Some friends of mine have awesome new blogs

February 7, 2011

I’m clearly crap at updating this blog, so in the meantime, go read these blogs by some friends of mine:

 

Making Christmas Cards

 

Vomiting Diamonds

 

Not Afraid Of Ruins


Ordinary Gazans strangled on all sides

February 2, 2009
Article written for Gyro, the magazine of the Otago Polytechnic Students’ Association:

The latest Israeli onslaught in Gaza has seen approximately 1,300 people in Gaza murdered, with 410 of them children. Approximately 5,300 Gazans were left injured. Meanwhile, Israeli casualties numbered 13 with approximately 518 wounded.

The Gaza Strip, routinely referred to as “the world’s largest open air prison” is home to 1.4 million Palestinian citizens, in an area only 3/4 the size of Invercargill. The Strip is surrounded on 3 sides by the Israel–Gaza Strip barrier, a high tech installation of sensors, concrete walls, fencing, no-man’s-land and observation towers, reconstructed in 2001 (the original barrier, built in 1996, was torn down during the start of the Al Aqsa (Second) Intifada). The fourth side is the Mediterranean Sea, with constant patrols by the Israeli Navy. Since the election of Hamas and the subsequent total takeover of Gaza in June 2007, there has been a near-total blockade of the Strip by the Israeli and Egyptian armies.

Gazan residents have long suffered from poverty (60% below the poverty line in 2001) and the resulting poor health – a study carried out by Johns Hopkins University (U.S.) and Al-Quds University (in Jerusalem) for CARE International in late 2002 found that 17.5% of children aged 6–59 months suffered from chronic malnutrition, while 53% of women of reproductive age and 44% of children were found to be anaemic.

Israeli and Hamas leaders seemingly agree on one thing – ordinary Gazans and Israelis must be made to bear the brunt of the attacks. There is mounting evidence that the IDF is following its senior partner, the US, in using white phosphorous as an offensive weapon in civilian areas. Banned under international law, white phosphorous munitions are chemical weapons with a pattern of splash damage similar to cluster bombs, but which spread blazing chunks of phosphorous and smoke laced with burning particles. The result is either death from suffocation or from severe burns, sometimes down to the bone. The IDF is responsible for herding civilians into a building before shelling it, killing scores of civilians in attacks on UN schools, shelling aid convoys, and destroying aid stockpiles during an attack on the UN headquarters in Gaza. Meanwhile, Hamas and other smaller groups in the Gaza Strip fired over 900 rockets and mortars into Israel, hitting homes, schools and synagogues in a number of towns and cities. While the weaponry available to Hamas is undoubtedly less accurate or devastating than that used by the Israeli military, the intent is the same – both sides are showing through their actions that mere residence in an area is enough to deserve attack.

During the recent Israeli attacks, Hamas leaders hid in bunkers while calling for ordinary Gazans to confront the militarily superior Israeli Army themselves, but most Gazans evidently attempted to do what was necessary to save their lives, by hiding or fleeing. Hamas reportedly prevented Gazans from crossing into Egypt for medical assistance, while Egyptian border guards fired warning shots to prevent refugees who breached the border themselves from crossing into Egypt.

While it is clear that the vast majority of the populations of both Israel and the Gaza Strip have received no benefit from this period of intensified conflict, the question must be asked as to who has. The governing parties of Israel, Kadimah (Forward) and Avodah (Labour), were facing electoral defeat (in Avodah’s case, virtual electoral oblivion) prior to this operation. Now, Avodah (who’s leader is Ehud Barak, the defence minister) looks like it will remain in government after the election on February 10, albeit with a new partner, the Likud Party. Hamas, meanwhile, has consolidated it’s grip on power in Gaza, and no doubt many of it’s allies will be licking their lips at the prospect of gaining a piece of the US$1 billion of reconstruction contracts being funded by Saudi Arabia.

One thing cannot be doubted – no matter who won the war, it is the working class of both Israel and Gaza that have paid the price in broken bodies and shattered lives.


No state solution in Gaza

January 10, 2009

No state solution in Gaza

Statement produced by the Manchester (UK) Anarchist Federation branch on the conflict in Gaza, in solidarity with the victims of the conflict, and for internationalism.

One thing is absolutely clear about the current situation in Gaza: the Israeli state is committing atrocities which must end immediately. With hundreds dead and thousands wounded, it has become increasingly clear that the aim of the military operation, which has been in the planning stages since the signing of the original ceasefire in June, is to break Hamas completely. The attack follows the crippling blockade throughout the supposed ‘ceasefire’, which has destroyed the livelihoods of Gazans, ruined the civilian infrastructure and created a humanitarian disaster which anyone with an ounce of humanity would seek an end to.

But that’s not all there is to say about the situation. On both sides of the conflict, the idea that opposing Israel has to mean supporting Hamas and its ‘resistance’ movement is worryingly common. We totally reject this argument. Just like any other set of rulers, Hamas, like all the other major Palestinian factions, are happy and willing to sacrifice ordinary Palestinians to increase their power. This isn’t some vague theoretical point – for a period recently most deaths in Gaza were a result of fighting between Hamas and Fatah. The ‘choices’ offered to ordinary Palestinian people are between Islamist gangsters (Hamas, Islamic Jihad) or nationalist gangsters (Fatah, Al-Aqsa Martyrs brigades). These groups have shown their willingness to attack working class attempts to improve their living conditions, seizing union offices, kidnapping prominent trade unionists, and breaking strikes. One spectacular example is the attack on Palestine Workers Radio by Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, for “stoking internal conflicts”. Clearly, a “free Palestine” under the control of any of these groups would be nothing of the sort.

As anarchists, we are internationalists, opposing the idea that the rulers and ruled within a nation have any interests in common. Therefore, anarchists reject Palestinian nationalism just as we reject Israeli nationalism (Zionism). Ethnicity does not grant “rights” to lands, which require the state to enforce them. People, on the other hand, have a right to having their human needs met, and should be able to live where they choose, freely.

Therefore, against the divisions and false choices set up by nationalism, we fully support the ordinary inhabitants of Gaza and Israel against state warfare – not because of their nationality, ethnicity, or religion, but simply because they’re real living, feeling, thinking, suffering, struggling human beings. And this support has to mean total hostility to all those who would oppress and exploit them –the Israeli state and the Western governments and corporations that supply it with weapons, but also any other capitalist factions who seek to use ordinary working-class Palestinians as pawns in their power struggles. The only real solution is one which is collective, based on the fact that as a class, globally, we ultimately have nothing but our ability to work for others, and everything to gain in ending this system – capitalism – and the states and wars it needs .

That this seems like a “difficult” solution does not stop it from being the right one. Any “solution” that means endless cycles of conflict, which is what nationalism represents, is no solution at all. And if that is the case, the fact that it is “easier” is irrelevant. There are sectors of Palestinian society which are not dominated by the would-be rulers – protests organised by village committees in the West Bank for instance. These deserve our support. As do those in Israel who refuse to fight, and who resist the war. But not the groups who call on Palestinians to be slaughtered on their behalf by one of the most advanced armies in the world, and who wilfully attack civilians on the other side of the border.

Neither one stare nor two states, but no states

Whoever dies, Hamas and the Israeli state win


Book Review: If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew

July 2, 2008

If I Am Not For Myself: Journey of an Anti-Zionist Jew By Mike Marqusee

Verso Books. Reviewed by ASHER

In recent years, there has been a rise in explicitly Jewish anti-Zionist publishing and organising. Jews, both within Israel and in the diaspora, are increasingly moving away from a more passive, silent anti-Zionism towards outspoken attempts at engagement with the wider Jewish community, where a pervasive Zionism is the default political belief for most.

Mike Marqusee’s work follows in this trend, most recently seen downunder in Antony Loewenstein’s My Israel Question (Melbourne University Publishing, 2006). Where Loewenstein focussed on Australian media and political parties’ representations of Israel, and contained a wider history, analysis and critique of Israeli policies, however, Marqusee takes a much more personal stance.

Read the rest of the review at Scoop Review Of Books, and feel free to comment on it on either (or both) website(s).


Israel/Palestine speech from Human Rights Film Festival

May 31, 2008
The following is a speech given by me after the 2 screenings of the film Occupation 101 at the Christchurch leg of the 2008 Human Rights Film Festival. Somewhere over 200 people heard it over the two nights, and it was followed both nights by a lengthy question/answer session.
Hi everyone,

My name is Asher, and before I start I’ll just give you a little background on myself in relation to the film we just saw. I’m Jewish, born and bred in Wellington, grandchild of a man who escaped from Poland only just before the Nazi invasion. In 2003 I went to Israel. At the time, I was a Zionist, a believer in the concept of Israel as a Jewish state, but by the time I came back to Aotearoa / New Zealand in 2004, I had become an anti-Zionist – 13 months of living there, learning more about the history of the conflict and talking to people, both Israelis and Palestinians, changed my perspective forever. In the very near future, I’ll be going back for a couple of months to do research and interviews for a book on Israeli Jews who struggle in a variety of ways against the occupation of Palestine, including some of those featured in Occupation 101.

Tonight’s film will have shown many of you a very different picture from that which comes through in much of the media. It told some of the stories of people who live under the Israeli military occupation, but still, many stories from the conflict remain untold.

The stories of the thousands of Palestinians jailed indefinitely without trial, including many under the age of 18. The stories of the one million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, but are still subject to systemic discrimination in every facet of their lives. The stories of Palestinians, Israelis and internationals, who week after week, year after year, march against the building of the wall through the West Bank and dismantle roadblocks to allow freedom of movement. The stories of over 1500 Israelis who have openly stated their refusal to be conscripted into an occupying army, many of whom have served weeks or months in military jails, not to mention the thousands more who escape conscription in other ways, such as leaving the country or faking medical conditions.

Each and every day, Palestinians resist the occupation in ways that are never reported, never mentioned. Whether it is rebuilding a house demolished by the Israeli army, taking a back way out of a village to avoid a roadblock in order to get to school or work or a million other ways, Palestinians live and breath resistance in order to survive.

Palestinians and their Israeli allies have learnt time and time again that the so-called peace process is nothing but a sham, and the associated ceasefires never result in any real improvement in conditions for those living under a brutal occupation.

In the 1990s, during the Oslo peace process, many Palestinians had faith that the leopard, in the shape of then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin, a man who instituted a policy of breaking the bones of Palestinian demonstrators, often non-violent, during the first intifada, had indeed changed its spots. Over the next few years, during which time settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank increased dramatically, they were to learn that they were sorely mistaken.

In the mid to late 1990s, political pressure increased somewhat, and it began to look like Israel might indeed have to begin to make some real concessions. Prime Minister Ehud Barak in 2000 was to come up with a solution, the effects of which are still felt today – the false idea that there was “no partner for peace” with which to negotiate. The Israeli PR machine, and its supporters in the US and beyond, proclaimed to all who would listen that Barak had offered it all to Palestinian Authority leader Yassir Arafat, and he had declined in favour of violence.

The reality, of course, was starkly different. As Jeff Halper, director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions and one of the interviewees in the film, states in his excellent article The Matrix Of Control, it is possible to completely control the entire West Bank and its resources, especially water, with under 10% of the land – a couple of settlement blocs and the associated roads and military facilities is all it takes to divide the West Bank into isolated segments, that would essentially become prisons for those left inside. Even in the last couple of days, Israel has made a similar offer, of 93% of the West Bank, to the Palestinian Authority, safe in the knowledge that it would be enough to make any Palestinian state completely economically, and therefore politically, dependant on Israel.

It is no coincidence that the largest single settlement in the West Bank, the town of Ariel, is situated on top of the largest underground aquifier in the West Bank – in the dry middle east, water is perhaps the most vital commodity.

Then, as we passed the new millenium, we saw the emergence of a new peace plan – the Road Map, or as noted Israeli political commentator Tanya Reinhardt calls it in her book of the same name, The Road Map To Nowhere. This is a plan that was flawed from the start, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the deadlines it set have long since passed, without their demands being met. At the time, Israel trumpeted its acceptance of the road map to the world – it had agreed entirely with the plan who’s culmination would be a Palestinian state side by side with Israel. Less known, however, was that Israel’s agreement came with 17 so-called reservations – statements of policy that would negate the entire road map before it even began, gutting it until it was devoid of all meaning.

Israel’s complete failure to even pretend to comply with its obligations led, once again, to an increase in political pressure. This time, relief from that pressure would come with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s disengagement plan, which saw the Israeli settlements in Gaza evacuated. This was touted as a major concession by Israel, but, once again, the reality was different. The Gazan settlers only numbered 7000, but, including the roading and military infrastructure there to protect them, they took up around 20% of Gaza. The one million Palestinians living there were left to survive in an area smaller than Canterbury, with a border wall locking them in on all sides. The Israeli evacuation, however, was not made out of goodwill to the Palestinians. The Gazan settlers were deeply unpopular within Israel and indeed within the politically powerful Israeli military for the amount of money and soldiers lives that it cost to keep them secure. With the illusion of a big concession, Israel gained in international standing, and George Bush came to an agreement with Sharon that in any future peace deal, the major settlement blocs in the West Bank would remain in Israeli hands. Of course, this agreement was never discussed with the Palestinians themselves.

Today, the situation has changed little. It is a given in Israel that no major deal can be made in the buildup to a presidential election in the United States, and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert may soon be indicted for corruption. Gaza is under siege, the West Bank is strangled, and Fatah and Hamas, the two major players on the Palestinian side, are at each others throats.

Still, on the ground, some small victories are being won. After two and a half years of weekly protests in the West Bank village of Bili’in, often brutally dispersed with bullets and gas by the Israeli Army, the villagers and their allies, a group of Israeli anarchists and international activists, won a case in the Israeli High Court for a change in the route of the Israeli wall, which was originally to cut the village off from what little remained of their lands. Unfortunately, like so often happens, even this victory was accompanied by a defeat, as the High Court also ruled that an Israeli settlement that had already stolen much of Bili’in’s land could remain.

Today, in the West Bank and Gaza, 4 million Palestinians struggle for both survival and for a future with genuine self-determination. In the surrounding countries, millions more still live in refugee camps, 60 years after being kicked out of their homes by the founding of Israel, often abandoned by Arab states that claim to champion their cause.

On that depressing note, I’d like to open it up to any questions or comments from the audience.


Attention Christchurch crew: Come see me speak about Israel/Palestine (oh, and a film)

May 26, 2008

The Human Rights Film Festival is on again, and one of the films showing this year is the fairly decent Occupation 101, about the occupation of Palestine. It’s not without problem, but it is a stunningly well made documentary, and is well worth seeing.

As is the tradition with the HRFF, after each screening there is an “expert” speaker who talks for 5-10 mins followed by 20 mins of questions, answers and discussion on the film.

I will be the speaker after both sessions of Occupation 101 in Otautahi / Christchurch, at the Regent On Worcester.

Wednesday, 28 May – 8.00pm
Thursday, 29 May – 6.00pm

For more info, check out 6 clips from the film on the official website. I’ll post up my speech on here sometime after I’ve given it.

p.s: sorry for not posting for a month. been insanely busy doing things, and don’t have internet at home at the moment. i’m leaving the country soon, but will keep blogging with stories from my trip (more about that later…)


Israeli anarchists block Tel Aviv city centre

December 31, 2006

Don’t see the embedded video? Click here to watch it.

From Infoshop.org:

Basel Street, one of Tel Aviv’s hippest coffee shop centers, was blocked by 20 anarchists, using razor wire from the wall itself today at around 14:00.

The two rolls of razor wire were stretched across the street parallel to each other, in a formation reminding that of the wall, and red signs reading: “Mortal Danger-Military Zone. Any person who passes or damages the fence endangers his life”, also from the wall itself, were hanged on it. Flyers explaining Israel’s policy of restrictions on movement land-grab were passed around.

The action was carried to remind Tel Aviv’s café goers of everyday hardships of Palestinians, resulting from Israel’s apartheid policies and conduct in the Occupied Territories, and from the occupation itself. The activists urged Israelis to take responsibility of what is being done in their names, and force an end to Israeli occupation.

See also: Israel Indymedia.

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Breaking the illusion of consensus

December 29, 2006

If Not Now, When?

A short film in which Jews speak out against the illusion of Jewish consensus on Israel. From Jewish Conscience.

Don’t see the embedded video? Click here to watch it.

Looking back on my Sunday school lessons, I felt that I had been hoodwinked. Indeed, it was a remarkably similar history to the one I had learnt at school about Australia’s colonial past and its treatment of Aborigines. In both cases, inconvenient facts were whitewashed. I was taught about the creation of Israel, but not about the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants. We discussed Arab terrorism but never what may have caused it. Zionist pioneers were praised for their ability to turn an empty land into a fertile Jewish homeland. Perhaps most disturbingly, though, we were told constantly that the only believable reason anyone might hate Israel is antisemitism. The morality, or otherwise, of Israeli actions was never questioned, let alone given context. In the eyes of this dominant Zionism, Jews have always been and remain blameless victims and visionary pioneers.

From My Israel Question by Antony Loewenstein.


Grassroots Resistance in Israel & Palestine

October 1, 2006

Just over a week ago, I posted the topics for a teach-in that I spoke at. It went really well, there were some interesting talks and I was really happy with how mine was recieved, given it was the first time I’d spoken on that specific topic.

Anyway, my talk was based on a powerpoint presentation I made, which you can download by clicking here. Thanks to Anarchobase for hosting it! I also showed a 5 minute video of one of the weekly protests in Bil’in, which is available on Mishtara.org.

I’m not going to type up my speech, as…well, I kinda made it up as I went along, to be honest, using the presentation to guide the topics and groups I spoke about. If anyone wants to know more about anything in the presentation though, feel free to ask questions in the comments, and if there’s enough maybe I’ll write something more detailed. If you’re interested in this sort of thing, a short post of mine from a little while ago on anarchist resistance in Israel may be worth reading.


Against the conflation of Judaism and Zionism

September 25, 2006

Something from an email I wrote today that I thought I might put on here too, as its something thats been frustrating me a lot lately:

I think it’s important to remember that popular conflation of Zionism and Judaism is only a recent occurance – prior to the Shoah, Zionism was a minority movement amongst Jews, and Jewish opposition to Zionism has never ceased, on the contrary, it has been growing across the world in the last 5-10 years.

I am currently writing a book, looking at Jewish radicals from 1800 to present, and the research for it has thrown up some interesting parallels. In the late 1800′s/early 1900′s, in London’s East End, there were literally tens of thousands of Jewish anarchists, socialists and communists (in fact, for a long time, there were more Jewish radical leftists than non-Jewish in the UK). Jewish trade unions flourished, and explicitly revolutionary newspapers written solely in Yiddish had print runs of upwards of 50,000. Nobody, however, suggested that you could not be Jewish and a capitalist, nobody suggested radical leftism was a prerequisite for Judaism.

I think those that seek to conflate Zionism and Judaism could learn a lot from that lesson – just because a political theory is dominant within a cultural/ethnic group at any given moment, it does not mean that it always has been or always will be, and it most certainly does not mean one has to subscribe to the political philosophy in order to be a part of the cultural/ethnic group.


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