun, Northern Gaza:  ‘She came in through and it wasn’t clear she was injured. Suddenly a lot of blood came from her nose and she vomited. All of the family saw this – her little brothers were very scared. She had just been playing in the front of the house’ … . She is now in a semi-critical condition in hospital, suffering extensive blood loss and very low haemoglobin. She was hit by shrapnel and ‘flechettes’ from a nail bomb that landed 100m away, causing internal bleeding to the chest, severe head trauma and nails embedded in her body … The doctor told us she was in a ‘semi-critical’ condition with severe chest, head and abdominal pain. Her blood-loss was a major concern, arriving at the hospital with 7.5 haemoglobin levels, 4-6 below the normal levels, the problem exacerbated by the fact that she, like three of her brothers, already suffered from a blood condition known as Thalassemia for which the drug Exjade is in extremely short supply due to the Israeli blockade. She was clearly in pain and confused, trying to remove the nasal tubes. Her mother showed us the bandages on her chest.  ‘She was in a very bad condition when she arrived – it’s difficult for children and very traumatic to insert a chest tube. Very painful. Blood was mainly coming from the chest. We will have to perform surgery and we will further explore her abdominal pain’, the doctor tells us.  This is not the first time the family was attacked, Sammah’s 4-year-old brother Ryad Eid El-Massry was injured during Operation Cast Lead”

Continue reading Are they still using "flechette" bombs in Gaza?

"Suspected" – merely "suspected" – Palestinian man shot and killed in northern West Bank

The Israeli Defense Forces announced today that “Overnight an IDF force identified a number of Palestinians infiltrating the Israeli community of Barqan [n.b. in the northern West Bank]. A night-watch that was set by the IDF because of numerous attempts made to infiltrate the community in the past few weeks identified last night’s attempt. The force identified the infiltrators, one of them suspected to be armed and opened fire. [What does this mean? Was it a private militia that fired?] One of the infiltrators died as a result, and the other escaped. IDF soldiers have been searching the area. Following the incident, the Head of the Civil Administration in Judea and Samaria, Brigadier General Yoav Mordechai, contacted the commanders of the Palestinian organizations and called them to conduct a joint investigation into the incident. In addition, messages were delievered to senior Palestinian officials in order to avert tension in the region. The civil administrations’ call for a joint investigation was accepted and a Palestinian representative has already arrived on site. Additional details of the incident are being reviewed [perhaps this is referring to the fact that the victim was merely “suspected” before he was shot and killed…]

Continue reading "Suspected" – merely "suspected" – Palestinian man shot and killed in northern West Bank

Israel's Occupation: The (controversial) Play – by Ben Lynfield

By Ben Lynfield in Jerusalem —
Defense Minister Moshe Dayan condemned it for undermining morale and giving succor to the enemy. Army Chief of staff Haim Bar-Lev joked that it was raunchy enough to be performed for the boys at the front with Egypt. Members of the audience hurled curses, stink bombs and stones while critics called for its creator to be locked up in a psychiatric facility.

Last month (June) marked the 40th anniversary of the rise and fall of Israel’s most controversial play, Malkat Ambatya, (Queen of a Bathroom), Hanoch Levin’s blunt indictment of Israeli militarism and hubris after the stunning victory of the 1967 Six Day War.

And the controversy – over claiming territory captured in that conflict, over whether Israel is doing much if anything to make peace over its – in Levin’s view, self-righteous dehumanisation of Arabs – continues to reverberate today.

Continue reading Israel's Occupation: The (controversial) Play – by Ben Lynfield

Israel's economy – what is its source of strength?

There are glimmers of understated suggestions that members of the Israeli government are challenging the country’s sacrosanct Defense structure.

And, there are indications that this effort is being assisted by the American government’s touted effort to give Israel a “Qualitative Military Edge” or QME (see our earlier post from last week here) by allocating some $30 billion dollars a year.  

The QME program began in 2007, but — significantly –became part of American law in late 2008 (just before Operation Cast Lead, as blogger Paul Woodward has just noted on his own blog, War in Context, and also on the mondoweiss blog. The U.S. State Department gave a big promotional push to the QME program last week, as we noted in our post last week, just before U.S. Special Middle East Envoy George Mitchell arrived back in the region what may have been a fifth round of indirect talks, which concluded over the weekend (Mitchell is due back in Washington on Tuesday).

The Governor of the Bank of Israel, Stanley Fischer, told journalists in Jerusalem today (Monday) that the formulation of the country’s new budget, now in the process of being approved, turned on the relative roles of defense and education — with the defense allocation was decreased and the education budget was increased.

He also noted that a ten-year program of American support for the defense budget started just after Israel’s “Second Lebanon War” in July and August of 2006.

Continue reading Israel's economy – what is its source of strength?

Foreign Press Assn in Israel: in West Bank, Israeli forces now attack journalists first, then activists

The Foreign Press Association in Israel has issued a strong protest over attacks by Israeli forces on journalists covering events in the West Bank.

The statement said that journalists have been “harassed, arrested and attacked by the various on site forces before these forces turn their attention to the activists or demonstrators”.

The professional organization of journalists based in Israel said, in their statement that “The FPA strongly protests what appears to be a recent policy change by the Border Police and IDF with regard to legitimate news coverage in the West Bank. Over the past months journalists covering these events have been harassed, arrested and attacked by the various on site forces before these forces turn their attention to the activists or demonstrators. We would appreciate it were the authorities to remind the various forces involved, that open, unhindered coverage of news events is a widely acknowledged part of the essence of democracy. Generally speaking this would not include smashing the face of a clearly marked photographer working for a known and accredited news organization with a stick, or for that matter aiming a stun grenade at the head of a clearly marked news photographer or summarily arresting cameramen, photographers and/or journalists – “.

The Joan of Arc of the Knesset

It was a strikingly ugly act, an act of  public bullying, that made the soul cringe.

It was excruciating to watch.

This is incendiary and divisive stuff, in a country that has trouble managing minority-majority relations.

Even writing about this group ganging-up against one individual human being causes revulsion.

Haneen Zoabi, elected member of the Israeli Knesset for the Arab/Palestinian National Democratic Assembly [a/k/a the Balad Party and as Tajamua] , stood in the Knesset  last week to face her public punishment  for having participated in the Freedom Flotilla sailing towards Gaza that was stopped by an Israeli naval assault on 31 May in which 8 Turkish men and one American-born high-school student were shot and killed.

Fewer than half of the 120-member Knesset plenary participated in the 34 to 16 vote (total vote = 50, out of 120) to withdraw several parliamentary privileges, including Zoabi’s diplomatic passport, her right to leave the country, and her right to reimbursement for any legal defense. Not even all the 65 Knesset members who are counted as “far-right” participated in this vote.

But very few did anything to try to stop the continuing verbal assault, and public humiliation: though Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin did express his personal regret, he abstained in the vote (as Haaretz noted in an editorial. And mondoweiss blog now mentions that Uri Avnery reported noticing some “half-hearted protest” made by Haim Oron of Meretz).

Zoabi was told she had caused shame and disgrace to her family and to the Knesset.   In earlier raucus Knesset hearings, the 41-year-old politician from Nazareth (apparently, her Muslim parents sent her to a Catholic school) was called a traitor, and in the next breath was blamed for not being married.  One other female Knesset member (Anastasia Michaeli, born in Russia) had to be physically prevented from attacking her on 2 June, and harassed Zoabi by holding up an oversize replica of an Iranian passport with Zoabi’s photo and name on it.  Death threats have been made.

It is impossible to imagine that the scenario would have been the same if Zoabi had been a man, or if she had been Jewish.

Continue reading The Joan of Arc of the Knesset

Anybody who's walked through Erez crossing already knows this

A report on CNN says that “A privacy group says the Transportation Security Administration is misleading the public with claims that full-body scanners at airports cannot store or send their graphic images. The TSA specified in 2008 documents that the machines must have image storage and sending abilities, the Washington-based Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) said.  In the documents, obtained by the privacy group and provided to CNN, the TSA specifies that the body scanners it purchases must have the ability to store and send images when in ‘test mode’. That requirement leaves open the possibility the machines — which can see beneath people’s clothing — can be abused by TSA insiders and hacked by outsiders, said EPIC Executive Director Marc Rotenberg. EPIC, a public-interest group focused on privacy and civil rights, obtained the technical specifications and vendor contracts through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The written requirements also appear to contradict numerous assurances the TSA has given the public about the machines’ privacy protections”…

Even this picture is sanitized
CNN story on body scanners storing + transmitting images

Continue reading Anybody who's walked through Erez crossing already knows this